Nantou County in Central Taiwan is not your usual dream vacation destination in Asia. It has no beaches, no huge shopping malls, and only a few temples, museums and historical sites. Yet, thousands of local and international visitors regularly come to Nantou. Some of the most important tourist destinations here are hiking trails, one of which is the Batongguan Historic Trail.
Found within the Yu Mountain National Park, the ancient Batongguan Historic Trail is significant to the history of the country, as its name suggests. In the past, Nantou was an idyllic county that nobody took notice of. During the Ching Dynasty, the Ching Government looked down at Nantou and repressed its development. The invading European countries, however, had a different opinion. They saw the beauty of Nantou and the rest of Taiwan as an ideal colonial island. Only then did the Ching Government regard Taiwan as a true resource.
During the reign of Emperor Tungchi, the Japanese invaded Nantou and massacred innocent aborigines, claiming that the aboriginal people murdered Japanese fishermen in Okinawa. The Ching Government did not like the Japanese ploy and so decided to strengthen Taiwan’s regional defense. The government developed and chartered Taiwan’s picturesque mountains, constructed a trail that cut across several kilometers of land, and befriended the aboriginal tribes as part of its plan to strengthen regional defense.
In 1875 during the first year of Emperor Kuang Shui’s reign, the Batongguan Historic Trail was constructed for a year under the leadership of Kuang-liang Wu. He led about 2,000 men as he simultaneously began construction at Zhushan and Sheliao. The trail began in Zhushan (referred to as the “town that stands before the mountains”), through Lugu Village, Xinyi Village, over Batongguan, the Hsiuguluan Mountains, and ultimately to Pu-Shih Loft at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain in Hualien. It ends at a bamboo forest within the Phoenix Bird Park. “Batongguan” is Chinese for “to pass unhindered”; an appropriate name for the trail since, originally, there was no existing pass along this route. Kuang-liang Wu’s idea as he built the trail was to make it last for all eternity.
Today, what remains of this historic path is the section from the Dongpu Hot Springs to the Batongguan Meadow, which is about 20 kilometers long. The trail is the only surviving Ching Dynasty road and was declared as a historical monument by the Taiwanese Government. Visible remnants of the ancient trail are the Sweet Spring Well built by Wu himself in Ser-Liao, a plaque in a Lugu Village temple, another plaque in a temple on Phoenix mountain that says, “Bless me with Divine protection in developing these mountains,” 64 stone steps that are 8-ft wide on a mountain slope across the Father and Son Cliff, and a few more stone steps on a valley near the Yinu waterfalls. It seems as though Wu succeeded in constructing an ancient road that could last for a very long period of time.
This ancient 152-km-long trail was where the general of the Ching Dynasty passed. Today, the Batongguan Historic Trail is a first-grade national historical landmark in Taiwan as declared by the Ministry of Interior. When in Taiwan, you should check out this ancient landmark. Simply take the train and get down at Shuili Railway Station, then take a Yuanlin Bus going to Dongpu.