Closed School Complex Turned Into Indigenous Cultural Center

TAITUNG, TAIWAN--(Marketwired - May 31, 2016) - Surrounded by the picturesque scenery along Taiwan's eastern coast, an indigenous cultural center is to open with the major task of preserving the aboriginal heritage for the younger generations and promoting traditional values of the native people to the outside world.

The cultural center sits on the complex of the former Longchang Elementary School in Longchang Village, Donghe Township of Taitung County. Indigenous children used to study and play here amid dancing waves in the ocean with sunlight shining on every schoolroom window.

Despite the rich community history and vibrant cultural activities in its glories past, the Longchang Village has been losing residents as young ones moving out. Now fewer than 600 are living in the village. Failing to recruit enough students, the Longchang Elementary School was forced to close 13 years ago. Its smooth walls and bright windows still face the sea, though its space had not been put to use. Now, thanks to a cultural initiative on the part of the Taitung County Government, the school complex will reopen, repurposed and anew as a site demonstrating the rich cultural resources in the community!

Now, even deeper learning will take place in the sunny rooms and on the breezy ground. The new mission: Preserving historical and cultural heritage.

Longchang Village, like many small villages along the east coast in Taiwan, has been suffering from isolation as youths being lured away by metropolitan areas like Kaohsiung, Taipei and other global cities. Nonetheless, centuries of cultural traditions and unique craftsmanship skills remain in the hearts of village elders.

With the young ones leaving, there are no opportunities for the elders to pass down the traditions. Moreover, many young Longchang people have never learned their own native language. The indigenous village seems to be facing a turning point in its culture and history.

In recent years, there is a growing awareness among Taiwan's aboriginal peoples that preserving and strengthening their history, culture, life wisdom and traditional skills must become the priority.

The belief is that children should be able to speak their tribe languages, learn their traditional songs and, through learning, seeing and living the depth of their own cultures, they would come to love and identify with them.

As Taitung County has the highest proportion of indigenous residents in Taiwan, its government embraces the opportunity and responsibility to support preserving the indigenous cultures, heritage and traditions.

The rededication of Longchang Elementary School means not only a physical renovation, but a cultural and artistic one as well. Many artists are invited to participate to show their talents in installation art, music, wood carvings, mosaic design and green energy planning. There will be an art workshop in the indigenous Amis style led by local elders in Longchang.

The workshop also offers an array of indigenous skills including painting, pottery dyeing and weaving to tourist and students.

Longchang Elementary School will be reborn to become a leading attraction along Taiwan's sunshine east coast.

To the north, there is the Changbin PAKELANG houseboat; south by the bayside, there are Changguang terraces. Visitors can experience the culture of the Pakalac tribe, taste delicious seafood in Wushibi harbor and appreciate sculptures in Pisirian, overlooking Sanxiantai. You must also visit the famous Dulan Sugar Factory, Shiauyeliou and Tiehua Music Village, experience traditional cultures and taste the most genuine indigenous cuisines.

Your visit to the Longchang Elementary School art center will become one of your most treasured Taiwan memories as the site, surrounded by green mountains and sparkling blue sea, grows into a beautiful east-coast attraction.

Seeing an 81-year-old grandmother work with her grandson in the 2016 Longchang Weave Competition, we know the Longchang Elementary School will be successfully renewed and revitalized to pass down the Longchang heritage.

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The new signboard designed and made by a local artist announces the cultural mission of Longchang.