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Monday, March 19, 2012

Journalistic License?: CNN Ranks Sun Moon Lake Among Top 10 Cycle Routes

CNN-GO has just ranked Sun Moon Lake one of the world's top 10 cycle paths. With a liberal flourish of fantasy Taiwan's largest body of fresh water makes headlines for its cycling scenery and amenities.

According to CNN-GO:

Located in the heart of Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake has long been charming curious foreigners and local visitors alike. Its calm, turquoise water has also inspired many ancient Chinese poets and painters.

The route around the largest lake in Taiwan is a three-hour ride, where visitors can enjoy lake scenery, experience Thao aboriginal culture and learn about the local ecology in the Nantou County.

If you arrive in early spring, you can even catch the cherry blossoms near this mirror-like lake.

One of my biggest peeves is when Taiwan is not written about for what it is, but rather for how the writer imagines it should be.

I occasionally ride Sun Moon Lake, but I find the traffic too thick, with too many lumbering tourist coaches, to actually make me want to do an entire loop.

I find I am either caught behind a slow moving caravan of gawking Chinese tourists who are clawing at the windows for a chance to get out and smoke, or I am forced onto the white line as these busses push me aside to make the next buffett. Since there is no discernible shoulder, there is no place for me to retreat. I was there yesterday and it was the same.

My favorite part is this blurb:
Its calm, turquoise water has also inspired many ancient Chinese poets and painters.
The history of Sun Moon Lake makes this fantasy a virtual impossibility left only to the Orientalist mind.

The Sun Moon Lake area had once been the home to groups of Thao speaking peoples, as well as some Bunun, Babuza, and Hoanya speakers. The area around Shuili was a major convergence zone for cultural trade.

Although the lake was greatly expanded under the Japanese colonial administration, records of the lake go back as far as Dutch colonial rule (1624-1662).

During the entire period of Cheng (1662-1683) and Qing (1683-1895) rule, the Sun Moon Lake area was considered to be in "savage territory" and "outside the realm". The area remained a center for tribal village life with occasional encroachment by the rough Han traders who dared venture across the "savage border" to cut timber or set up camphor mills. The area was used by the anti-Manchu rebel, Lin Shuang-wen, as a hideout following his rebellion in 1788.

To the West, the lake was known as Lake Candidius, after the Dutch missionary.

It was not until the Japanese colonial administration (1895-1945) that the lake and the surrounding areas were brought under outside governance. Still, even under Japanese rule, the lake was relatively remote.

I would welcome the author to please provide some "ancient Chinese" literature and/or artwork regarding the lake and its surrounding scenery. Qing literati were quite clear in casting the mountain areas as mysterious, savage, degraded places that were filled with evil, ugly, degraded people and things.

I would suggest the author leave poetics at the door and stick with the facts.