Sun, Dec 01, 2002 - Page 17 News List

A rocky harvest

The same typhoons that frequently devastate Taiwan's east coast also churn up precious rose stones, a source of wealth for those who know where to find them


Many people have made a fortune dealing in rose stones. A Hualien-based monthly magazine, The East Coast Commentary (東海岸評論), reported in this year's September issue that Liu Hua-shin (劉花新) and his friends found a 200kg rose stone some years ago and sold it for NT$200,000, while someone in the Sanchan community not long ago sold a "seven-color rose stone" for over NT$1 million.

But this bounty has its price.

In 1990 Typhoon Ophelia (歐菲利颱風) brought landslides and floods, devastating the exclusively Terukan village of Tungmen (銅門), where Yu Kuo-chuan (余國權) lived, claiming 18 of his relatives, including some of his sons, grandchildren and uncles. Yu now runs a grocery store with his wife and two of his children who survived the catastrophe.

Yu told the Taipei Times that the typhoon brought a bumper crop of rose stones which he picked up from the riverbed of the Mukua Stream. Yu used his newfound wealth to send his son to Chungshan Medical School (中山醫學院) and his daughter to a nursing college.

Yu said he learned how to find the stones from his father who was the first person in the village to start the trade. He proudly pointed out that the other day he saw KMT party chairman Lien Chan (連戰) sitting by his desk on TV. One rose stone stood out rather conspicuously on Lien's desk. It was a gift from Yu to Lien when the then-vice-president visited his family right after the Ophelia disaster.

If there is one thing that makes Yu unhappy, it is that no typhoon has made landfall over Hualien this year and, thus, he cannot sell rose stones to make life for his family more comfortable.

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