Mon, Jul 12, 2010 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Checheng crawls out the woodwork

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Tourism Bureau kept the Cheng Chang Corp’s overhead crane, which was used to lift the large timber out of the lake and place them on the tool carts, and turned it into a tourist attraction.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GROVE

Devastated by the 921 Earthquake in 1999, the former logging town of Checheng (車埕), Nantou County, has re-emerged as a must-see scenic spot in the Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) area.

Located on the west side of the lake, Checheng is the terminus of the Taiwan Railway Administration’s (TRA) Jiji Line (集集支線). The name Checheng comes from Tshia-tiann, the word for “parking lot” in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese).

During the Japanese colonial era, people would use the carts to travel between the station and the sugar plant in Puli (埔里). When not in use, the carts were parked on light rail tracks nearby.

Over time, the town’s name became Checheng. Railway Culture Society executive supervisor Cheng Ming-chang (鄭銘彰) said the rise of Checheng in the colonial era was closely related to the construction of the Daguan Water Power Station (大觀電廠).

“Back then, the Jiji Line was owned and used exclusively by Taiwan Power Co,” Cheng said. “The line was used to transport construction materials needed to build the power station.”

After World War II, the logging industry also contributed to Checheng’s prosperity. Founded in 1958 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Sun Hai (孫海), Cheng Chang Corp became the town’s largest timber company between the 1960s and 1980s.

“The company won the timber rights for Danda Forest [丹大林場] in 1959,” said Sun’s granddaughter, Lucille Sun (孫嘉璐). “At one point, the company had about 3,000 employees nationwide and nearly all the residents in Che­cheng were employed by Cheng Chang.”

Back then, people used to call the areas surrounding Checheng and another town Shueili (水里) “Little Taipei.”

The government took back Cheng Chang’s timber rights for Danda Forest in 1985 and the company branched out into the timber import business.

A majority of Checheng’s residents moved out of the town after Cheng Chang closed its factory. For a long time, the town served as nothing more than a terminal station on the Jiji Line.

Then the 921 Earthquake struck, causing serious damage in Che­cheng — including the collapse of the train station.

In the aftermath, the Nantou County Government decided to turn administrative authority over Sun Moon Lake over to the central government. The Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Administration was established in 2000 with the purpose of rebuilding the scenic spot.

“We were very lucky,” Lucille Sun said. “The administration had a plan to simultaneously rebuild the scenic spots surrounding Sun Moon Lake and Checheng was one of them.”

Instead of tearing down the facilities at the timber factory, the administration renovated some and turned the damaged timber factory into a tourist attraction.

Tourists can now walk on the wood-paved trail surrounding the lake that was previously used to immerse timber.

The timber factory, now the Checheng Wood Museum (車埕木業展示館), was rebuilt using architecture that tactfully combined wood and steel. To better present the town’s logging history, a setting of how logs were processed was also recreated at the front of the museum.

Meanwhile, the administration kept the overhead cranes in the factory and some of the factory’s tool carts so visitors could get a sense of how it felt to be in the timber town in its early years.

Continuing the family business, Lucille Sun has created a business called The Grove (林班道), which runs a woodcraft factory and a teahouse on the family property.

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