Alishan National Scenic Area, Taiwan
By Theresa Yiju Lin
The story of Alisan began with the chief of Tsou tribe, Abali, about 250 years ago. He often went hunting in the mountain and usually brought back much food. Later in his life, he guided many of the Tsou people to the mountain that led them to the sources of living supports. After he passed away, Tsuo people named it Alishan (Ali Mountain) to remember his contribution to the people.
Alishan lies on the border of Yushan. The New Central Highway connects Alishan and Yushan, which provides the visitors more convenient transportation, and the aborigines’ life and festivals attract many curious tourists each year.
The main residents in Alishan, Tsou, host two major festivals each year. They are Mayashivi in mid-February and Homeyaya in August. Homeyaya is the celebration of the harvesting of millet, and it is also an important family holiday for Tsou people. Attending Homeyaya can be arranged, but it is somewhat difficult.
Mayashivi festival is more accessible for visitors to taste the flavor of the Tsou culture. In the ancient time, attending Mayashivi was the preparation for war. There are various ritual ceremonies during the festival, but the spirit is for the men in the tribe to present their bravery and announce their ability to guard the tribe. The dances, wardrobes and songs indicate people’s social status and their responsibilities in the community.
Visiting Alisan, you may want to make sure to capture the scenarios the Five Marvels. They are sunrise, sunset, sea of clouds, woods and the Alisan Forest Railway.
In the summer (June), the best viewing spot is Zushan. Riding the sunrise train from the Alisan Railroad Station or Zaoping Station, it takes about 25 minutes to arrive at the entrance of the sunrise plaza. Then, taking a 40 minutes hike, tourists can reach the Zushan pavilion and enjoy the astounding sunrise. Zushan is also the utmost north place for the sunrise viewing. In the winter (December), the sun rises from the utmost southern spot that is also the south of the main peak of Yushan. In the spring (March) and autumn (September), the sun rises at about 6 a.m. by the north peak of Yushan. In the area, there are several different trekking routes that lead the visitors to these destinations.
Watching the sunset at Alishan, you are standing on the land that is more than 2,000 meters above the sea level. The aerosphere allows more ultraviolet to penetrate through the thin cloud which adds more color to the sky. The blue sky is more exuberant than watching the sunset on the flat ground. In comparison with the sky, the sunset sometimes looks burgundy. Several famous spots for sunset viewing such as Chiyun Temple, Zushan, Alisan Train Station and Alisan Motel are usually full of tourists at the time of sunset.
The rich sources of woods in Alishan include plants of the four climates. As early as the year of 1899, the Japanese found the value of the forest; they started to chop off the trees in the area and sold them for the sake of money until Taiwanese government took back the power. Alisan became a national scenic area, and the flowers bloom in the spring, which attract numerous tourists each year. Because the plants create an ideal inhabitation for birds, Alisan is one of the top ten places for bird watching.
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The effort in reserving the natural environment keeps fireflies in the Alishan area alive. The fireflies are said to be particularly copious in the area so fireflies-watching becomes a seasonal activities for tourists as well as residents.
Alisan is the number one choice to get away from business and relax.
The photos are from http://taiwan.net.tw/