Published: July 13, 2023

As part of a Tang-funded global seminar this summer, a group of 14 undergraduate students from CU embarked on a three-week program immersing themselves in Taiwanese life, culture, politics, and history. We'll be showcasing a series of blog posts from these students to share what the experience has been like in their words.

Post # 8 - Emily Stamos

Taroko Gorge
Hualien County, Xiulin Township, Taiwan

woman standing by Taroko Gorge

This week, I had the honor of exploring Taroko Gorge, located in Taiwan’s Hualien County. It was by far the most beautiful place I have ever visited. The picture above shows me gazing over the pristine blue water flowing through the gorge. Known for its beauty, it is a popular tourist attraction for hiking and camping. One thing I noticed was that although there were very few trash cans in sight, I did not see any litter as I walked along the trail. This sharply contrasted my past experiences hiking in America, where usually at least some human-made trash can be found on any given trail. Throughout my trip, I have noticed a lack of litter in public areas, which just highlights the communal focus of Taiwanese culture. Each person respects the land and works to preserve it so others can experience the same beautiful attractions for years to come.

rock in clear water

A young island, Taroko Gorge shows evidence of Taiwan’s ever-changing geology, as rocks shift and fall throughout the year, changing the landscape. This picture shows a beautiful boulder that had fallen into the water by the trail. Along the walls of the gorge and on this boulder, striations of different kinds of rock show the complex history of the mountains. Made of marble, granite, and quartz, many different colors and textures make up the canyon. The towering stones show signs of erosion from wind and water over millions of years, showing the long history that led to Taiwan as we know it today. Several waterfalls along the gorge add to spectacular beauty of the area.

statue honoring Truku people

                  The ancestral home of the Truku people, Taroko Gorge is an important place to the history of Taiwan’s indigenous people. The Truku people originally came from the Atayal tribe, but due to the remoteness of the mountainous terrain and separation over time, they developed their own distinct traditions and dialects. Today, they are a part of the 16 officially recognized indigenous tribes of Taiwan. Several parts of the trail I traveled on were sectioned off, as they were areas designated for the Truku people to live and hunt. The Truku people are known for their expert craftsmanship, especially weaving. In the early 1900s, the Truku people, while outnumbered, fought valiantely against Japanese soldiers trying to take over the land, leveraging their knowledge of the land. In the end, the Japanese declared victory, as they got another indigenous tribe to fight against the Truku. From a guide at the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines in Taipei, I learned that Taroko Gorge was once considered for classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Center for its cultural significance and beauty.