April snow

The Tung Blossom Festival gets off to an early start as a warm winter has brought the flowers out ahead of schedule

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - Page 12

Over the last 12 years, the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival has evolved from a relatively minor celebration of Hakka culture and the tourism potential of the blossoming of the Tung tree, into one of Taiwan’s largest festivals. Warm-up activities are already underway and the festival will officially open on April 21. It will run until May 12.

At an event announcing the festival Tuesday, Hakka Affairs Commissioner Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振) said that the blossoming of the Tung tree was widely called “May snow,” covering the hills with sheets of white, but added that this year, due to global warming and an unusually mild winter, the Tung flowers in south and central Taiwan are already in full bloom and those in north Taiwan are already budding. “If this carries on,” he said, “we will have to start calling the Tung blossoms April snow.”

With the early blossoming of the flowers, organizers are keen to get the show on the road, and by all accounts, this will be the biggest Tung Blossom Festival ever. Huang, for whom this will be the fifth Tung Blossom Festival that he has presided over, said the event has grown by leaps and bounds.

“When I first took office, the first event I oversaw had only a couple of hundred activities,” he said.

He proudly reeled off the figures for this year: “2,678 performances involving 147 government and private organizations, across 13 counties and cities. The festival will also include 20 performances by top-tier performance groups.

The viewing of the Tung blossom, as with the appreciation of cherry blossom and maples leaves, provides a beautiful scenic spectacle, but while cherry and maple in Taiwan are specifically events designed for the appreciation of nature, the blossoming of the Tung flower has been resolutely co-opted by the Hakka community as part of a celebration of their culture.

The celebration of Hakka culture is also linked specifically to stimulating Hakka business, and the festival is a great opportunity for Hakka startups — purveying everything from preserved persimmons and kumquat dipping sauce, integral parts of Hakka cuisine to a wide range of handicrafts — to showcase what they have to offer.

Activities will be taking place across the country, and a detailed interactive map is available at tung.hakka.gov.tw providing all the relevant dates and venues. While there is much about the celebration that harks back to traditional Hakka values and history, the festival has also enthusiastically embraced modern technology and Huang was effusive about the new Tung Blossom Festival app that will provide up-to-the-minute updates on where the flowers are at their best, and will also include a slew of special offers available at various times throughout the festival.

Getting everybody in the mood, a concert tomorrow at the New Era Art and Spa (南投牛耳藝術渡假村) resort in Nantou will open the official activities of the festival. The opening ceremony will not be held until April 21, with a huge event to be held at the Shangrila (香格里拉樂園) resort in Miaoli.

With the flowers coming out apace, there is no reason to wait for the official launch of the festival, and everyone should follow Huang’s recommendation to download the Tung flower app and head off to the places where the flowers are already at their peak.