On the level

The unique architectural design of the Lanyang Museum mirrors the rock formation along the Beiguan Coast. Peerawat Jariyasombat

On the plain of Yilan county, Taiwan, the unique shape of gigantic architecture can be noticed from a distance. It looks like a huge building with one side buried in the ground. Some say it is a leaning pyramid.

To me, it looks like a spacecraft that tried to land on Yilan but failed to stand upright on the soft mud of the wetlands. Fortunately, its entrance is at ground level, allowing visitors to enter.

Whatever it is, its outstanding design makes people curious and lures them to visit.

The unique architectural design of the Lanyang Museum mirrors the rock formation along the Beiguan Coast. Peerawat Jariyasombat

It is Lanyang Museum, named after the Lanyang Plains in Yilan County. Along the Beiguan Coast, the landscape houses a number of cuestas, unique rock formations with a gentle slope on one side. That is why the famous Taiwanese architect Kris Yao used this outstanding geometric shape in his design.

Yilan is rich in natural and cultural resources while the Lanyang Plains are famed for ethnic diversity and a vibrant culture. Exploring the whole county may take a long time, so this museum serves as a sort of window on this colourful coastal land.

Visitors must start at the top floor and explore the museum downward. Each floor has a different themed gallery: Mountain, Plains, Ocean, Time.

An exhibit depicts port development in Yilan. Peerawat Jariyasombat

The Mountain level showcases the misty forest of Yilan, home to vast biodiversity. Its famous tree is the Formosa cypress, a slow-growing coniferous tree which can grow as high as 60m. Due to its high-quality wood and strong scent, this tree of valuable timber is excessively harvested and is now endangered.

The Plains level explains the people of this land. It was first occupied by Kavalan aborigines, who came by sea from the east about 1,000 years ago and settled along the rivers. There were around 50 Kavalan communities, with a population of some 10,000. Then Atayal or Tayal aborigines came to Yilan some 250 years ago and settled in the mountainous areas. Today, Atayal people live in central and northern Taiwan.

The Plains level depicts farmers’ lifestyles from yesteryear. Peerawat Jariyasombat

At the end of the 18th century, Han Chinese came to Yilan. Then the cultural development ran faster. Ports were developed as well as other industries, such as boat building. There were a number of dragon boats or cargo boats in Yilan. The exhibition features a lively port.

As most of the land in Yilan is devoted to rice farming, farmers’ lifestyles from yesteryear are also displayed. Besides the traditional tools of the farmer, like those we see in Thailand, I appreciate the farmer’s raincoat. It is made of woven bamboo strips in the shape of a tortoise shell.

The Ocean level features the fishery of Yilan and abundant marine life. Kids will be excited with the whale skeleton, a life-size fishing boat from the past, and a big school of model fish on display.

I slowly walk down each floor, going through lively exhibits that capture Yilan’s essence. It is a nice place to start if you want to know this rainy county.

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