Artists and writers yesterday called for the protection of the famous sunset at Tamsui River’s (淡水河) mouth as a piece of cultural heritage, while they protested against a planned bridge construction project.
However, the city’s department of cultural affairs said the sunset does not match designated criteria for cultural heritage.
The planned Tamkang Bridge (淡江大橋), which will connect Tamhai New Town (淡海新市鎮) in Tamsui and the Taipei Harbor (台北港) in Bali (八里), both in New Taipei City (新北市), received approval from an Environmental Impact Assessment meeting in June.
Holding replica works of the sunset by famous painters, the representatives, accompanied by Democratic Progressive Party legislators Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君), spoke out in a bid to preserve the scenery at the river mouth, which has been voted more than once as one of Taiwan’s top-eight scenic spots.
“The key point is where to construct the bridge and how to balance economic development and cultural preservation... Many countries would not build a bridge that blights their most beautiful scenic view,” orchestra conductor Tseng Dau-hsiong (曾道雄) said.
Cheng said it was sad that the famous painting of the Tamsui sunset by renowned painter Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波) was sold for about NT$210 million (US$7 million) to Hong Kong, and now the government was unwilling to keep the real thing for future generations of Taiwanese to enjoy with their own eyes.
Sophie Seeing (施云), a documentary filmmaker, said the petition to the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs to designate the Tamsui sunset as cultural heritage was refused under the Enforcement Rules of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法施行細則), which says cultural heritage requires the interaction between humans and nature, whereas the sunset is pure natural scenery that cannot be managed.
Liu Hsin-jung (劉欣蓉), assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Department of Architecture, said in order for the residents in Japan’s Kyoto to see giant bonfires lit on mountains surrounding the city during the annual Daimonji festival, the Japanese government had even set regulations on the height of buildings in the city, which he says means the preservation of culture must also consider symbolic meanings and people’s feelings for history and tradition as a whole.
Tseng Chi-tien (曾繼田), chief of the Cultural Heritage Division at the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, said the sunset should not be tied together with the river mouth, because it can be seen in other places too.
If the bureau designates the Tamsui sunset as cultural heritage, it still lacks a property owner, manager and users, so it will be impossible to establish management plans, he added.
However, the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage Deputy Director Nien Chen-yu (粘振裕) said the ministry cannot interfere with the city government’s authority on individual cases.
He said the ministry discovered that local governments have different identification criteria for designating cultural heritage, so the ministry will further discuss and communicate with the local governments on this aspect, adding that the education on the significance of cultural heritage in Taiwan must be improved too, especially among government officials and teachers.
While Tien suggested that the government spends more money to build an underwater tunnel to solve the traffic problem, Seeing suggested that the government should at least hold community consultation in the Tamsui area to gather public opinion.