Hualien is a relatively small county with an even smaller city compared to other Taiwanese cities. However, there seem to be quite a few things that have put Hualien on the map of Taiwan and much of it has to do with the culture and festivals in Hualien. There are basically two festivals that stand out in the region: one is the Hualien International Stone Culture Festival while the other is the Indigenous Culture Festival.
Many people are unaware that Hualien is the home of Taiwanese stone as the county accounts for 90% of Taiwan’s stone and marble supply. The county has been prominent in carrying stone art heritage and continues to be dedicated to making stone sculptures. In fact, stone is such an important medium for art in Hualien that most artworks can be released at par with international standards. This then became the birth of the Hualien International Stone Sculpture Festival.
In year 1995, the Hualien Country Cultural Affair Bureau as well as the East Coast Scenic Area Tourism Bureau came together to start the Hualien International Stone Sculpture Festival. Since then, the festival was held twice a year. During the festival, Hualien invites both domestic and international stone sculptors to work together to produce masterpieces and experimental activities. In addition, workshops regarding stone sculpture and art are held as well as international activities with famous stone artists themselves.
After a handful of festivals usually held in October, Hualien has produced hundreds of world-class art pieces that can be found high up in the mountains and at sea not only in the Hualien County but in Taitung as well. These stone artwork pieces then add to the beauty, diversity and artistic value of the East Coast Area. For those who fail to be a part of the festival, many of the pieces can be seen in different parts of the East Coast arear.
The Indigenous Culture Festival is also known as the Harvest Festival that takes place every July and August of every year. It is known to be the most important ritual for 10 major aboriginal tribes in Hualien. Each tribe celebrates the protection and provision bestowed upon them by their ancestral spirits during the previous year. This is also a time where tribes offer thanksgiving. Many of them also pray for the continuous protection of the clan members throughout the year as well as request good fortune. This festival is then marked by tons of singing and dancing by the ten aboriginal tribes.
The Harvest Festival is actually celebrated in two counties with one being Hualien and the other being Taitung. When both counties come together to celebrate the festival, a total of 15 major tribal villages get together with one purpose in mind. Despite their distinctive ways of life and traditions, these aboriginal tribes understand that giving back to their ancestral spirits is but an important aspect of all cultures. Tourists are then welcome to join in on the festivities to catch the essence of the colorful aboriginal culture.
These two festivals have surely brought fame to the Hualien community and continue to draw in many Hualien tourists. Stones and tribes seem to distinctly represent the arts, culture and festivals in Hualien giving visitors all the more reason to visit this fascinating east coast region of Taiwan.