Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Bit of Hawaii in the West Pacific (Travel in Taiwan)

With a population of just 107,000, Taitung City doesn’t come close to being a major urban settlement. But it’s an excellent base from which to explore the east coast and the East Rift Valley.

Key to Taitung’s appeal - and one reason why this part of Taiwan is sometimes compared to multiracial Hawaii - is its unique blend of people. In addition to substantial numbers of Minnanren (Taiwanese whose ancestors moved to the island from China’s Fujian province two or three centuries ago), Waishangren (individuals who arrived from China since World War II and their children) and Hakka (many of whose forefathers came from Guangdong province), one in five city residents is a member of an indigenous Austronesian tribe. 

Taiwan’s government recognizes 16 aboriginal ethnic groups, but Taitung’s indigenous people are mostly Puyuma, Paiwan and Amis. Thanks to his musical achievements, one local Puyuma singer has won great fame: Kimbo. (This song is a paean to the community in which he grew up, and is accompanied by shots of Taitung's scenery.) 

Also known by his Chinese name Hu De-fu (胡德夫), Kimbo was born in 1950 to a Puyuma father and Paiwan mother. He is now an elder statesman in Taiwan’s music industry. An accomplished songwriter and pianist, he’s been credited with bringing aboriginal music to a wider audience, and has performed everything from traditional indigenous songs and Mandarin ballads to a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah...

One of two articles of mine in the new issue of Travel in Taiwan, this piece can be read in its entirety here. I took the photo above at the National Museum of Prehistory. We also visited the coast, a restaurant Kimbo helped start, and this church.

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