Thu, Mar 01, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Preserving landscape as cultural heritage

By Monica Kuo 郭瓊瑩

An amendment to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法) introducing more detailed categorization of, and reporting procedures for, cultural heritage has elicited a strong response from the central and local governments.

Local governments usually adopt a passive approach to assessing cultural heritage, fulfilling their statutory obligations and only getting involved after receiving a report or because development and preservation compete.

Tangible cultural heritage attracts people’s attention relatively easily, but changes to the nation’s landscape mean that the innate character of Taiwan is disappearing before our eyes.

This includes the loss or shrinking of the west coast’s lagoons and wetlands that are about 300 years old. Irrigation and drainage networks are being built over, diverted or filled in as a result of urbanization. Taiwan’s landscape as depicted by artists is disappearing.

Sometimes this is due to urban expansion, which blocks the view of particular landscapes; sometimes the culprit is large-scale public infrastructure, which divides a view into fragments.

People used to talk of Taiwan’s “eight scenic views,” “12 scenic views” or every location having “100 special views.”

Along Provincial Highway No. 3, there is an old temple and river crossing in Hsinchu County predating the construction of E-mei Lake (峨嵋湖), also known as the Dapu Reservoir (大埔水庫), and the original river crossing on the Dahan River (大漢溪) in New Taipei City’s Yingge District (鶯歌), which have been covered with water after the construction of the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫).

With the construction of the Suhua Highway, the old bridges, temples, trees and views of the Pacific Ocean might be lost.

During the modernization of Kinmen, roads were widened and trees planted as windbreaks were cut down. The wetlands and coastal area of the Wujiang River (浯江) delta in Jincheng Township (金城) has been developed into a coastal park.

The Alishan Forest Railway was developed over a century, and while the Taiwan Railways Administration Alishan Forest Railway Branch is seeking world heritage status, areas along the tracks have been developed and local communities are becoming increasingly like night markets.

When all the 1,000-year-old trees have been felled so visitors can see the sunrise, it must have an impact on the nation’s forestry industry. Alishan has lost its soul, replaced by profits and increasing tourist numbers.

The north and west coasts are also changing because of the need for renewable energy sources. New Taipei City’s Siangbi Rock (象鼻岩) is to be turned into a coal deposit station, and the Cigu Salt Fields (七股鹽田) in Tainan are to become a solar power farm.

Calling for the preservation of the landscape is not a romantic notion, it is a reminder to decisionmakers that they must keep a place in their minds untouched by ideological concerns.

Japan and the EU have seen a growing interest in studies of old poetry, art and music using geographic information system software and GPS to discover original landscapes. Such studies remind people of the need to protect the environment and cultural resources.

If we criticize the former-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian regime for destroying Japanese-era monuments, we should also look at the changing landscape over several hundreds of years.

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