On the western coast of Changhua County lies a small township with a rich historical background. Fangyuan Township is a place that was put on the map by the little salt-water bivalve mollusk known as the oyster. The region is famous for its intertidal zones, where fresh river water mixes with briny seawater. This unique convergence creates an environment which is rich in organic elements and perfect for not only oysters, but fish, shrimp, and crabs as well.
The area is also known for the particular way its residents harvest and transport their oysters via the use of “sea buffaloes.” In the past, local farmers making a living from the sea were unable to properly operate motorized vehicles for oyster harvesting. Instead, they discovered that carriages pulled by water buffaloes were easier to use and much more maneuverable. Over time, this method began dying out, replaced by more modern ones.
In the early 2000s, a man named Wei Ching-shui decided to turn the declining tradition into a tourist attraction. Visitors board oyster-harvesting oxcarts♦ and are ferried through the intertidal zones. They can then don rubber boots and gloves and get a chance to also pick their own fiddler crabs and clams from the muddy water during low tide. At the conclusion of the tour, visitors can sample freshly-harvested oyster delicacies.
Mr. Wei is very passionate about the “sea buffaloes” and the traditional way of harvesting oysters. He knows that the wetlands in the southwest of the county are crucial for this way of life, and has plans to petition UNESCO to grant World Heritage site status to the wetland ecosystem.