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Lukang shines as living showcase of Taiwan's cultural heritage.

Lukang in central Taiwan's Changhua County was formerly one of the nation's leading commercial hubs. From the 1780s through the 1840s, the harbor settlement grew wealthy from access to sea shipping routes, with local merchants doing a roaring trade in products like camphor, rice and sugar.

The silting of the port, followed by the rise of rail transport, saw this boom town fall into decline. Today, Lukang is best known for abundant remnants of its prosperous past. With a population of just 87,000 out of Changhua's 1.28 million, it is home to 15 of the county's 51 historic sites. Popular attractions include Lungshan Temple, Glass Matsu Temple and Nine Turns Lane.

Lukang native Shih Chih-hui is recognized by the Ministry of Culture as an important preserver of the traditional craft of carving religious statues. (Courtesy of Changhua County Government)

Less widely known but equally significant is Lukang's intangible heritage, said Akira Chen, former director-general of Changhua's Cultural Affairs Bureau. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the town's prosperity attracted numerous master artisans from across Taiwan and the other of the strait. This is evident not only in the intricate architectural and ornamental details of structures like Lungshan Temple, but the town's continued status as a bastion of time-honored arts and crafts.

Lukang boasts three out of 12 artists selected by the Ministry of Culture as important preservers of traditional crafts: Shih Cheng-yang for temple items and wooden furniture, Shih Chih-hui for woodcarvings of Buddhist and Taoist deities, and Chen Wan-neng for tin sculpting.

There are also 10 private organizations in Lukang dedicated to promoting classical arts, culture and literature. One such group is Luchiang Poetry, Calligraphy and Painting Society. 'Many of our ancestors were literati who were serious about educating their children in calligraphy,' Chairman Lin Chun-chen said. 'That tradition is being kept up today.'

Founded in 1998, the LPCPS hosts various events to raise Lukang's cultural profile, such as calligraphy exhibitions at Lungshan Temple and other historic sites. It also holds classes on weekends and holidays for both locals and visitors. 'Rich in captivating traditions, Lukang is a must-visit destination for people wishing to learn more about Taiwan's cultural development,' Lin said.

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Publication:Taiwan News (Taipei, Taiwan)
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Jun 21, 2019
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