Taiwan’s Pearl: Famous Landscape in Ali Mountain and Sun Moon Lake

Taiwan is one of the most popular destinations in all of Asia. The Alishan National Scenic Area is a mountain resort and natural preserve located in the mountains of  Taiwan. Sun Moon Lake is the biggest natural lake in Taiwan and is formed by the accumulated water in the broken basin between Yu Mountain and Ali Mountain streams.

Alishan (Ali Mountain) is the most famous scenic spot which is formed by Dawu Mountain range, Jian Mountain, Zhu Mountain and Ta Mountain. 18 large mountains, stretching from Nantou to Jiayi in two counties. It takes 4 hours by mountaineering train from Jiayi County to reach Alishan scenic spot. There are connected mountain peaks low and high, streams and ponds. Vertical and horizontal in the area, which have not only utter danger of sheer precipices and overhanging rocks, but also the elegance of flying waterfall in deep valleys. The highest peak is 2663 meters above sea level. The mountain is well known to the whole world for its four beautiful scenes of mystical tree, oriental cherry, a sea of clouds and sunrise, thus goes the saying; “Those who haven’t been to Alishan can not know the beauty of Taiwan.”

The railway leading to Alishan is 72 km in total. It starts from the space 30 meters above sea level and rises up to 2450 meters above sea level, the gradient of which is so big that is rare in the world. From the mountain foot to the peak, train ascends as if it were travelling spirally along “winding staircase”. Circling mountain and warming itself into tunnels, striding valley, with birds hovering below the train wheels. Along the route of ascending in a few hours, one can enjoy the scenery of vegetation of four categories in tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and frigid zones. Those rare and grotesque trees form the “green sea” on the Alishan. When the mountain wind blows hard, the mountain forest, like terrifying waves, makes big loud thunder, which is the famous soughing in the forest trees of vast area in Alishan.

Every tourist for Alishan is interested in witnessing the majestic view of “Mystical Tree of Alishan”. On the east side of the Mystical Tree Railway Station of the main Peak of Alishan, there stands a sturdy towering tree slightly slant. Although the main trunk is broken, yet the branches on the top are green and verdant. The tree is about 52 meters high and the diameter is about 23 meters, which needs ten more people to jointly embrace it. It is estimated that its high age is 3000 odd years, a king tree in Asia.

The oriental cherry all over the slopes of Alishan is also a wonder. During spring, red and white oriental cherry blossoms up hill and down dale, crowding together gorgeously. They mingles with the verdant forest, as if the peaks of Alishan had been splendidly attired in green clothes dotted with red flowers, making one intoxicated.

In the evening, there appears often the magnificent sea of clouds in Alishan. Reaching the terrace at the peak, when one looks far into the distance, he can see the white clouds emerging form valleys and hovering with wind. Sometimes it looks like a vast expense of water drowning mountains and peaks, making pinnacles and tops of trees above turn out like floating islets. Sometimes it looks like waves breaking and foaming with tides high and low. Sometimes it looks like earth covered with cotton, and you feel a vast expanse of whiteness under you feet. When it is fine day, the verdant sunset-bathed sea of cloud glitters in different colors, dark-brown, apricot pink, sapphire blue, bright red and dark green, all changeable without end, it appears more mystical and attractive.

There is a beautiful sun observation tower on the terrace of the famous Zhu Mountain peak of Alishan. At the crack of dawn, if you ascend the tower in the midst of freshness of air, you can see the grey outline of Yu Mountain far away would suddenly be edged with golden glow when radiance, increases all of a sudden. At the very moment, the sun as if jumps out off the top of Yu Mountain, shining with boundless radiance to all sides, myriads of golden rays burst one after another from blue mountain and verdant valley, a scene majestic in all its variety.

Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is situated to the north of Yu Shan (Jade Mountain) and to the south of Nenggao Mountain, Nantou County in Taiwan Province. It is the biggest natural lake in Taiwan and is formed by the accumulated water in the broken basin between Yu Mountain and Ali Mountain streams. The surface of the lake is 760 meters above sea level, its perimeter is 35 kilometers, the depth of the water is 30 meters on average and the lake area is over 900 hectares. There is a small island inside Jihueh Pool which looks like a pearl on the surface of the water, hence the name “Pearl Islet”. After the victory of Japanese war, it was renamed “Gueng Hua (brilliance) Islet” in celebration of recovering Taiwan. To the north-east of the islet, the water is in a shape as round as the sun, so it is called Sun Lake while the water in the south-west looks like the moon, so it is called Moon Lake. Hence the combined name Sun Moon Lake.

The beauty of Sun Moon Lake is rested upon the mountains circling the lake. Peaks rise one upon another and range upon range of hills, green and luxuriant, the broad water surface, mirror-like calm water, azure lake water, islet in the lake, hill in the water, the light of waves and shadow of mists and different morning and evening scenery all year round, poetic and picturesque.

On the mountain alongside the Sun Moon Lake, many places of interest were constructed. There are Temple of Wen Wu (civil and military officials), Peacock Garden, Temple of Butterfly, Xuanguang Temple, Hsuan Chang Temple and Hanbi (noble jade) Tower etc. Pavilions, terraces and towers are wonderful spots to enjoy the sights. Among the natural scenery all around, temples and ancient pagodas are dotted hither and thither, this adds more air of great antiquity and serenity, full of traditional culture of the Chinese nation. The more attractive ones are Hsuan Chuang Temple at the foot of Blue Dragon Mountain, Tannan and Wen Wu Temple up the half way of the Mountain, Tanbei. Inside the Hsuan Chuang Temple, statue of the eminent monk Hsuan Chuang of Tang Dynesty is enshrined. The horizontal inscribed board “National Master of Law”, is hung inside the temple. At the back part of the temple, there is a staircase of stone of 1300 odd flights, leading upwards the Hsuan Chuang Hall. The Temple, standing tall and imposing, brilliant and grand, is full of national characteristics. The Wen Wu Temple is constructed alongside the mountain, full of power and grandeur. The building is magnificent indeed, with red eaves gutter and green tiles, high towers and superb pavilions. The statue of Confucius is enshrined in Wen Temple while in Wu Temple, the statue of Guan Yu (A famous General in Han Dynasty) is enshrined. Besides, The statues of Holy Farmer King, Wen Chang King and Jade Emperor are worshipped here too.

Along Taiwan’s west coast is a tropical island of astounding beauty, with by far the tallest mountains in northeast Asia and some of the region’s most pristine and secluded coastline.

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