Mayuan Community: Artistic, Musical, Natural Diversity
The Mayuan Community lies within the East Rift Valley in Wanrong Township of Hualien County. Most of the residents here are indigenous Bunun. However, as there are also Truku and Amis communities nearby, mutual influences have created a unique culture. The Mayuan Community is not a well-known tourist destination, which has allowed it to preserve its natural and farming landscapes, as well as cultural traditions.
This community is surrounded by verdant mountains and contains crystal-clear rivers. In springtime, fireflies emerge en masse, attesting to the pristine state of the environment. In the hills above the center of the community are where residents farm, some of them using organic methods. There is also an isolated river gorge, with huge grey and white boulders, among which the waters form miniature waterfalls or gurgle past.
The males of the Bunun tribe have long been respected for their hunting and trapping skills. Hunting continues to be carried out with a reverence for the interdependent relationship between humans and nature. From the very first visit, you are sure to be overwhelmed by the diversity and hospitality of this small community.
The first weekend in August of 2016 was a time to showcase Mayuan's talents and scenery. A series of events was held for members of the Mayuan Community, young and old, to come together and to carry out exchanges with other indigenous communities in Hualien County, such as the Amis community of Gangkou and the Truku community of Wanrong. However, indigenous participants came from as far away as Taitung and Pingtung. The emphasis was on staying true to themselves, rather than offering a refined tourism experience. However, outsiders were warmly welcomed.
To prepare for the weekend, three public art installations were constructed with the effort of community residents and the inspiration of international design award winner Cheng-Tsung Feng, who is well versed in bamboo art and handicrafts. According to one of the organizers, Sheng-Ta Tsai, originally five public art installations were planned, but due to a lack of funding only three were able to be completed. He also noted that he expects this to become an annual event with more public art installations added each year.
These installations are located, not in and around a museum, but in the hills above the community. The first installation was created around a large tilted boulder, which serves as a resting place for local farmers, where they can relax and start a fire for warmth or for cooking. Ropes of natural materials were used to create a pattern along the backside of this boulder that imitates that of traditional rattan baskets. On the other side, these ropes hang down creating a loose curtain. Here, Feng taught participants how to weave strips of bamboo around rocks and to create woven bamboo bracelets. Tsai noted that this particular installation is only about 50 percent complete. It will be left to nature to put on the finishing touches including a coat of bright green moss.
The second installation, farther up in elevation, is next to a plateau where there are panoramic views of the valley below and bamboo poles have been made into benches for enjoying the scenery. In an area of thick bamboo growth, living bamboo has been used to create a set of traditional snares. Here, local hunters gave demonstrations on how to build a snare for catching wild boar using bamboo, sticks and wire. Then, they taught participants how to make a miniature version. Tsai said that this installation would be preserved and maintained as a natural resting area for farmers during the bamboo shoot harvest.
The third installation, farther up still, is a bamboo stage built on top of large boulders in the middle of the Mayuan River. Other boulders serve as seats. Boulders closest to the stage can only be reached by wading through the cold, crystal clear waters. This was where a very unique concert was held. It was hosted by Yong-En Ma, an independent singer, songwriter and a resident of Mayuan. It began with performances by the youth, followed by the elders, of the Mayuan Community. Later, performances by groups from other indigenous communities were held. Unfortunately, midway through the concert, it began to rain heavily, forcing it to be moved down into the community. However, there it continued unabated, followed by a celebration of its success until the early hours of the morning. It was obvious that the rain had not dampened the spirits of those in attendance. Rather, all those involved were moved by the feeling of unity among the community residents as they shuttled people up and down the mountainside in 4 x 4 vehicles, cooked meals, performed and made everyone feel at home. For those not from Mayuan this feeling of home was expressed over and over during departing remarks and all vowed to return.
The unforgettable scenery and friendliness of the people warrant a visit to the Mayuan Community. This is a place that you will not want to leave and before your first journey is even done, you will be searching for an opportunity to come again.