'Shoaf Kepl Poets' – Tainan City, Taiwan - Atlas Obscura

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'Shoaf Kepl Poets'

A plaque by the roadside describes a three-dimensional glossary of an imagined language where words are numbers and numbers are words. 


At this site in Baihe, Taiwan, a stone marker tells the story of an unusual language where words and numbers swap roles. But it’s not a language local to the region—it hails from a fictional parallel universe known as Kcymaerxthaere.

Kcymaerxthaere is an art project that has been in progress since 2003.  Created by the artist Eames Demetrios, the project comprises a series of plaques and other markers around the world honoring events that have taken place in a parallel universe. According to Demetrios, this universe “co-exists to some degree with ours.” Most of the installations are bronze or stone plaques inscribed with stories but some are larger, even entire buildings. As of 2021, there are more than 140 sites spread across six continents and 30 countries.

The Shóaf Kepl Poets installation offers a kind of interactive dictionary which allows you to decipher the inscription on the white marble—the story there and the experience of uncovering it, also gives you insight into the languages known as 158s, where words are numbers and numbers are words.

When most people first hear about these cultures, they assume that we are talking about the symbols of the numbers. And while those do have meaning , the remarkable thing was that the meaning was in the number itself. So, for example, the idea of 26 could translate as “the feeling of being about to solve a puzzle or problem.” If someone were to drop 26 carrots on the ground, it would be equivalent to seeing the phrase “the feeling of being about to solve a problem” written on the ground.

According to the project’s lore, this fictional culture developed an almost preternatural ability to count. As result, they saw patterns and phrases and ideas everywhere. Looking at a beach covered in multicolored stones was like reading a novel where the words are constantly changing meaning.

On one of the stones is carved a mystery solvable only be reading the glossary slabs between the two big stones. But you will learn about a pattern scientist neared Terrat Slemt Surphell–so well worth it.

Know Before You Go

About 5 minutes outside the town proper, you come upon the site and pull over.

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June 28, 2014

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