LUKANG, Taiwan (The China Post/ANN) - Old buildings at the northwestern town in Changhua county have been gradually replaced by new buildings and factories
When talk turns to famous tourist attractions in Lukang, most people will mention some historic spots, such as Lukang Longshan Temple, the street view and delicacies.
However, people rarely remember that Lukang, located in northwestern Changhua county, used to be the second largest town in Taiwan in the 17th century.
With rapid development and advancement of technology, Lukang has undergone dramatic change. Some old buildings have been replaced by modern ones and factories and stores have been built.
It's hard to decide whether it's good or bad, as it brings more tourists and business opportunities, but the truth is that Lukang's traditional culture and people are flowing away gradually, and the environment is sustaining damage.
A group of native Lukang youngsters has decided to change that by preserving the traditional face of Lukang in the hope of raising people’s awareness about public issues and to find a connection with their hometown.
They launched several initiatives, and most of them are free, such as holding concerts and offering guided tours. What they are doing is to use the simplest way to protect the land and connect Taiwanese people based on love of the country.
Among the initiators of the campaign are two brothers: elder brother Chang Ching-yeh, CEO of The Kids from Lukang CO, Ltd, and the younger Annon Chang, chairman of The Lukang Renaissance Association.
The two organisations were founded in 2012, and since then, their plans have been put in place and are attracting more people to join.
Do what you love, and what you believe is right
The elder Chang, a 31-year-old musician, dreams of making Lukang a capital of cultural art.
“To pursue what you really like is the most exhilarating thing, we don't need to do everything just for money ," he told The China Post during a recent interview.
In 2009, he joined a dance troupe touring Italy, a trip that later became the turning point of his life. During the tour, he met some Sardinian performers, who told him that they never miss important festivals in their hometown even though they work in other cities.
Inspired by their love of their homeland, Chang began to wonder why the bond between Taiwanese people and their hometown is becoming weaker.
To him, culture is an aggregation, accumulated by people's daily experience and living environment, which cannot be torn apart.
Some may consider there will be no future if they choose to stay in their hometown, but Chang believes that there're still a lot of potential in Lukang.
He decided to return home and make changes.
Chang was supported by the government with his project, and step-by-step he started to fulfill his dream of preserving Lukang's traditions and make it a good environment for the cultural industry.
"It will be a pity that these values are being lost to make way for business and tourism. It doesn't mean that Lukang cannot be developed, but it has to be done only on the premise of not damaging the original," he said.
By holding more than 40 activities, including concerts, art festivals and screening documentaries, Chang and his team service people with arts, and what he's doing has already impacted many people.
"We are not doing it for praise, but for what we believe is right. We have a strong sense of local identity and hope to encourage people to care more about public affairs," he said.
"To cultivate culture is like planting a tree, which needs enough time to have a firm root."
"I will keep it up, use art to touch more people and bring new atmosphere into Lukang," he said.
For a better tomorrow
Following in his elder brother’s footsteps, Annon, a 28-year-old office worker, wants to bring about a Lukang renaissance.
He devotes himself to cultural preservation by inviting local people to clean up the environment together, and holding civic forums and exhibitions every month.
"We don't need to give up everything to realise our dreams. Instead, we only need to make good use of our free time," Annon said.
Though some people regard them as fools, he believes only when people make their own efforts can they build a better environment.
"Everyone can join us without any problem because it is public affairs. Sometimes, people should stop criticising and start to make our life better," he said.
With more tourists visiting Lukang, it brings more business opportunities to the town, but at the same time, it makes the locals feel that Lukang no longer looks the same as it used to. It is losing its traditions.All the constructions are built for tourists instead of for improving the welfare of locals.
"We should not let tourism take away our own cultural spirit, and I believe that it is our traditions and historic sites which attract visitors. Therefore, what we need to do is protect those antiquities, instead of focusing on modernising the town rapidly."
Annon and his partners regard those things as their social responsibility. Though sewage is smelly in extremely hot weather, they're still willing to clean them because they can fix problems and decide the destiny of their beloved town.
Nowadays, more cities are facing the same impact -- the two brothers say that no matter how the generations change, Taiwanese people should know their roots, and never forget history “because they make us become who we are today,” Annon said.
The Chang’s brothers are thankful to those who have helped them and devoted themselves to Lukang, grateful for the chance to fight for their destiny and for the generations to come.
Their dream is on the way to success, despite facing difficulties. Their belief and perseverance have already touched many others, who eventually may follow their footsteps to continue to promote Lukang’s culture.