Remaking Zhushan

Ho Pei-jun's Recipe for Small-Town Renewal

2019 / May

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Phil Newell

Ho Pei-jun, president and founder of Town­way Cultural and Creative Corporation, started out with operating the “El Patio del Cielo” guesthouse in Nan­tou County’s Zhu­shan Township. From there he has gone on to organize work exchanges (in which people exchange labor or skills for accommodation), evening temple runs, and the “Guang­dian Forum,” and has attracted young people to start businesses in Zhu­shan. Without relying on any government resources, he has transformed this little town, driving its development and creating a unique revitalization experience for rural areas and small towns in Taiwan. In fact, he has even exported his formula for “small-town renewal” overseas.


Strolling through a verdant bamboo forest, the light breezes that blow through the bamboo make a soughing sound. The poetic, meditative atmosphere calls to mind the fight scene in a bamboo forest in Ang Lee’s film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But this place is the Da’an Forest Road in Nan­tou’s Zhu­shan Township, which has the largest “sea of bamboo” in all of Taiwan. Ho Pei-jun often walks here as he thinks about Zhu­shan’s future.

Zhushan, which means “bamboo mountain,” lives up to its name, having as much as 50‡60 square kilometers  of bamboo forest. In the 1970s and 1980s it was a wholesale distribution center for Taiwanese bamboo as well as a bastion of bamboo product processing, and it earned a great deal of foreign exchange for Taiwan. However, it has a similar story of decline to other small Taiwanese towns that relied on traditional manufacturing: Fact­or­ies have relocated to mainland China, bamboo products have been replaced by plastic or metal ones, the population is aging, and young people have moved away.

What can I do for society?

Ho Pei-jun, who was born in Nan­tou’s ­Shuili Township, happened upon an abandoned century-old three-sided residential compound at 800 meters altitude in Zhu­shan’s Da’an Village when he was studying at ­Chang Jung Christian University. Deeply concerned by the loss of local ­culture and armed with a sense of mission rarely seen among young people of his age, after finishing his military service Ho went everywhere looking for a loan to buy the place and convert it into a guesthouse, with the intention of “conserving a historic site.” Despite running into many brick walls he persevered, and finally convinced a bank manager to take his ideals on board and loan him NT$10 million.

Ho discovered that while the number of tourists coming to Zhu­shan was on the rise, the local resident population had declined sharply, from 80,000 to 50,000. The bus station formerly operated by the Taixi Bus Company, a landmark in the town center, had closed down for lack of passengers, and was threatened with demolition. There­after, Ho’s mission in life turned from renovating a derelict homestead to revitalizing a disused bus station and a declining town.

Adopting a new “hometown”

To give visitors to Zhu­shan a place to stay overnight and enable them to experience the sights and feel of the township, Ho used his homestay as a base from which to link up with old shops selling local products. He “transformed the guesthouse into an IKEA,” so that people can buy the things they enjoy there. For example, guests who appreciate the warmth and comfort of the pure cotton bed quilts are directed to the Chen Yi quilt shop, established 70 years ago and Zhu­shan’s only remaining handmade quilt shop, where they can order handmade cotton quilts. The guesthouse also serves rice snacks, and introduces consumers to the Chi­ming Mifu grain shop to purchase them.

In 2010 Ho founded Town­way Cultural and Creative Corporation and proposed his project to “make tourists into sociologists.” He rented a four-story building with two shopfronts for NT$7000 per month to attract young people with creativity and talent to come and “exchange skills for accommodation.” He also founded the “Guang­dian Gathering Place,” a platform for sharing and exchanging experience, where he has regularly held classes and forums, discussing with shop owners and farmers from Zhu­shan how to market local agricultural products and find opportun­ities for development.

Some of the young people who have swapped their skills for accommodation have gone on to make micro-­movies about Zhu­­shan, create travel maps for the town, and produce woven-bamboo QR codes for shops. TV and other media reports on Town­way have promoted these old shops, with their added cultural and creative ele­ments, to the public.

Creativity in culture, travel and farming

The night in Zhu­shan is quiet and still. Almost every family is watching a TV drama series, and as we glance into homes as we cycle along the road, we can follow the plot. To relieve stress, Ho Pei-jun goes for evening runs with Lin Jia-hong, who came home to take over the family business, and the two men chat as they run. Their con­versa­tion often revolves around a quite serious topic: What can be done to revive the waning bamboo crafts industry?

Lin Jia-hong is the third-generation boss at Yuan­tai Bamboo Crafts. His family history is a microcosm of the rise and fall of the bamboo industry in Zhu­shan. The first generation made bamboo ear cleaners, while the second made knitting needles. They prospered for a while, but with the advent of knitting boards in 2005, production of knitting needles declined. Lin returned to take the reins of the family business in 2010. He experimented with techno­logical upgrading and new forms of marketing, but met with little success in a shrinking market. Then, after securing reliable supplies of bamboo, in 2015 he put out a bamboo toothbrush and began to appeal to customers based on environmentalism and natural materials. He accompanied this with DIY craft experience classes, and now each year he sells 50‡60,000 toothbrushes. Beyond the factory he has also opened a brick-and-mortar shop, where some of the most popular products include bamboo drinking straws and travel cups. Continuing to develop bamboo products for daily life is Lin’s way of reviving this sunset industry.

Ho Pei-jun’s approach, on the other hand, was to found the Nantou County Bamboo Life Cultural ­Association, which was established in 2013. He brought back in­struct­ors to once again train people in bamboo crafts, such as making bamboo baskets and vases, and sought out enterprises interested in purchasing such products to negotiate sales contracts.

In 2015 Ho rented another disused space: the second-­floor former employees’ dormitory of the old Zhu­shan Bus Station. He used 5,500 six-foot-long strips of bamboo to weave openwork false ceilings and pillar cladding for the dormitory, transforming it into a cultural space called “Be­Young Garden.” By the end of 2018, Be­Young Garden was serving dishes made using locally grown ingredients, including chicken in bamboo sauce, stewed pork with bamboo shoots, and mashed sweet potatoes. This is not only an example of Townway’s approach to revitalizing a space, it is also significant in terms of the re-emergence of bamboo crafts in Zhushan.

At present Townway is energetically promoting a farmers’ market in Zhu­shan. One of the farmers who takes part is Michael Lin, who left Zhu­shan after gradu­ating high school, then returned home three years ago to be at the side of his father, who was in the final stages of cancer. After his father’s passing, Lin decided to retire from his career in mechanical engineering and remain in Zhu­shan to look after his 84-year-old mother. He began learning the basics of farming from the courses offered by the Farmers’ Academy of the Council of Agriculture, and then built the AOM Farm on his family property. In 2018 income from the farm began to stabilize. In particular he uses eco-friendly farming methods to cultivate baby corn on 6,000 square meters of land. Crisp and sweet, it can be harvested in reliable quantities each month.

Other vendors at the farmers’ market include organic tea farmer Chen Yi­long, who has held organic certification for over a decade; farmer Chen Shou­rong, who harvests his spring bamboo shoots before dawn, when they are still wet with dew; and Su ­Lianqi, whose sweet potatoes are made all the sweeter, and firmer to the bite, by the wide differences in Zhu­shan’s day- and nighttime temperatures.

In his efforts to attract entrepreneurs to Zhu­shan, one day when Ho Pei-jun was driving through neighboring Lin­nei Township in Yun­lin County and saw Vannesa Chu selling man­tou steamed buns from a roadside stand, he promptly invited her to relocate to Zhu­shan, a sugges­tion she acted on by opening a shop there. She takes part in activities at the Guang­dian Gathering Place and is ­following Townway’s approach to reviving this small town, using Zhu­shan sweet potatoes and other local ingredients to make her steamed buns. Others located close to Town­way’s base include Chen Si­fan, who makes soap by hand, Chiu Ping-­chang, second-generation owner of a bamboo supply firm, and the painter Mon, together forming a cluster of young entrepreneurs.

Exporting the Taiwan experience

Whether it be Lin Jia-hong, who returned to Zhu­shan to take over his family business, Michael Lin, who retired and started a second life there, or Vannesa Chu, who relocated there, thanks to Town­way’s initiatives they are all creating business and job opportunities in this little town. Moreover, through street runs and other activities Townway has drawn in the entire community, driving its revival. Isn’t this precisely the meaning and value of regional revitalization? Faced with the decline and aging of the local population, local citizens and enterprises are taking it upon themselves to develop the local economy, attracting jobseekers, entrepreneurs, and retirees back to Zhu­shan, and thus giving the town a new lease on life. They really are achieving the goal of “creativity + innovation + entrepreneurship = revitalization.”

The Executive Yuan has declared 2019 to be “Regional Revitalization Year One.” Ho Pei-jun defines “regional revitalization” as “building an environment in which localities can develop sustainably, and giving localities core operating capabilities.”

Ho Pei-jun’s approach to regional revitalization is not only flourishing in Taiwan; he has also been invited to Malay­sia, Singapore, and Hong Kong to deliver some of the more than 100 lectures he gives each year, dazzling audiences with the revelation that there is a small town in Taiwan where development is based on such profound thinking. In particular, with the mainland Chinese government promoting its top-down “rural revitalization strategy,” Zhu­shan’s example is attracting mainland businesses and rural political leaders to visit Taiwan on fact-finding tours, or even to send personnel to Zhu­shan for training.

Everyone is a Zhushan person

In order to transform outsiders into “Zhu­shan people,” Ho Pei-jun has also come up with the idea of “digital revitalization.” Any visitor who comes to Zhu­shan can contribute to the town on some way. By scanning a QR code, people can register as “digital townspeople,” and after de­posit­ing money in a virtual wallet, make payments using the ­guangbi—Zhu­shan’s own virtual currency. Through blockchain technology, a record can be kept of consumer’s shopping behavior. This is significant for supporting local small farmers, bamboo craft producers, and cultural and creative enterprises. In the future these data can be used as reference material for local governance.

Ho Pei-jun has courageously put his dreams into practice, and over the last 14 years has transformed a dilapid­ated old house, an old bus station, and even the entire town of Zhu­shan. He says: “All difficulties are sources of sustenance, and every challenge or learning experience provides a great opportunity to transform one’s situ­ation.” It is like the bamboo plants in the forest, which grow by only three centimeters in the first three years, but starting in the fourth year rise by 30 cm per year.

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體 日本語



文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林格立













「以專長換宿」的青年們還拍了竹山故事的微電影、製作了小鎮旅行地圖,以及為店家掛上竹編QR Code,這一系列的行動,隨著電視等媒體採訪「小鎮文創」,也把加了文創元素的老店家推銷出去。

小鎮創生學: 文創、旅創、農創











不論是回鄉傳承家業的林家宏、退休重啟第二春的林承陽,或是移居的渠珈朵,在小鎮文創的倡議與陪伴下,他們創造了小鎮商機,增加了就業機會,同時透過路跑等活動,吸引全鎮參與,帶動小鎮活力,這不正是「地方創生」的意義與價值嗎?因應小鎮人口的老化與凋零,由當地民眾與企業自主發展在地經濟,讓就業、創業與退休的人口回流,再創生機,達到「創意 + 創新 + 創業 = 創生」的目標。





這幾年,好不容易竹山鎮人口從「急遽減少」變成「緩慢減少」,為了要把外地人變成竹山人,何培鈞再推出「數位創生」的點子。任何來到竹山的旅客都能為當地有所貢獻,透過掃描QR Code,可以註冊登記成為竹山的「數位鎮民」,再藉由儲存現金轉變成線上支付的「光幣」,結合區塊鏈技術,可以記錄消費的足跡與履歷,顯示消費者的購買行為,具有支持在地小農、竹藝家、文化創意產業的意義;這些數據未來也可以成為地方治理的參考。




文・曾蘭淑 写真・林格立 翻訳・山口 雪菜

小鎮文創(Townway Cultural and Creative)を創設した何培鈞は、南投県の竹山鎮に民宿「天空的院子」を開いて以来、ワークエクスチェンジ(労働の対価として宿と食事の提供を受ける)や夜間の廟でのランニング、光点フォーラムなどを催して、若者を竹山での起業へと導いている。政府の補助などは受けずに小さな町の姿を変え、竹山の発展を促し、独特の地方創生を試み、さらには「小鎮(小さな町)創生学」を海外へも輸出している。






























X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!