In 1736 the intrepid Lin brothers led the first Hakka immigrants to settle the plains of Meinong (Měinóng). While the Hakka make up about 10% to 15% of the population of Taiwan, in Meinong the percentage today goes up to 95%. A hardworking people, who value higher education, the Hakka of Meinong can count a disproportionate number of PhDs (and in the past, imperial scholars) among its population.
Thoroughly rural in character, and once the centre of a thriving and well-protected tobacco industry, Meinong was hit hard by Taiwan's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002. With the monopoly system – which had been in place since the 1930s – abolished, the town began to refashion itself into a country retreat. Hakka culture, historical sites, tobacco history and (a little more incongruously) butterfly-watching became the cornerstones of the new economy.
Winters are a great time to visit, as the weather is perfect – warm and dry – and the tourists are few. Summer is the season of the yellow butterflies and in the valleys to the northeast they swarm in the hundreds of thousands.