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

However, not every inch of the salt fields will be put back into operation, since it would not be economical to employ the labor-intensive practices that would be necessary for the the mass production of salt in this way

But the resumption of work on a limited scale is aimed at sustaining and maintaining the culture, history and traditions of the industry and educating people about them.

In addition to the 50-hectare salt plantation, the village includes a 16-hectare bird habitat area.

Tainan City Deputy Mayor Hsu Yang-ming (許陽明) said the salt produced here will be the high grade "flower of Guerande" salt (鹽花), regarded as the best quality of unrefined salt, due to its subtle flavor and its ability to dissolve very quickly.

Hsu said the salt itself will be a key attractions for tourists who come to learn the process of making salt.

"We will make it a three to four-day package tour for tourists who can come to stay in the village during the weekends to learn about salt-making, and at the same time watch the numerous birds that inhabit the the salt marshes," Hsu said.

On the site visitors will use the traditional tools such as water wheels, windmills, rakes, bamboo baskets and cross-shoulder carrying poles.

In addition to experiencing the salters' life, other features of the village also include the making of handicrafts such as bamboo nests, silk scarves, and woodblock printing mastered by the salt-field villagers who utilize the existing materials to make the handicrafts.

An important part of the history of the salt-fields operation are the generations of salt workers who lived and worked there.

But nine years ago when the salt-operation was called off, the villagers started to switch to other vocations and other locations.

Roots

The salt-field terrain is 30cm below sea level -- which led to constant flooding of their traditional dwellings in the middle of the salt fields. At the end of last year, all of the villagers who used to live in the central island of the salt-fields were evacuated to the neighboring community.

Nevertheless, the villagers finally went back to their roots in the salt fields when they were informed that the government was to revitalize the operations.

"These villagers are very spontaneous and zealous about being able to come back to their family land to carry out their ancestors' business," Hsu said.

"The speed with which they demolished their old buildings surprised us. They are very efficient in doing what we told them to do, as they have a special connection with this land that makes them so devoted," Hsu said.

The repair work for the construction of the Salt Field Ecology and Cultural Village will require a NT$12 million budget.

"The villagers started the preparation work long before the budget arrived. They just can't wait to see their homeland begin to prosper again," Hsu said.

In addition, several bird watching pavilions have been built with the driftwood found on the beach.

"They use the materials on the beach for building. In that way, they also help keep the beach clean," Hsu said.

Currently, the salt-fields are in the care of both the city government and private organizations which involve historical scholars and environmentalists to preserve the cultural and natural assets.

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