Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Wonderland favorable for tourism

Director Wei Te-sheng’s (魏德聖) ambitious project of building Formosa Wonderland, a 100 hectare historic theme park that would recreate life in 1600s Tainan, is a step in the right direction for the tourism industry — if he actually realizes the project and does it properly.

Wei discussed his plans in an interview published in the Taipei Times on Monday, saying that he hopes to open the park in 2024.

While it appears to be a vanity project for Wei, who wants to show his movies “for eternity” at the park, it would still be better than the usual tacky and unsustainable gimmicks that often have nothing to do with Taiwanese culture, or empty cultural “mosquito” halls that do not provide much excitement.

Particularly egregious examples in the past year include erecting huge Transformers robots and fake European castles that ruin picturesque locations.

Wei has already proven his historical recreation ability through the acclaimed 2011 epic Seediq Bale, which recounts the Wushe Incident, an anti-Japanese uprising by Sediq Aborigines in 1930 and the colonizers’ subsequent pacification campaign.

He was reportedly heartbroken when his painstakingly recreated Sediq village was torn down and explored ways to preserve his sets.

A serious and accurate living history museum would be ideal, but that might only attract history buffs. It must include something fun to draw people in.

One such theme park that comes to mind is the Tierra Santa (Holy Land) in Buenos Aires, which depicts the life of Jesus in a recreated Jerusalem staffed by people dressed in period costume. It is often criticized as kitschy and bizarre, with a massive effigy of Jesus rising from the dead every 30 minutes, but it gets the point across and it is hard not to have a great time there.

Wei’s version should leave out the tackiness, but making it fun is important — and that does not mean turning it into an amusement park with roller coasters such as at Leofoo Village, which started out as a wildlife safari venue.

Wei is promising a recreational area that uses “digital art, virtual and augmented reality, film props and real movie sets,” which sounds encouraging.

Recreating the 1600s makes sense. The time frame would be relatively free of political bickering — something Taiwanese are able to do with even the most innocuous projects.

Dutch East India Co ruled Tainan then, and the era is long enough ago that it has nothing to do with the current political situation.

A Martial Law era theme park would be intriguing, given the attention garnered by last year’s hit White Terror video game Detention, but that would probably open a can of worms about how to accurately represent all perspectives without stirring hatred.

There are also plenty of relics from that time, as well as from the Japanese colonial era. While people can still visit European colonial sites such as Fort Zeelandia and Fort San Domingo, not much remains of how the small numbers of Han Chinese settlers and pirates, as well as Aborigines, lived during the 1600s.

Aborigines are often left out of the historical narrative and are completely absent from “living museums” such as Taipei’s Dadaocheng, but they would receive full attention during this era.

This is the kind of tourism project that Taiwan sorely needs, as it has such a fascinating history that is often underscored and ignored. Who needs Transformers when there is already such a rich cultural background to draw from?

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