After nine months of construction, Chukou Village (觸口) in Chiayi County’s Fanlu Township (番路) now sports pieces of decorative art in the form of stone ant statues in front of a mountain hiking trail. The decorative pieces are said to symbolize the spirit of the Chukou area.
Located between the plain and mountains of Alishan (阿里山), historically Chukou Village was a primary gathering spot for porters prior to the opening of roads.
Trade was substantial and porters would be hired to move traded agricultural produce back into the mountains. At the peak of the trade, more than 300 people worked as professional porters, according to locals.
While historical records indicate that there were roads leading from Chiayi City to Chukou Village when the Qing Dynasty controlled the island, modern roads were not constructed until about 1910, during the Japanese colonial era.
Since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government came to Taiwan, it has twice repaired and reorganized the major roads leading up the mountain, once in 1962 and again in 1978.
With the rennovation of the roads in 1978, the porter trade has since vanished, but residents of the area still remember the team spirit the porters exhibited.
Chukou Community Development Association manager Chiu Ming-hsien (邱明顯) said he had always been interesteted in stonework, and inspired by the image of porters at the foot of the hiking trails, he began to create the stone ants — the imagery of which he felt best portrayed that porter spirit — at the start of the year.
Using rocks to replicate the ants’ bodies, Chiu fashioned legs out of either steel wire or steel bars.
The largest of the decorative pieces weighs between 400kg and 500kg and the smallest around 150g — small and light enough to be used as a home decoration, Chiu said, adding that the decorative pieces have also become the latest local attractions.