Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County is the largest body of water in Taiwan.
The eastern side of the lake is round like a
sun, while the western side is indented like a crescent moon. It is a natural embodiment of yin and yang, the Taoist concept
of opposites as cooperative, interdependent forces, and for some visitors it is
a spiritual place.
Moon Lake’s beauty is its main attraction, the national scenic area is a lovely place to explore Taiwan’s
cultural past and present. Here are five places to start.
Sun Moon Lake’s shore is home to the Thao
tribe, the smallest aboriginal ethnic group in Taiwan. In the middle of the
lake, the tiny Lalu Island is regarded as home to the
spirits of Thao ancestors. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Lalu was
a place of ancestral worship for the Thao until they were forced to leave to
make way for a hydraulic power plant during the Japanese occupation before
World War II. In 1999, a massive earthquake shook Sun Moon Lake, destroying a
temple on Lalu. As part of its rebuilding efforts, the government planted jiadong trees, the spiritual homes of the
highest ranking ancestors of the Thao tribe, all over Lalu Island.
Thao New Year
The Annual Harvest Festival in August, the most
significant festival in Thao culture, marks the beginning of the Thao New
Year. On that night, locals perform traditional “pestle
music”, creating percussive sounds with wooden pestles and stones of different
sizes. Drinking, eating, singing and dancing are other components of any Thao
celebration. The New Year is celebrated for about two weeks, ending just after
the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.
Places of worship
of worship in the Sun Moon Lake area provide a glimpse
into Taiwan’s religious diversity – from the Confucius Wenwu Temple, displaying
palatial Northern Chinese architecture, to the Church of Christ, displaying regal
Roman architecture. Other religions represented in Sun Moon Lake include
Buddhism and Animism.
Sun Moon Lake is habitat for many freshwater
fish and shellfish, while the surrounding fields grow black tea, mushrooms,
plums and orchids. Fisheries and farms constitute the main industries, outside
of tourism, for the area. Local
dishes resulting from these resources include
fried chili fish and preserved chili fish in salt, yeast and wine. Chili is the
Thao name for a small deep-water fish known as “sharpbelly” in other areas.
The 921 Earthquake
The 921 Earthquake, a 7.6 magnitude quake
occurring in 1999 on 21 September, left a path of death and destruction in its
wake. The earthquake killed 2,415 people and left 100,000 people homeless. Rebuilding efforts around Sun Moon Lake focused on breathing
new life into an old tourist destination. Today, new attractions have been
built, including Meihe Gardens (a former military police
station), and old attractions have been restored, including the Jiji
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