Fri, Jul 17, 2009 - Page 15 News List

Bicycles and butterflies

By David Chen

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The farming town of Meinung (美濃) in Kaohsiung County celebrates its unique Hakka culture this weekend with a bicycle tour and butterfly worship ceremony.

The 14th Yellow Butterfly Festival (美濃黃蝶祭) was originally started in 1995 to draw attention to environmental conservation efforts in the neighboring Yellow Butterfly Valley (黃蝶 翠谷), once home to millions of butterflies.

Those numbers fell drastically because of deforestation tied to a proposed dam construction project in the 1990s. By the time grassroots activists successfully halted the plan, the initial groundwork had already had an impact.

Now, during peak butterfly season in May and June, only hundreds of the insects can be observed, said Hsu Kuo-ming (徐國明) of the Meinung People’s Association (美濃愛鄉協進會), one of the festival’s organizers.

As usual, the festival features a bicycle ride in the Butterfly Valley area and a Butterfly Worship Ceremony, a traditional Hakka prayer ritual. But the event is no longer held during the peak season so as “not to disturb” the local ecology. Instead, the ceremony, which will be held tomorrow morning, now serves as a way of “apologizing to the butterflies,” said Hsu.

After the ceremony there will be booths set up by local groups to promote environmental awareness, as well as activities for children and a nature photography exhibition.

While the event still serves as a reminder of the importance of environmental conservation, it now focuses on cultural and community enrichment activities for Meinung residents and visitors.

This year organizers are placing the spotlight on Meinung’s Guanglin Community (廣林社區), which neighbors Butterfly Valley. The Guanglin Community Activity Center will provide bicycles free of charge for visitors to tour the area.

FESTIVAL NOTES:

WHAT: The 14th Yellow Butterfly Festival (美濃黃蝶祭)

WHEN: From 8am tomorrow and Sunday

WHERE: Meinung Township, Kaohsiung County

GETTING THERE:

Buses to Meinung leave from Taiwan Railways Administration’s Kaohsiung Train Station (高雄車站) and Taiwan High Speed Rail’s Zuoying Station (高鐵左營車站). The trip to Meinung takes between an hour and an hour and a half

ON THE NET: www.wretch.cc/blog/heausangfee


Bicyclists will be given tourist maps of Guanglin created by a group of students from Meinung as part of a community project.

Landmarks include several 100-year-old temples, kaiji bogung (開基伯公), or roadside altars built by earlier generations of Hakka settlers, and restored huofang (夥房), traditional Hakka houses similar to the U-shaped sanheyuan (三合院). The tourist maps also include popular local eateries serving traditional foods such as bantiao noodles (粄條).

The Butterfly Worship Ceremony takes place tomorrow at 9:30am at the Shuangsi Tropical Viviparous Forest (雙溪熱帶母樹林) near Guanglin Community and Butterfly Valley, which is a 20- to 30-minute drive from the town center.

The best way of getting there is by car or motorcycle. From Meinung, organizers say to follow the yellow flags planted along the town’s main road.

The event runs all day tomorrow and Sunday and is free. For a full schedule (in Chinese only) visit www.wretch.cc/blog/heausangfee.

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