Nantou County in Central Taiwan is considered the Alps in the East. It has picturesque greeneries, plains and plateaus that continue to astound both local and international tourists. Surrounded by mountains, Nantou has more mountainous terrains than plains, but it’s most beautiful tourist attraction is the world famous Sun Moon Lake. The best way to truly appreciate this part of Taiwan is to learn about the culture and festivals in Nantou.
Nantou’s earliest settlers were the Han Chinese, and today, Nantou is the home of three aboriginal tribes, which are the Bunun, Atayal, and Thao tribal peoples. The Thao Cultural Village (or The Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village), found not far from Sun Moon Lake, displays aboriginal culture so that visitors could better understand the traditional way of life centuries ago in Nantou. The Thao people entertain and educate visitors by showing how they normally live from day to day and perform authentic aboriginal songs and dances.
The village was converted into a theme park after the restoration of Taiwan, but the area was truly the last resident of the Thao tribe near the lake. The place was then called “Ita Thao” or “Barawbaw” in Thao language. Today, it is frequently visited by tourists and in fact the most populous area around Sun Moon Lake. There are hotels, restaurants and stores within the Cultural Village. The best time to visit Barawbaraw is in August during the annual Harvest Ceremony. It is a very important festival, appreciating the bounty of the harvest and praying for more abundance in the future. The ceremony is filled with feasting, festivities and merrymaking.
A more modern festival now held annually in Nantou is the Nantou City Sand Sculpture Festival, which is usually held along the Maoluo River. This is a favorite among photographers as the sandy area gets filled with amazing life-size and realistic sand sculptures built by professional artists. There is also an area reserved for children and anyone who might want to build a sculpture of his own.
Another modern festival is the Nantou Cultural and Tourism Festival, which typically takes place in June. Aimed primarily to promote this idyllic city, the Fengshan Temple in Fengshan Borough gets crowded with folk art performances and agricultural and specialty products shows that highlight local produce such as pineapple, pumpkin and tea. A similar festival that is held on Bagua Mountain is the Bagua Mountain Pumpkin Agricultural Products Cultural Festival. In this event, people and farmers participate in competitions, exhibitions and other events involving the pumpkin and pumpkin agricultural products.
Other fun events in Nantou are the Nantou Train Festival, Summer Folk Gourmet Food Carnival, Nantou Lantern Festival in February, Sun Moon Lake Musical Festival and the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival, which is held in several venues in Taiwan. The Hakka Tung Blossom Festival is always a major event that locals and tourists look forward to every year in March. Celebrated all over the country, millions are expected to participate every year from more than ten Taiwanese counties/cities and 46 townships.
Nantou may be one of the smallest cities in Central Taiwan, away from the major cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung, but the culture and festivals in Nantou continue to draw hordes of tourists. These festivals only prove that the people of Nantou are proud of their culture, fun-loving, and serious in their desire to develop the city’s tourism.