Saturday, November 28, 2015

[Trekking] The harmony of Water and Woods - Shuiyang senlin (水漾森林)

Team: GoforWild
Time: 2015/10
Place: Alishan town (阿里山) and Shanlinxi town (杉林溪), Nantou
Difficulties: **(1.5/5)

We are now continue on the section of A Xi trekking trail, after Songshan mt.

Harmony of water - blue sky and misty forest in morning.

Mianyue - Sleeping under Moonlight

First, let me come back with he myths telling origin of the term Mianyue, which was name under Japanese rule time; before the forest nam was named Bopizai (薄皮仔林, which mean cypress forest). Although we now moving from Songshan Mt. to Shuiyang, getting further and further from Mianyue Area, but later, we're gonna pay a visit to Mianyue Divine tree, and you'd definitely regret if missing this fantasy story. 

Photo credit: Max

Kawai Shitarō(河合鈰太郎) had arrived first time at this area of forest in 1906 in a project of forest exploration and exploitation. It was told that he lied on a big rock platform near Shigupan stream and enjoyed that terrific moonlight, which shone through thick dense giant trees' top and illuminated the silent woods. Every breathing life was sank in extremely beautiful quietness. I bet that every camper would desperately want to experience this moment, a peaceful and harmony night with moonlight and quiet forest.

13 years later he came back exactly the same area, which then already a well- developed logging camp. It was no doubt that's his expectation of being embraced by moonlight and natural forest hardly came true. Bemoaning for the old beauty now only exist in his memories and dreams, he wrote a poem which literally means: 

"Axes now entering the green hills, felling all the thousand-year-old ancient trees, old days stone bed covered with lush green mosses is now traceless, harmony of the stream was only moaning from past glory time..."

His poems were an exact prediction of what had happened later, years of poor planning forest exploitation leave us many giant tree roots. Photo credit: Max

The area was later named Mianyue - Sleeping under the Moonlight, as a sweet memories of Shitaro's pleasant experience of sleeping in juggle under moonlight. As usual, we'd never treasure anything until we missed it. It can be a attractive fantasy to tell about the woods, or a painful lesson of over exploitation. 

Mianyue Divine Tree (Mianyue shenmu, 眠月神木)

I visited Divine Tree in my second time comeback to Shuiyang forest, entering from the other end: Shanlinxi. It took us two hours around from the lakeside camp to the tree. Therefore, only if you made arrival at campsite before 13:00pm in advance, additional journey to old divine tree was  such an enjoyable leisure activities in afternoon. It was a bit steep from the start with all big rocks and roots. Keep hiking up for half an hour; after then the path was quite flat, however, it was stacked with falling tree trunks after several vigorous tropical storms. You can cross over them easily, just a little sad that uphills there were less and less tree rooted in soils. 

On the way from campsite to Divine tree. Photo credit: Max 

Taiwan has her own term for a great giant ancient tree:  Shenmu (神木), which literally means trees of God, Divine trees. Deification phenomenon was settled on two conditions: whether the trees were a sacred worship of indigenous to God  and Goddesses in ritual ceremonies, or whether the trees are old enough to be Deity themselvesBasically, any tree that was more than 1000 years old, It would be respectfully and sincerely called Shenmu. 

Photo credit: GoforWild

And guess what? This giant 4100-year-old tree seems to be Taiwan oldest cypress tree (menoki). Not kidding? 4100 years? Yeah, I double check its information and it stated that way. Despite of the years, Mianyue Divine tree was not at first rank for its size. Nevertheless,  48 m height and 17.8 m of radiation  were quite impressive numbers, the tree looks like a big wall  in middle of forest, especially when you compare it with surrounding newly raising small tree trunks. 

Photo credit: Max

Personally, I love the pious attitude expressed by apotheosizing those ancient trees. Only if human are mortally afraid of natural powers and have their faith strong bold with every living creatures, we would stop causing harm to others or even put them to the edge of extinction. 

In the case of Mianyue Divine tree, back in 1960s when it can easily reached by train and half hour of leisurely walking in the woods, hundreds of people taking pictures with it as background. At that time, they would have not imagined in the future, Divine tree were abandoned in middle of forest. Don't know why I expressed a sigh of relief then. For God sake, ancient trees need great peacefulness of a vast quiet green land to maintain its majestic and sacredness, not salutations from the crowds. 

Photo credit: Max

I believed Shenmu is watching us, as Its had already witness the gradual changes happening those 4000 years. It did acknowledge every single action taken by us visitors. It did feel our admiration and curious and sincere heart in every touch and every hugs of visiting crews. It also did feel bothered when those visitors littered around its yard. I feel bothered, too, and ashamed in the same time; since there was many white tissues or garbage were leftover, an evidence of human had once been here.  

Those shadows of woods blended and remain its mistiness in foggy weather. Usually, the weather of mountain area changed rapidly in the afternoon. Especially in range of 2000m height, thick dense foggy cloud sometimes featured with lightly rain gradually covered dark green forest. Sunlight no longer brilliantly burst through tree leaves. We kept walking in the hazy white surrounding and sometime was licked by waves of cool fresh air, slowly moving back to our camp, where four tents were pitched up. We had been starving for a hot and well-cooked dinner and a comfortable  stretch in warm sleeping bag.

Photo credit: Max 

The campsite is now narrower than before. We settled at the upper side, quite distant from the classic view, good point is near purest water source. It started raining right after we cook our first bowl of rice, first a few drops of water and then miserably and penetratingly. At least, we were lucky enough to arrange everything before they get wet, and started to enjoy our feast of stir fried pork and onion, carrots mushroom and some kind of veggie that I have no idea what they are. Somehow together they looked appetizing and tasty. No breezing wind at all, our hot yummy meals were featured with heavy water weighed on top of the tent,  not charmingly gorgeous fire camp as our innocent imaginary, but everyone was more than satisfied. Life is simpler and easier when you learn to accept the difference of great expectation and harsh reality. 

Dots of fluorescent light appeared after the last rain drops falling down. Fireflies was dancing in middle of the totally black woods, not many, but still. Seems they are the last lonely fireflies left, courtship season already ended 2 months before as I remember. No moonlight reflecting on mirror-like water face and none of the star blinking among the shadow of straight standing trees. All was covered with dense cloud and thick fog, or more precisely it was a coverage of sensible darkness within  rhythm of water rolling on rocks and greetings from several night owls, oh gosh, I desperately wished they were nightingales instead, the nightingales that inspired Yanni to write that masterpiece of melody. Hopefully, a cup of hot black tea surely made a night in the wild with owls more enjoyable. 

Next morning started in haziness, the day get brighter gradually without a hint of first ray of sunlight. It simply turned from darker grey to lighter grey and then white, and shadows turned to clear subjects and trees, and even clearer in every detail of cracks on those standing dried woods.

Crepuscular rays in morning

3. The harmony of  Water and Woods (Shuiyang senlin水漾森林) 

Generally, this Aqua forest is widely known as a "quake lake" that formed after Sep 21 earthquake in 1999. There's an argue from an experienced hiker, Mr. Chen, that it is not an abandoned barrier lake simply caused by subsidence of highland. Instead, it has its own floating currents that provide infinite water source, which make the lake always filled with a specific level of water even in dried seasons. As the latter theory, the consequence of the lake expected would last as a beautiful mountainous lake even if all the white dead cedars falling down in future.

Vicissitudes of life brought a vast vigorous cedar forest under inches of water, which means massively destruction of living trees. The work of Nature had destroyed and created pieces of wonder at the same time. Isn't it ironically that those cedars made this wonderful and fairy tale -like scene by the edge of it's last breaths. By time, they would broken and fell down, each by each; as their roots helplessly fought with the water and wind erosion. 

Surrounded by dried wood trunks, the view reflecting on lake surface gradually or suddenly change every hour and every minute.It would be a perfect leisure activity if you had spent half day just sitting still on the wooden log and witness sunrise and sunset. In between, you may expecting white foggy cloud or a sudden rain, a clear blue sky or a warm orange dawnA temporary misty cloud cover the lake with white mysterious. As cold as a northern state in winter.  While some of the sunbeam keep shining brilliantly on several tree trunks.   At night, blinking stars would be the most cheerful.

Classic view of  reflecting white cedars at Shuiyang

Which world is real? Which one is reflected? Which one is true? Which one is illusion? 

Floating wood looks like a dragon roving in green water

A temporary misty cloud cover the lake with white mysterious. 

Starry night at Shuiyang. Photo credit: Lok Ray Chan

Vitality of a deadwood 

Those woods is definitely dead, at the same time, apparently, plants' lively green covered on every trunk. Here, a special marsh eco-system had been growing and flourishing and may last for years later. Water surfaces occasionally appear bubble cells, a tiny arousing compare to vast stillness of standing woods. The place was picturesque, secluded. Even the birds' vivacious singing from the next by dry land was abandoned from this water - land. It seems all movement was completed in quietness, like, the old style silent movie of the early 1900. How bountiful this wetland is, silently but persistence. A liveliness sometime featured with a bird's song from distance.

Bubbles on water surface. 

Green plants cover dead tree trunks.

Plumbeous water redstart

4. More scenic views of the trail

Occasionally, there are 1 or 2 places featured with rugged slate topography. Luckily, various line of rope was settled in case you need assistance. Nevertheless, please be aware that not all of them are in good condition and be able to handle heavy weight. It's better if you double check in advanced first. The trail path was quire flat and steadily inclined, not much of up and down; there's a notice of declining before camp site. It was mostly based on the older log road, and some of new hiking spots since the road was damaged by many earth slides. Therefore, you should be able to recognize the marks or know this area well or able to understand the map and previous hiking tracking notes, just in order not to get lost. Along the trail, many big tree trunks was fallen, causing troublesome for hikers when passed by.

photo credit: Max 

photo credit: Max 

Occasionally, there are 1 or 2 places featured with rugged slate topography.
Photo credit: Max

Signage of the trail length. Only for reference. Photo credit: Max

5. Illegal Logging Problem

Photo credit: Max

It's really a surprise when I had found this banner on the tree right next to trail path. It stated stop illegal logging in Chinese and other several South East Asian countries language. I'm not kidding. Generally, there were tons of report that a new raising illegal logging force from South East Asian countries unlawful workers. In this area, hikers often found a new tree trunks had been cut down recently; or even a chopped wood cube waiting for transfer to town. That's why the government hope can use this propaganda as one of the way to get rid of  the situation. 

But, wait a second! Those workers can't just make it themselves; in fact, they're paid for their workforce and may not realize the consequence of their action. If they were in the middle of forest, definitely they would see this banner; however, I have doubt they won't instantly put off logging action. Meanwhile, the boss and his supporters wait at some side of the forest for newly cut wood cube. What is the effective solution and action, actually?

The forest herself has endless vitality, even after a vigorous earthquake and flooded and landslides. Let's see how helpless we are in a fight with illegal logging? 


1. 阿里山森林鐵路百年滄桑系列(1):歷史篇
2. 想和你看棒球網誌
3. 阿里山全方位旅遊
4. 陳老爹(古道遊縱)趴趴走園地/ Aug 09 2011 水漾森林不是堰塞湖
5.  Forest in Water: Beautiful Decay


  1. bài viết đẹp như một bài thơ, lại giống như một cuốn phim chậm và buồn của nhiều thập kỷ trước, đúng như Messy panda tự nhận định và tự chiêm nghiệm về trách nhiệm của mỗi sinh mệnh con người nhỏ bé trước tự nhiên quá đỗi hùng vĩ. tụi mình được truyền cảm hứng từ bạn và nhất định sẽ đến đây, cảm ơn MessyPanda !!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.