WWII 'bomb bell' guards Amis tribe for 60 years

Sunday, December 18, 2011

TAIPEI -- A 500-pound unexploded bomb dropped by the United States on Taiwan during World War II has been anything but a dud over the past six decades, at least in the eyes of one indigenous tribe in Taitung County.

The Amis village of Tomiac in Chenggong Township has embraced the bomb as a good luck charm ever since it was found in Siaogang Harbor in the eastern Taiwan township and carried back to the village after being processed properly.

The community's elders decided to make it a warning bell, positioning it at the highest point in the village to alert the tribespeople to emergencies such as fires and earthquakes or to mobilize them for town meetings.

The story returned to the public eye recently when an author of children's books, Chou Yao-ping, published a children's picture book in November based on the “bomb bell” story.

Chu Shih-chieh, a worker from cultural and historical workshop “One and Half Studio,” explained that people used to live in thatched houses, so fires were commonplace.

Whoever noticed the fire first would run up the hill to ring the “bomb bell,” alerting villagers to the threat and getting them to help deal with the blaze.

Fires became less frequent with time because the village's thatched houses were gradually phased out, so the bell became used by elders primarily when there were important matters to inform other members of the tribe.

After years of exposure to wind and rain, the bell grew rusty, and in 2006, the village repainted the iconic symbol and built a pavilion to shelter it.

The rehabilitation of the bell and the building of the pavilion was made into an 8-minute film that won an award from Taiwan's National Youth Commission the same year.

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