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In the early hours of Sept. 21, 1999, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck Taiwan. Within 45 seconds, over 2,000 people lost their lives and property damage amounted to billions of dollars. Fortunately, the epicenter was not in a densely populated metropolitan area, for the loss of life and property would have been incalculable, given that Taiwan has the world’s second highest population density. International media reported on the quake’s destruction, but unfortunately, because coverage was not sufficiently in-depth or comprehensive, the world was given the mistaken impression that the whole of Taiwan is unsafe.

In fact, the epicenter of the earthquake was located in the center of Taiwan in Chichi, Nantou Country, in the central mountain range 200 km south of Taipei. The area seriously affected was confined to Nantou County, and a number of rural and urban townships of neighboring Taichung County. Other parts of Taiwan, the northern, eastern and southern parts, together with the offshore islands are all safe. Moreover, domestic and overseas transportation, as well as electricity and water supplies, are in normal operation and there have been no breakouts of disease, which often accompany disasters.

Immediately following the earthquake, the government set up a disaster-relief center, actively organized the resettlement of people in affected areas, kept transportation open and repaired basic utilities. The government also established a reconstruction committee to strengthen the effectiveness of the implementation of postdisaster reconstruction projects. In addition to the efforts of government agencies, the business sector, private organizations and citizens throughout the country also worked enthusiastically to rebuild the affected areas. At present, all roads and bridges in these areas have been restored, and sightseeing spots in central Taiwan are recovering.

Destruction caused by the earthquake has shed new light on the tourism industry in the affected areas of central Taiwan. The popular Sun Moon Lake area, famous at home and abroad for its picturesque scenery, is a good example. In the past, the development of tourist facilities surrounding the lake was not well planned or compatible with the local features of the region. Because the area was damaged by the earthquake, the government is currently mapping out a new development plan to upgrade the Sun Moon Lake Scenic Area from the provincial level to the national level, and develop neighboring areas. In the coming years, rebuilding and planning will further enhance this area’s beauty and charm.

Taiwan is known for its many distinctive qualities, including the “quiet revolution” achieved during the process of Taiwan’s democratization, as well as its world-famous economic miracle. Perhaps it is this great vibrancy that has attracted many tourists from around the world to Taiwan. Whether it is a small shop at a night market in Taipei, or a small cottage factory in the remote countryside, everywhere people are working vigorously to achieve their dreams. If you meet the people of Taiwan, you will understand why per capita gross national product of this island has doubled 130 times in just a few decades to make the ROC the 19th-largest economic body and the 14th-largest trading nation in the world.

It is important to understand that Taiwan not only encompasses traditional Chinese culture and local customs, but has also been influenced by Japan, the United States and Europe. Thanks to Taiwan’s special historical background, one can enjoy Chinese cuisine from all regions in China, appreciate Taiwan aboriginal dancing, and experience the Taiwanese version of European, American and Japanese cultures. No matter whether it is traditional or modern, continental or oceanic, Eastern or Western, all cultures preserve their original flavor in Taiwan, yet take on a new look after blending with local qualities.

When Portuguese navigators first reached the island of Taiwan in the early 17th century, they exclaimed “Iiha Formosa,” or beautiful island. After experiencing its strongest earthquake in 100 years, Taiwan still radiates a unique quality and charm of its own. Taiwan is as beautiful as ever, and its beauty will continue to grow well into the future.

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