Picture (c) Taiwan Publishing Information Services
by Jiayi Chew (Taiwan)
Alishan (‘Shan’ meaning mountain and ‘Ali’ being the name of the mountain;) in Chiayi was one of the most intensive and largest forestry operations in Formosa. Alishan was the first of three government forest operations. Following the establishment of the forest, the ‘Alishan Forest Railway’ opened, facilitating the transport of timber from the region. This resulted in huge industrial timber boom beginning in 1912, a period that came to be known as Taiwan’s ‘Green Golden Rush’. In order for the employees of Alishan to be more engaged in the logging activities, the Japanese introduced a planned forestry village known as Hinoki Town. However, due to the gradual decline of timber resources, values, and a ban on logging in the natural forest, the village was soon converted into a site for education and tourism. It is known today as the ‘Cypress Forest Life Village’. The buildings became known for the beautiful Japanese-style wooden features made from local cypress. Today, Hinoki Town and the Alishan Railway Station remain popular tourist attractions.
The book begins by introducing the history of forestry in Chiayi and continues with interviews from the employees that once lived in Hinoki Town. The timber workers remembered the days they spent together in Hinoki town and how they were eventually forced to leave. By reading about their experiences, I felt slightly sentimental– not only because they missed their co-workers, friends and family, but also because, they missed the place in which they created these beautiful memories. One thing I remember most from the book was the story from a 73-year-old retired Forest District Officer. She recalled how her children would poke holes through the paper-made-window (Shōji). Whenever she looked at the holes, she remembered the joy of having her family together despite poor living conditions and difficult work. From the interviews and shared memories, I came to realize the message the employees wanted to convey was that if they hadn’t lived in the concrete settlements and worked in the timber town, perhaps there would not be any historical Hinoki town or Alishan Railway station. In conclusion, I am grateful to know that Chiayi was once a well-known city with ‘unlimited’ timber resources, and that there was once a time that many people benefited from the thriving timber industry.
The author, Jiayi Chew, is a senior year student of Forestry Bachelor’s Degree from National Chiayi University (Taiwan) and responsible for the content of the contribution.
A Hundred-Year History – Cypress Forest Sentiment
by Chiayi Forest District Office, Forestry Bureau Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taiwan, 2013
Language: Bilingual (Chinese and English)