In 1736 the intrepid Lin brothers led the first Hakka immigrants to settle the plains of Meinong (Měinóng). While the Hakka make up about 14% of the population of Taiwan, in Meinong the percentage today is around 95%. Hardworking people who value higher education, the Hakka of Meinong can count a disproportionate number of PhDs (and in the past, imperial scholars) among their population.
Thoroughly rural in character, and once the centre of a well-protected tobacco industry, Meinong was hit hard by Taiwan's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002. With the monopoly system abolished, the town began to refashion itself into a country retreat. Hakka culture, historic sites and butterfly-watching became the cornerstones of the new economy.
Winter is a great time to visit, as the weather is perfect – warm and dry – and 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.