Three trail builders who have for decades created eco-friendly hiking trails around Taiwan, while preserving traditional skills for younger generations, were on Sunday honored with an award in Taipei.
Lin Hsien-chao (林先朝), Fan Kuang-cheng (范光政) and Ripunu Abalriini received the 2020 Best Trail Builder/Repairer Award from the Taiwan Thousand Miles Trail Association at a ceremony at the Taipei Mayor’s Residence Art Salon.
The nonprofit group launched the awards in 2018 to promote trail building and related traditional construction and repair skills, it said, adding that trail builders are adept at a range of construction techniques, depending on the environment and soil condition of the location.
Abalriini, who uses slate and shale to build stone slab houses and trails, first learned masonry from his father at age 10, the association said.
“I have to pass down the knowledge and ability that God gave me to the next generation, so that our culture of building stone slab houses and trails will not be forgotten,” he said in a prerecorded video for the ceremony.
The 80-year-old Rukai Aboriginal masonry expert from Pingtung County was the only winner unable to attend the event.
Fan, a 78-year-old Hakka elder from Hsinchu County, specializes in breaking stone with hammers and crowbars, the association said.
“Our techniques are now fading away because we are getting older,” Fan said. “The job is too hard, so young people cannot stand it as we did in the past, but I am willing to teach while I’m still able.”
Lin, a 75-year-old Minnan elder from Hualien County, has devoted himself to sharing his masonry experience with younger people.
In 2006, he started teaching courses on traditional masonry skills, the association said.
“Masonry is a difficult job that looks simple, but it is not easy to learn its main points without doing it in person,” Lin said. “Masonry is simple, yet complicated work.”
To help preserve these traditional skills, the association said it is promoting a set of guidelines for trail builders and manmade trails, while agencies such as the Hakka Affairs Council and local governments in New Taipei City and Taipei are also paying more attention to the field.
The Soil and Water Conservation Bureau this year has also started promoting manmade trails in villages, it added.
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