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Lanyu Flying Fish Living and Culture Museum
Sitting alone on the Pacific Ocean, Lanyu is the second largest island of Taiwan, following Penghu, and is an offshore island under the administration of Taitung like Green Island. The acreage of the island is 45.74 square kilometers, and the circumference 38.45 kilometers. It is located offshore southeast of Taitung. It is 49 nautical miles away from Taitung City, 40 nautical miles to Green Island in the north, 41 nautical miles to Eluanbi in Kenting, and only 41 nautical miles to the northernmost uninhabited island of the Batan Islands of the Philippines in the south. The island is almost covered by hills except for a small piece of narrow alluvial plain at the coast. The 548-meter high Hongtou Mountain is the highest mountain on the island. There is another small volcanic island 5 kilometers to the southeast, Little Lanyu, which has an area of only 1.6 square kilometers and is uninhabited.
According to the literature, the Dutch came to Botel in 1644 (the 17th year of Emperor Chongjhen of the Ming Dynasty); Botel is the ancient name of Lanyu. During the 17th and 18th Centuries Lanyu was named as Botel or Tobago on the blue chart of both the eastern and western worlds. In 1618 (the 46th year of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty), Jhang Sie was the first one who called the island Hontouyu in his book Dongsiyangkao (東西洋考). In 1722 (the 61st year of Emperor Kangsi of Cing Dynasty) the royal commissioner Huang, Shu-jing came to Lanyu for inspection and was the first to name the island as Hongtouyu in his book Taihaishihcha (台海使槎). In 1877 (the 3rd year of Emperor Guangsyu of the Cing Dynasty) the Hengchun Magistrate, Jhou, You-ji, inspected Lanyu and officially included the island as a part of sovereign territory of China under the administration of Hengchun County and later on under the administration of Beinan. In 1947 the island was renamed as Lanyu (Orchid Island) for the abundant butterfly orchids on the island. The Tao people on the island called it Ponso no Tao, which means the island of man.
There are four villages and six tribes on Lanyu: Yeyou Village, Hongtou Village (with Hongtou and Yuren Tribes), Dongcing Village (with Dongcing and Yeyin Tribes), and Langdao Village. The Township Office is at the Yeyou Village. There are one complete high school and 4 elementary schools. The total population is 3,761 with 2,019 males and 1,742 females. Among the population, Tao accounts for 3,263 people or nearly 87%, and people in plains account for 417; there are only 81 other aborigines in plains.
The Tao people value freedom and equality. Despite lack of social classes like noble or chief, they do have their unique ways of selecting a capable person as their leader according to the need of respective situations, such as ritual, combat, group fishing, and opinion. The Tao people maintain their society through forbidden taboos, and their nature is peaceful and kind. Therefore, their tribal order is always kept under well maintenance.
Lanyu is located between the Eurasian Plate and the Philippines islands and is an island formed by erupted volcanic lava. The island is surrounded by coral reef, which gives the island many bizarre landscapes. Examples include the Hongtou Rock, Crocodile Rock, Yunu Rock, Tank Rock, Lion Couple Rock, and Battleship Rock. There are also many sea caves on the island, and the most famous ones are the Five-hole Cave and the Lovers Cave. These sea caves are filled with sea snakes. Lanyu is blessed with rich ecology. Green Turtle, Coconut Crab, Lanyu Scops Owl, and Birdwing Butterfly; all are precious protected creatures.
In addition, the Sky Pond and the Light Tower are the tourists’ favorite scenic spots from height. The Yeyin Tribe has the best preserved underground house complex, which is an important asset that Taiwan is planning to nominate as the Protection Area of the World Cultural Heritage. The sunrise at Dongcing Bay is poetic and romantic, making this place a highly preferred scenic spot.
Among the indigenous peoples in Taiwan, Tao is the only oceanic group as well as the single regional group. Thousands of years ago the Tao ancestors migrated from the Batan Archipelago in the northern Philippines to Lanyu and settled down here. Therefore, the Tao people are deeply related with the Ivatan people on the Batan Archipelago, and the two ethnical groups and local governments have officially visited each another, even until today. The Tao people are kind by nature and value freedom and equality. The greatest difference with other indigenous peoples is that the Tao has no social ranks or hierarchy; every one is born equal.
As an oceanic tribe, the Tao in Lanyu has a quite intimate relationship with the ocean and has developed graceful oceanic culture and unique traditions and customs. The distinctively-shaped assembled kayak with beautiful patterns and bright colors reveals the Tao’s exquisite craftsmanship. The silver helmet and rattan armor are important family legacy as well as symbols of courage and valiance. The houses are built underground to accommodate the ocean island that is frequently visited by typhoons. Other examples of the distinctive Tao traditional culture also include the Warrior Dance, the Hair Dance, fold songs, chanting, folk tales, myths, and folk ritual; all are precious cultural assets.
Lanyu is filled with cultural palette because of the unique Tao culture. It is also a heaven for snorkeling and sport fishing. In recent years it has developed into an ocean island type of tourism attraction.
In addition to a wealth of natural scenic resources, Lanyu is also featured with folk ritual. The Flying Fish Festival, Deity Festival, and Mullet Rice Harvest Festival are the three major festivals for the Tao people and are held annually. The Flying Fish Culture, derived from the fishing of flying fish, has become a focal tourism attraction with the government’s promotion efforts. The large amounts of tourists that visit here therefore have the opportunity to know more about the unique Tao culture.
The precious Tao culture is the pride of the Tao people. To carry forward the unique ocean culture and traditional arts of Lanyu, encourage the younger generation to become aware of their own identity, and allow Tao culture workers chances to bring out their fullest potentiality with the tourism industry, the Lan En Cultural and Educational Foundation has especially established the Lanyu Flying Fish Living and Culture Museum to reserve the tradition and inspire self confidence among the Tao people, so that the unique Tao culture may survive the external cultural shock.
Established in 1979, the Lan En Cultural and Educational Foundation has been dedicated to the residents on Lanyu for 26 years. Lanyu Kindergarten, which offers free tuition for the children in Lanyu, is the first achievement of the Foundation. The Lanyu Youth Activity Center, established in 1996, offers opportunities for the younger generation to learn traditional arts and cultivates the new generation of Tao art workers. In 2002 the Foundation established the Lanyu Cultural Relics Museum, where tourists may purchase Lanyu artworks produced and created by the artists on the island. The Lan En Cultural and Educational Foundation has profoundly and greatly contributed to and influenced Lanyu.
With the support from the Council for Cultural Affairs, the Flying Fish Living Culture Museum was established in 2005; the Flying Fish Festival, the greatest cultural asset of Lanyu, is combined with tourism development to bring more opportunities and businesses to Lanyu. The Flying Fish Living Culture Museum is located at the office of the Lan En Cultural and Educational Foundation. It combines community empowerment, cultural industry, natural ecology, and tourism development to create a new future for Lanyu. The Flying Fish Festival is also further enriched with traditional dance, songs, sculpture, and handicrafts.
The appearance of the Flying Fish Living Culture Museum is full of the original flavor of Lanyu. The two kayaks in front of the entrance and the red-white-black graphics on the wall are all the original features of Tao people. The tall and spacious interior is a basketball court which is also an exhibition/performance venue at the same time. It is the place where the youths come to play basketball and study traditional culture and art, and it is also an occupational skill learning center for the local residents.
The artworks from the island, such as all sorts of sculpture, model kayak and handicrafts, are displayed and available for sale at the Cultural Relics Shop on the 1st floor. The unique Tao cultural relics are exhibited at the Cultural Relics Exhibition Area on the 2nd floor; there are costume, silver helmet, rattans armor, and daily tools. There is also the Cultural Corridor, where the natural scenes and art events on the island are introduced.
In addition to preserving the heritage of Tao traditional culture in Lanyu, the Flying Fish Living Culture Museum also promotes the unique Flying Fish Festival as the theme of tourism to create more jobs. Currently the Lan En Cultural and Educational Foundation, in addition to the Flying Fish Living Culture Museum, has established a coffee shop, hostel, cultural relics shop, underground house, and exclusive creature area to fully facilitate the function of the Museum.
The Lan En Cultural and Educational Foundation also supports the Multi-employment Promotion Program of the Council of Labor Affairs. Both male and female tribal people in the training facility put on traditional Tao costumes to receive the arriving visitors. In the cultural relics shop, traditional handicrafts like kayak sculpture and fabric weaving are also demonstrated. In the Flying Fish Theater, the famous Warrior Dance and Hair Dance are performed.
The Flying Fish Living Culture Museum has been functioning well since its establishment. Courses like wood sculpture, fabric weaving, and tour guide are available for local people to learn the handicraft skills. While they carry forward their own heritage, they also learn the livelihood skill for their own career to promote local industrial development. The tour guide course is to cultivate the professional ability to introduce the underground house and Lanyu customs. In addition, the Museum often sponsors basketball, Chinese chess, and traditional singing contests to promote the relationship among the residents.
The Flying Fish Living Culture Museum also functions well in terms of community development and culture enhancement, and plays the role of heritage and tourism promoter. It is the Flying Fish Living Culture Museum that opens up the window of opportunity for Lanyu in cultural heritage, tourism promotion, local industrial development, and residents’ life enrichment and improvement.
Take a trip to the Flying Fish Living Culture Museum and you will understand the unique Tao culture and the beauty of Lanyu.
Type:Privately owned cultural center
Location: Lanyu Township
Theme: Cultural relics exhibition
Address:No.147, Fisherman, Hongtou, Lanyu Township, Taitung County
Business hours:March 1 ~ October 31; 08:00 ~ 17:00