Zu-Du-Lan Country Handmade Soap is located in Dulan Tribe, its name was taken from the pronunciation of “feeling pissed off” in Taiwanese, which reminds coworkers to relax more, and don't get angry when something is not going well. At the same time, they changed the Mandarin character as “足渡蘭” which means “Our footprints migrate to Dulan Tribe”. And the cutest part, the trademark is one frog which is a symbol of the soap developer named Dagula soaring on the clouds, it’s really funny and intriguing.
Going straight on the path next to Dulan Sugar Factory, you will see a goose-yellow European-style house under one big banyan tree. There is no obvious sign, also not an eye-catching building, if you don’t pay attention, you may miss this great shop. The golden leaves fell down elegantly, it feels like they’re saying “welcome to this natural soap world!”. The breeze blew across the outdoor area, and the bright sunshine turned into dim light spots through thatches, Zu-Du-Lan couple and I sat down together for a long long talk. When talking about the encounter with soap, we have to start from 20 years ago. At that time, A-vi and Dagula were still working in Taipei. Dagula met the master of a well-known soap brand by chance. After inheriting his ancient and solid soap-making knowledge, Dagula walked into the world of handmade soap passionately. Owing to the background in science and engineering, Dagula has a high research spirit in soap making. He always seriously explores the saponification, extraction technology and molecular structure, and even tastes the soap to accurately identify the quality. With a rigorous development attitude for 20 years, the soap of Zu-Du-Lan has obtained the SGS food-grade safety certification, and the soap-making process has also been patented. Dagula added “The ingredients of our soap is that the more it’s exposed to the air, the better it’s to use. That’s the reason why we sell the soap without packing, they will grow as old soaps, no worries for the quality decline.” It’s obvious that Zu-Du-Lan advocates the attitude of nature, real and not compromising with the mainstream market.
As for the opportunity to go back to Taitung, A-vi replied “It was the shock that children brought to us.” Children are new to this world, they are real, simple and often asking questions about the essence of life. A-vi was shocked that she can’t answer them all the time, then she began to think about her life, and asked herself when has she lost the enthusiasm for life? The couple recalled their childhood, the coziness with mountains and sea, the beauty of leading a carefree life, it’s totally different from life in Taipei. They thought, perhaps it’s the reason why we lost our soul, but is this the childhood of our children? At that moment, they decided to return to their hometown. People may think that giving up a high salary and returning to hometown must be difficult, but A-vi said she had been so excited, “This time, we choose how to spend the rest of our life!” After going back to Taitung, they regained themselves step by step in conversations, and slowly shaped up their ideal life. As for why choosing handmade soap in the end? A-vi smiled brightly and answered, “We have thought about various future possibilities. One day, I asked Dagula, ““Hey! You are good at making soap, right? How about we do it here?”” He replied me right away, ““How could it be possible?”” However, the next second, he looked at me with a pair of shiny eyes and said, ““Really? Could it be possible?”” I trust the eyes, the eyes can’t be wrong.”
A-vi and Dagula fully believed in the future, and when they thought about how to make different soaps, A-vi said she didn’t seek for immediate answers, instead, she thought as long as living the life truly, the idea will come naturally. While they were fully integrated in the tribal culture, A-vi found that in many ceremonies, betel nuts, tobacco and millet wine played irreplaceable roles. Betel nuts were regarded as a medium between the supernatural world and human being in Austronesian culture, tobacco carries a legendary story about deceased clansmen who came back to their family members’ dream, and millet wine is the most precious gift which means harvest and richness, it’s totally different from the impression which is generally regarded as “three harms” in society. Thinking of this, A-vi immediately ran to tell Dagula this idea, and the best-selling series of this store was born. A-vi said whenever new customers come into Zu-Du-Lan, she will tell them the tribal stories and felt really content at the same time, and she knew that this contentment wasn't just about destigmatization, “Everyone knows that ““The more local, the more international””, on the other hand, I feel more about ““The more local, the more confident we are”””. Later, they had successfully developed a series of plant-based soaps, including shell ginger, roselle, red quinoa soaps and betel vine liquid soap. Only using native plants for soap had become an insistence of Nu-Du-Lan, and also the part they were most proud of.
Living tribal life and reading historical books, Zu-Du-Lan couple had a deep understanding of the potential of Taiwanese plants, and behind each plant-based soap, there is a unique working process. A-vi said that she has been fascinated by the undomesticated vitality of wild plants. When exploring the uninhabited area of Dulan Mountain for the first time, she was deeply shocked. The betel vine climbing along the towering giant trees was so spectacular, and when she bent down and pulled up the vine on the ground, the fertile smell of the black soil which had been deposited for around one hundred years came up. Suddenly, she realized that the wildness which spreads all over the forest came from this land. She was completely awed by the power of mother nature. Since then, they have not only collected raw materials as wild as possible, but also brought their children to get close to mother nature, and if the raw materials can’t be collected in the wild, they’ll buy from local farmers, or exchange soap for materials, it also returns to the essence of trading. About the future plan of Zu-Du-Lan, she said thankfully that in recent years, they have diligently developed their brand business, it’s all because they hope to provide job opportunities for Dulan tribe in the future. Since the establishment of Zu-Du-Lan in 2012, they have been helped and taken care of by a lot of neighbors, and they want to do something in return, hoping it could drive the cultural energy and allow more clansmen to stay in their hometown. In the past, they kept chasing things which are far away, now, they focus on the beauty around them, no wonder A-vi said, “This is the wisest decision I have ever made!”