Throughout the year, Taiwan's East Coast hosts a diversity of fun and interesting arts, cultural, educational and environmental events. Three major events that should not be missed are the Austronesian Cultural Festival, the Amis Harvest Festival and the Hualien International Stone Sculpture Festival.
This annual Austronesian Cultural Festival is a summer event held next to the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung City. Austronesian refers to a language family with a large geographical distribution, and of which Taiwan's indigenous peoples are included. The Austronesian peoples can be found from Madagascar in the west, Easter Island in the east, Hawaii in the north and New Zealand in the south.
Indigenous groups from Austronesian countries are invited to show off their music, dances, handicrafts and culture, along with demonstrations from Taiwan's indigenous tribes, such as a ceremonial swing of the Rukai, net fishing of the Amis, pottery making of the Paiwan and boat making of the Yami.
Summer is also the time for Taiwan's indigenous Amis tribe to hold its Harvest Festival, to express thanks to the tribal deities for a plentiful harvest, and to show respect for the elders of the tribe.
The Amis, Taiwan's largest indigenous tribe, with a population of more than 100,000, is spread out over numerous villages along the coastal plains of Hualien and Taitung.
They mostly hold harvest festivals in their individual villages, with the dates determined by village elders, usually around mid July for Taitung Amis and mid August for Hualien Amis. However, a joint harvest festival for Hualien County villages takes place on July 15.
Tribal members dress in traditional costume and form a circle, and dance to the chants of a village elder over a period of several days. Tourists are usually very welcomed, and may even be invited to join the dance.
Every two years for the entire month of October, the Hualien International Stone Sculpture Festival is held outside the Hualien County Cultural Bureau.
The most interesting part of this festival is a row of colorful tents, under which a dozen local and international artists busily work on their sculptures, with the beautiful Hualien Port as their backdrop. Visitors are welcome to view these creations in progress and ask questions directly to the artists or via an interpreter.
After each festival, all of the finished pieces are put on permanent display on the grounds of the Cultural Bureau, to form an outdoor museum and park.
To complement the outside activities, stone art exhibitions are held in the adjacent Hualien Stone Sculpture Museum and Hualien County Cultural Bureau Art Museum, featuring works old and new, domestic and foreign. Once the sun sets, the carving work stops and performances begin, including music and dances from around Taiwan and the world.
For more information, contact the Taitung County Government at (089) 326-141~326-146 (Website: www.taitung. gov.tw or http://tour.taitung.gov.tw) or the Hualien County Cultural Bureau at (038) 232-677 (Website: www.hccc.gov.tw).
This is the seventh in an eight-part series on Taiwan travel destinations sponsored by the Tourism Bureau of the R.O.C.