Taiwan townships join global slow movement

Taiwan’s Dalin, Nanzhuang and Sanyi townships’ commitment to retaining their distinct identities in the face of globalization and improving the quality of life of residents recently saw them earn accreditation by Italy-based Cittaslow International.

Dalin, located in southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County, is famous for its rice, orchid and sugar production. In recent years, the township has rolled out a raft of Cittaslow-compatible measures aimed at cutting carbon emissions, boosting environmental education and promoting organic agriculture.

These have seen Dalin capitalise on its rustic charms to attract more holidaymakers and newlyweds seeking a special photo shooting destination. Township chief Huang Chen-yu said residents understand the value of their community’s lifestyle and are eager to share experiences with and learn from other Cittaslow members.

Nazhuang and Sanyi in northern Taiwan’s Miaoli County are leveraging their Hakka heritage to spur local tourism. Taiwan’s Hakkas began arriving from mainland China in the 16th century, and today there are about 4.6 million representing around 20 percent of Taiwan’s 23 million population. They live all over the island from north to south and renowned for their unique architectural style, cuisine and folk arts.

In Nanzhuang, Hakkas reside alongside Taiwan’s indigenous Atayal and Siyat peoples. The blend of cultures makes the former coal mining and logging center one of the most distinctive in Miaoli.

A stroll through the Old Street with its restored clapboard facades and many restaurants offering a diverse assortment of regional cuisines is a must for visitors seeking to experience a township remaining relatively unchanged from the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945).

Sanyi, once a major camphor production hub, has also preserved many vestiges of the past and is now rolling out Cittaslow-compatible initiatives like Railbike, a four-wheeled bike that runs on the township’s old railway tracks, as well as promoting the local specialty of woodcarving through a related annual international art festival.

The CI network comprises 213 towns in 30 countries and territories across Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America. In addition to satisfying the requirement of having populations under 50,000, they all share the common CI goal of making their parts of the world a healthier, greener, happier and slower place to inhabit.

Dalin, Nanzhuang and Sanyi’s admission to Cittaslow follows that of Fonglin Township in eastern Taiwan’s Hualien County two years ago. The predominately Hakka town was winner of the Cittaslow Local Economy Award in 2015 for a project enhancing appreciation for traditional food while benefitting local producers.

The increasing number of Taiwan townships gaining Cittaslow accreditation reflects a rising national appreciation for environmental conservation, quality of life and sustainable development. Other communities eyeing membership include Chishang, Guanshan and Luye townships in southeastern Taiwan’s Taitung County.

This trend reflects Taiwan’s transformation into one of the most livable countries in the world, while cementing its reputation as a culturally rich tourism destination in Asia.

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