Back to Their Roots: Sustainable Tourism in Taiwan’s “Bamboo Mountain” Town

Zhushan (竹山) is an urban township located in Nantou County, Taiwan. The town’s name means “bamboo mountain” in the local language, as the area previously thrived off its natural supply of sustainable bamboo. In Chinese culture, the bamboo plant is not only a sustainable resource that brings profit; the natural element has been revered for centuries because of its righteous symbolism. For example, Chinese scholars aspired to attain the natural qualities of bamboo. To them, bamboo’s hollowness represented humility, its straight stem stood for integrity, its deep roots denoted persistence, and its ability to grow overnight was a metaphor for prosperity and resilience. 

To Taiwanese, bamboo’s hollowness represented humility. (Image source: Bence Balla-Schottner)

In the 1960s, the island of Taiwan contained 1,500 bamboo factories. However, due to competition from China and furniture giants like IKEA, less than 100 bamboo factories remain. Fortunately, the town of Zhushan has bonded together to revive this sleepy settlement and bring back its thriving bamboo community, with a focus on using its natural resources to encourage sustainable travel in Taiwan. (Read more: Sun Moon Lake: A Tea Lover’s Paradise)

Zhushan, “the bamboo mountain” is using its natural resources to encourage sustainable travel in Taiwan. (Image source: Taiwan Scene)

The Former Taixi Bus Station

Located in the center of Zhushan’s downtown is the newly revived Taixi Bus Station (台西客運). Out of use for many years, this abandoned transit station was at the risk of being demolished. The entire town decided to come together and rebuild it for the community’s benefit. Now a local meeting point and tourist attraction, the first floor contains a small shelf that functions as a communal “library” where town members can donate and borrow books through a self-serve honor system. The entrance of the old station sells organic produce from local farmers. The first floor also sells bamboo arts and crafts and features a small ice cream shop that scoops locally-flavored ice cream into reusable, bamboo cups.

The first floor of Taixi Bus Station is transforming into a local meeting point and tourist attraction. (Image source: Taiwan Scene)
Try ice cream served in bamboo cups when visiting Zhushan! (Image source: Taiwan Scene)

The second floor is a beautiful restaurant, called Beyoung Garden. Built by the town’s “aunties,” the ceilings are built from finely woven and twisted bamboo fixtures. A peaceful bamboo garden is located on the second floor, as well. The restaurant features bamboo-inspired dishes that include baby bamboo, soups, and fresh drinks served with bamboo straws.

The second floor of Taixi Bus Station in now a beautiful restaurant. (Image source: Taiwan Scene)
Beyoung Garden serves dished featuring local bamboo and vegetables. (Image source: Taiwan Scene)

DIY Bamboo Products

Behind the strong community of local Zhushan residents leading the revival of their hometown is a group of young individuals who have returned to their roots after being away for their studies or their work. Together, they have lifted this “bamboo mountain” with their diligent efforts and sometimes self-funded causes. (You might also like: 8 questions with the creators of Taiwan’s first-ever eco-friendly sky lantern)

Bamboo straws can be easily found at Zhushan. (Image source: Taiwan Scene)

One such individual is Atai, who sells bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo straws, and bamboo cups at his store, Yuantai. Not only is Atai committed to helping his community, but he is also committed to the environmentally-friendly properties of bamboo. All of his products use water-based ingredients and are 100% biodegradable. Visitors can make their own sustainable toothbrushes from start to finish and customize their own bamboo straws and cups.

Visitors can join a bamboo straws DIY class at Zhushan. (Image source: Taiwan Scene)

Zhushan is just one example of how the people of Taiwan have come together to improve their communities while protecting their environments and promoting eco-travel at the same time. For more sustainable activities, inquire here.