Friday, April 9, 2010

The cats of Houtong

Houtong is a small village some 20 miles north of Taipei in Ruifang township. A center of coal mining during the Japanese colonial rule in the 1900s, Houtong is now known for the hundred’s of wild cats that inhabit its streets. Local residents treat the cats like family members and feed them regularly.

Chien Pei-ling, who is a cat lover and the wife of a veterinary, used her camera to record the co-existence of people and cats. She set up a "Cat Lady" blog to post her videos. This drew more people to visit Houtong. Now tourists from as far away as Japan come to Houtong to see the cats.

Eight years ago, the villagers began feeding the wild cats with fish and rice. This attracted more cats to Houtong until they became a noticeable attraction which now includes ubiquitous cat indicators, cat road signs and visitor instructions on cat watching.

With her camera to capture the feline charmers, Chien published a photo book and postcards of the cats. She also held a special exhibition of cats, and won the top prize at a photo competition on the island of Tashiro-jima, Japan, where people worship cats as gods. Through her lens, Chien has helped to bring new life to Houtong by transforming the old mining village into a tourist attraction.

"In the decline and fall of this remote village, we have built up a model of peaceful relationship between people and animals to show the bright side of human beings. We kindly treat these little animals with an attitude of respect for life. Our love for animals has turned the street cats into a tourist resource. This is a positive direction of a virtuous cycle, and will encourage more people to love cats and animals," said the Cat Lady.

Taiwan Insights
appreciates her kindness and foresight with the following photos.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.