It took Yang Nan-chun (楊南郡) and his wife, Hsu Ju-lin (徐如林), nearly 40 years to complete a book on the Nenggao National Trail (能高越嶺古道), one of the most important cross-island routes.
The book of less than 300 pages is not only about the trail, but also the lives and history of the people who have lived in the area for generations.
Nenggao National Trail, which connects Wushe (霧社) in Renai Township (仁愛), Nantou County, and Sioulin Township (秀林), Hualien County, was one of the three major cross-island routes completed by the Japanese colonial government — based on foot trails used by Aborigines — to keep a watchful eye on Aborigine communities living in the mountains and facilitate the movement of military equipment and other material.
Of the three major cross-island routes during the Japanese colonial period, the Nenggao Trail was the most important, because it passed through the traditional domains of Sediq and Truku tribes, both of which were very “rebellious” in the eyes of the colonial power.
Wushe, at the eastern end of the trail, is the location of the 1930 Wushe Uprising — one of the largest and last examples of armed resistance to Japanese rule.
At the time, warriors from six Sediq villages in the Wushe area rose up against the Japanese and even briefly took control of the area.
However, the uprising failed and most of the Sediq warriors committed suicide, while the remaining residents of the six resisting villages were forcibly relocated.
Yang and Hsu, both long-time amateur mountain hikers, have walked the Nenggao National Trail several times and recorded both the ecology and history of the trail since the 1960s.
Where Yang and Hsu’s book, titled Nenggao National Trail: A Trip Across Time (能高越嶺古道：穿越時空之旅), differs from other books on hiking trails is that it focuses more on the stories of people living along the trail.
“What you can see when you travel on Nenggao National Trail is absolutely beautiful — the mountains, the valleys, the vegetation, the wild animals and the rivers,” Yang said. “However, it’s not just a scenic trail, it is also an historic and a cultural trail.”
While the couple are amateur hikers and not historians, they took a lot of time to study the history of the area to ensure that the content of their book was as accurate as possible.
“We’ve visited and interviewed people like [Wushe Uprising survivor] Kao Tsai-yun [高彩雲] several times since the 1960s, and we checked different official historic records and newspaper clippings from the time when we wrote about the Wushe Uprising,” Hsu said. “We cross-examined different materials because sometimes official records were deliberately biased and people sometimes remember things wrong.”
Wei Te-sheng (魏德勝), director of the film Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊), which tells the story of the Wushe Uprising and is scheduled to be released in cinemas next month, also attended yesterday’s news conference to show his support, as Yang and Hsu helped him clear up certain historical facts about the uprising when he shot the movie.