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FEATURE: Indigenous village counting on 'Titanic rock' to help revive economy

FEATURE: Indigenous village counting on 'Titanic rock' to help revive economy

By Elaine Hou, CNA staff reporter For fans of the blockbuster film Titanic, the "Titanic" rock in southern Taiwan offers an opportunity to feel the romance between Jack and Rose featured in the movie based on the British ocean liner that sunk a century ago. For an indigenous village in Alishan Township in Chiayi County, the Sihbisihbi Titanic Rock means far more. It is the centerpiece of Laiji Village's attempt to revive a tourism-dependent economy that has fallen on hard times since Typhoon Morakot battered southern Taiwan in 2009 and cut off the indigenous Tsou community's lifeline. Village chief Chen Yu-fu said severe mudslides destroyed massive patches of farmland and brought down seven bridges in the mountainous village, and since then, tourist numbers have dropped to fewer than 20 per weekend, roughly 10 percent of the number before the storm. In a recent interview with local media, Chen said the village was ready to welcome tourists again, the Titanic rock having emerged unscathed from the powerful typhoon and transportation links having nearly been restored. The rock got its nickname because of a cliff shaped liked the ocean liner's bow -- the setting for the iconic scene where Rose, held at the waist by Jack, stands on the bow's railing with her arms extended as if she's flying. The rock's appeal goes beyond its association with the Oscar winning movie and its breathtaking views. Those who climb it also look over Tashan, the Tsou's sacred mountain where the spirits of the tribe's ancestors are thought to reside, Chen said. Perhaps due to the blessings of the Tsou ancestors, chances are that couples in a relationship will get married soon after they visit the site together, he said. For singles, a visit may result in more "messages of love from admirers," Chen added. If the rock is to once again become the foundation of the village tourism, however, a sound infrastructure is a necessity, Chen said. Most of the roads and bridges that were smashed by the storm have now been repaired, he said, and a proposal to rebuild a trail that will make it easier to scale the Titanic rock has been submitted to the Forestry Bureau. If everything goes smoothly, Chen expects the trail to be completed by the end of 2013. Long dependent on tourism, the village has also taken the initiative to diversify its potential sources of income, including developing a handicrafts business featuring the tribe's iconic animals. The village offers wood-carvings in the shape of wild boars and owls, said Pasu Eiahasa, a member of the association for the development of the community. "Our ancestors used to hunt wild boar, so we're also called 'the tribe of wild boars,'" she said. Owls are auspicious symbols for the Tsou people, Chen said. If an owl is spotted nearby a house, people residing in the building are likely to have a new addition to their family, he said. Villagers have also taken up coffee farming to bolster their income, the village's chief said. "We're continuing the effort (to increase tourism revenues)," Chen said, adding that he hopes developing tourism will help attract young adults of the tribe back home to make a living.


Updated : 2021-07-30 20:00 GMT+08:00