Sun, Apr 13, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Cultural village worth its salt

With the advent of modern technolgy, the traditional salt-making industry lost its prominent place in Taiwan's industry and society; but supporters of the Salt Field Ecology and Cultural Village believe they have found a way to make sure that tradition is not lost.

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER IN TAINAN

A salt worker uses traditional tools and methods to make salt in the restored Anshun salt field in Tainan.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The vast fields and adjoining buildings were once the center of one of Taiwan's most important industries -- making salt. With the decline of the industry they were left derelict, subject to the ravages of time and weather.

But now, with support from the Tainan City Government and the national Council for Cultural Affairs the plantation will be restored as the Salt Field Ecology and Cultural Village as part of a plan to revitalizing both the industry and the city.

The salt fields in Tainan span the old port areas between An-nan (安南) and An-ping (安平) districts, lying on the salt marshes that give birth to the natural habitats for salt-related work. Due to its natural resources, the marsh terrain also makes a fertile home for more than 200 species of fowl in the area, including the most well-known migratory birds, the black-faced spoonbills.

The salt-field operations started in 1919 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. At the time, the salt production was monopolized. But as the modern electrolysis salt-making technology replaced the traditional salt works, the operation was halted in 1994 and the vast fields with their production facilities were abandoned.

The Salt Field Ecology and Cultural Village plans to use these assets to turn itself into a tourism spot by exhibiting the cultural, historical, industrial and natural resources of the area.

Chairwoman of the Council for Cultural Affairs Tchen Yu-chiou (陳郁秀), who attended the ground-breaking ceremony on April 8, said undertaking the constructing of this cultural village embodies many of the objectives and policies the Executive Yuan has been promoting -- including the new hometown construction project, the preservation of cultural assets, protecting the environment, and increasing tourism.

"Every concept of these policies is realized in Tainan's Salt-Field Ecology and Cultural Village," Tchen said.

The village, defined as a local culture center, gets its funding from the council's budget for repairs of buildings at county and municipal culture centers.

Tchen also lauded the abundant natural resources surrounding the salt-fields, the 500-hectare Szu-tsao Wildlife Protection Zone (四草野生保護區), which she said will complement the salt fields to attract more tourists.

Tainan City Mayor Hsu Tien-tsai (許添財) said the salt-fields, which lie within the Szu-tsao Wildlife Protection Area, are not only the foundation of Taiwan's industry, but also abound with natural resources. He proposed the establishment of lodging facilities within the village to attract tourists and make the management and operation of the village sustainable and effective.

Among the various resources to be restored, the salt-making equipment and installations are considered the priorities.

These facilities include the waterway transportation facilities such as the canal, port, dock and raft, as well as the machinery at the water-pumping station.

Living museum

The old warehouse at the dock is to be renovated into a museum to display the salt-making tools and other machinery which depicts the heyday of the salt-field operation.

The square-shaped salt pans, which are hung on racks to employ wind evaporation, will also be put back into operation.

Those running the center believe that keeping the facilities in use is the best way to maintain the wood and clay-brick buildings which would fall apart without proper care.

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