Fenglin Township, Hualien County: an internationally recognized slow-living community

Fenglin Township (鳳林鎮) of Hualien County is one of the important Hakka settlements in eastern Taiwan. The residents of the town are mainly Hakkas, who account for 60% of the population. It is one of the regions in Taiwan with a high density of Hakka population. It has been included in the key development area of Taiwan Hakka culture.

Fenglin Township, Hualien County

Awarded the Cittaslow International certification in 2014, Fenglin is the first town in Taiwan to receive the international recognition of being a slow town. Cittaslow International was launched in 1999 by four small towns — Greve, Orvieto, Bra and Positano — in Italy, which hoped to develop economic growth for the local areas without changing their original pace of life. In so doing, they also wanted to improve the quality of life and promote the friendly coexistence between the people and the land. In addition, they wanted to support the local industry, small-scale farmers, and local culture, etc.

It’s a way of combining modern civilization with a traditional way of life. The core spirit of the Cittaslow International organization is actually offering a chance for reflection and for challenging the concept of the development of fast paced globalization. When most people want highways and high-speed railways to shorten their travel time, the residents of Fenglin want only to maintain the slowness and tranquility of their old lifestyle.

Tobacco barns (菸樓)

Tobacco barns were first constructed in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation period. Tobacco was a high-yield crop and was known as “green gold” at the time. After World War II, the industrious Hakkas continued to grow tobacco in large quantities to improve their lives. The 1960s was the peak period for the construction and development of tobacco buildings in Taiwan, and tobacco leaves became the main cash crop for farmers in Fenglin.

Tobacco barns
(Photo credit: 鳳林文史)

Tobacco barns were necessary facilities for the processing of tobacco leaves at that time. The barns standing in Fenglin’s Hakka villages were once a symbol of the economic source and wealth of Fenglin, witnessing the past development of the tobacco industry. Although the tobacco industry has gradually declined due to the government's policies and market changes, the tobacco barns located next to the tobacco fields are still an important part of the landscape in Fenglin. At present, there are Japanese-style old houses that are more than 50 years old and dozens of tobacco barns in Fenglin, which has best preserved tobacco buildings in large quantities in the whole nation.

Fenglin Hakka Cultural Museum (鳳林客家文物館)

The Fenglin Hakka Cultural Museum is located at Fenglin Park in the downtown. The pavilion is divided into two floors and has a rich collection. The first floor introduces the history of Hualien Hakka people’s cultivation of the land, as well as their beliefs, mode of transportation, and daily living utensils. The second floor presents Hakka traditional costumes, and the development history of Fenglin, such as home facilities, industries, and economy. Visitors can go deep into the past of Hakka immigration to Fenglin.

Principals Dream Factory (鳳林校長夢工廠)
Fenglin’s “Principals Dream Factory” originated from the large number of people in this town who went on to become school principals. Hakka people are hardworking and thrifty; they also attach great importance to education. Therefore, many scholars have been cultivated in Fenglin. The number of Fenglin people who are school principals is more than 100. That’s why the town is known as the “Town of Principals.”

Principals Dream Factory

The Principals Dream Factory building was built in 1929 as a residence for government officials during the Japanese occupation period. It later became the dormitory of the principal of Fenglin Junior High School. After many years, it became an idle space. To activate and revitalize this historic principal's dormitory, the Fenglin Township Office united local cultural and historical workers as well as retired and current principals in joint efforts to record Fenglin's educational and academic atmosphere by means of oral history records. This has allowed visitors to learn about the past and emulate the townspeople’s positive attitude toward learning. In addition to continuing the oral history of Fenglin principals, there have also been more active efforts to collect cultural relics recently.