Captions: Guests to the village can see a welcome show and farewell performance each day. // © 2017 Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
Feature image (above): Clients who visit Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village may witness ritualistic dances. // © 2017 Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
Known for its natural beauty, Taiwan's Sun Moon Lake yields a variety of impressive vantage points from shuttle boats, lakeside trails, bike paths and hiking routes. But there's another way to appreciate the stunning scenery of Sun Moon Lake, which is also known for its black tea, local rice wine and handicrafts made from paper, pottery and carved wood. On the eastern side of the lake, the 1,550-acre Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (FACV) is accessible by the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, a cable-car system that offers spectacular views of the massive body of water and its surrounding greenery. The view of the landscape itself is enough of a reason to take a ride in a cable car, but it's really just a way to get visitors to the sprawling FACV, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. As Taiwan's largest outdoor aboriginal cultural museum, the park offers a deeper understanding of Taiwan's nine native ethnic groups — and much more.
Just like FACV, Sun Moon Lake Ropeway had recently had a milestone of its own: its 15th birthday. Carrying up to eight people, each of the 86 aerial cars on the ropeway are painted either red for the sun, yellow for the moon or blue for the lake. A one-way journey is just over 1 mile long and lasts less than nine minutes. And with the carriages outfitted with solar electricity chips, the whole experience is very quiet and peaceful, not to mention eco-friendly.
Down below, FACV awaits to greet guests in the Culture Square, where a welcome show and farewell performance bookend each day. Dancers in traditional costumes move in circles to celebrate fertility and invite visitors to join in, setting an enthusiastic tone for exploring a unique place that's equal parts theme park, garden and interactive edutainment facility.
Jung-i Chang founded FACV in order to preserve the indigenous cultures of Taiwan while honoring his own ancestor, Da-ching Chang, who worked with native communities to facilitate negotiations with Chinese settlers. Now, the cultural heritage of the various aboriginal communities are communicated through life-size displays of everyday activities, whether it's a wax woman weaving or a real-life wood-carver at work.
Through artifacts such as tools and clothing, the village tells the history and economics of indigenous populations in Taiwan and brings the cultures to life through folk songs and dances at any one of the park's five theaters. Surrounded by water, the Naruwan Theatre is the main stage and gives spectators a great view from any seat. Meanwhile, the Ritual Theater's show re-creates traditional ceremonies, and the Pestle Music Theatre vibrates with native folk melodies.
In 1992, the village expanded to include Amusement Isle, which features all the staples of a classic adventure park, including the UFO Gyro Drop, the highest free-fall ride in Taiwan at more than 270 feet tall. There's also the 150-acre European Palace Garden, with its baroque-style Ritz Palace, viewable by a mini-locomotive, which also passes by the gardens' fountains, classic sculptures, a gothic bell tower and manicured lawns.
While the amusement park and gardens at FACV are certainly impressive, it's really the indigenous theme of the village that defines it. The best time to visit is during the Chinese New Year, which kicks off the celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival in February. With 2,000 “prunus campanulata” (cherry trees) in bloom — which are blanketed in enchanting multicolored lights at night — FACV is one of the best places in Taiwan to witness the spectacle. But with fully immersive installations, exhibits and re-creations of indigenous performances and rituals always going on, FACV is worth a visit anytime, year-round.