Black Rice Festival,Butterfly Watching in Maolin District
【◎Written by Chen Ting-fang ◎Photos by Zeng Sin-yao, Hsieh Kuan-yi ◎English translation by Hou Ya-ting】
Kaohsiung's Maolin District is a stronghold of the indigenous Drekay (Rukai) tribe. Within the district, the ethnic group is subdivided into the Maolin, Wanshan, and Duona communities, each of which speaks a slightly different variant of the Drekay Austronesian language.
In addition to their rich and beguiling dialects, the tribe's traditional festivals have long captivated outsiders. The Black Rice Festival showcases the cultural uniqueness of the Drekay people. This year, the festival was held on July 14 and 15.
The festival is the tribe's expression of gratitude toward their gods for a successful harvest. According to the local customs of the Duona community, during the festival, members of the tribe beseech the gods to temporarily lift agricultural taboos, and allow outsiders to visit Duona. In addition, tribesmen and women pray for adequate rainfall during the cropping season, bountiful harvests, and the safety of tribe members. This year's Black Rice Festival was especially magnificent in Duona. Luosin, a fifteenth-generation chieftain, officially carried the torch.
The annual presentation of the Black Rice Festival in Duona accords with traditional methods and scale. It is hoped that younger members of the tribe will cherish this culture and pass it down generation after generation. Outsiders interested in indigenous culture should also make an effort to attend the festival, as the Duona community organizes a series of fascinating events, such as weaving floral headgear, wrapping bundles of millet, shooting traditional bows and arrows, and making indigenous glass beads. Through these activities, visitors can observe and experience Duona's lifestyle and culture.
Maolin boasts some of south Taiwan's most impressive mountain scenery, not to mention the winding Jhuokou River. Maolin and Duona can be accessed by Kaohsiung City Road 132, which connects with Highway 27 and Road 185. Maolin National Scenic Area Administration, which promotes tourism in the area, has put up traffic signs on Road 132 reminding drivers to slow down and mind the valley's butterfly population.
Maolin is the primary winter home of Purple Crow butterflies, and their migration is recognized as one of the most remarkable lepidopteran gatherings in the world, on a par with Mexico's Monarch butterflies.
As Taiwan experiences the northeast monsoon in the autumn, migrating Purple Crow butterflies follow the monsoon, moving from colder regions to Maolin's warmer valleys. The best time of year to visit the Purple Butterfly Valley is between November and March. Maolin District Office has laid out a butterfly walkway and an ecological park for those who wish to see this amazing natural wonder.
Those in the know say the best butterfly-watching is on sunny days after rain. Lucky visitors might see hundreds of thousands of butterflies gliding down valleys like a “butterfly waterfall.” It is a phenomenal and unforgettable scene. During butterfly season, Purple Crow butterflies are very active, feeding, drinking, or sunbathing. The best time to watch them is in the morning. After noon, if the weather is too hot, the butterflies tend to retreat to cooler areas hidden from visitors' sight.