Dongin: Where the natural and the man-made mingle
Vicki Cheng, Special to The China Post
July 31, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
Dongin -- Since the beginning of time, mankind has been at odds with nature, struggling to conquer or be conquered by it, and in rare instances, finding a way to balance the natural world with human civilization. The exceptional interplay between man and nature is scattered throughout Taiwan, and is truly exemplified on the island of Dongin (東引), where one can enjoy the splendor of the seascape while simultaneously being able to observe the architectural marvels that people have constructed over time.
As part of the Matsu (馬祖) island chain, Dongin is located in the northern portion of Taiwan, and accessible only by boat. Direct ferries from Keelung to Dongin take approximately eight hours; however, to combat the time lag many visitors often plan their departure for night so that they arrive the next morning. A faster travel option would be to take a one-hour plane flight from one of the local airports to the island of Nangan (南竿) and get on a ferry to Dongin, which takes an additional two hours. Either way, arriving at the Dongin harbor by boat provides a scenic view of the waterfront, which is only a preview of the attractions to come.
At the easternmost part of the island stands the majestic Dongyong Lighthouse (東湧燈塔) that has been operational since the late Ching dynasty. A short but windy climb up its zigzagging staircase gives a bird's eye view of the expansive ocean, along with a closer look at its architectural beauty. This structure, with its brilliant white façade, provides a stunning contrast when viewed against the deep blue of the ocean waters and the sky.
Near the lighthouse lies another breathtaking beauty – rather than being man-made however, it has been sculpted and chiseled by nature over thousands of years. Suicide Cliff (烈女義坑) is a gut-wrenchingly deep chasm that has suffered erosion from both wind and water, and is named after a tale enveloped in tragedy.
According to legend, a young and beautiful maiden was being chased by bandits, and leapt to her death to preserve her virtue rather than face being violated by her would-be captors. Villagers were so moved by her actions that they named the cliff in her honor.