Mon, Aug 29, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Leading expert on ancient mountain trails dies at 86

By Wu Hsin-tien and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Yang Nan-chun, right, poses with his wife Hsu Ju-lin during a hike in Hehuan Mountain in early June.

Photo courtesy of the Forestry Bureau

Yang Nan-chun (楊南郡), an expert on the nation’s mountains and hiking trails, passed away on Saturday morning.Yang died of cancer aged 86 at National Taiwan University Hospital.

The Council of Agriculture said it would issue Yang, a famous mountain climber and researcher into ancient trails, a post-humous honorary title to recognize his contributions to the study of Taiwan’s mountains and forests.

Yang is considered a legend in the world of mountain climbing due to his unique passion for Taiwan’s ancient trails.

On June 6 and 7 — in the midst of his battle with cancer — Yang joined Forestry Bureau officials to revisit ancient trails that he surveyed with his wife 38 years earlier. Yang’s research of these trails is captured in videos, photographs and a text he composed titled The Natural Stronghold of the Path Over Hehuan Mountain Taken During the Taroko War.

Bureau officials recalled Yang’s abundant energy and his stories about the war with the Japanese in the mountain pass.

Yang and his wife, Hsu Ju-lin (徐如林), met while she was a chemistry student at National Taiwan University due to their shared interest in mountain climbing.

Hsu had initially written to the more senior Yang for advice while she was preparing to go on a solo expedition to Nanhu Mountain (南湖山).

Yang — who had moved to a new address — did not receive the letters, causing Hsu to think he was not interested in speaking with her. The issue was cleared up when they later met on a trail in Bijia Mountain (筆架山) in New Taipei City’s Shiding District (石碇). They fell in love shortly afterward.

Yang and Hsu were inseparable in their research of mountain trails, with Yang once remarking that conducting surveys with Hsu was “the happiest thing he could do.”

Yang said that while he was driven by emotion, Hsu was always the practical one.

Friends said Yang’s greatest contribution to trail research came from his translations of materials written in Japanese, in which he was well-versed.

Hsu would take Yang’s findings and turn them into vivid academic reports, preserving accounts of culturally historic events that occurred on these trails.

In 2014 Yang was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, which later spread to his lymph nodes. He underwent several bouts of treatment until he was eventually transferred to the Hospice Foundation of Taiwan two weeks ago.

Well-known nature writer Liu Ka-shiang (劉克襄), who was a friend of Yang’s for almost 30 years, fondly recalled his times with Yang, saying his presence was “like that of a large mountain” and that his contributions elevated research into Taiwan’s mountains and trails to new heights.

While visiting Yang in the hospital a week ago, Liu asked him what message he would like to leave behind.

Yang wrote on a pad of paper: “The beauty of Taiwan’s mountains, valleys, flora and fauna have been overlooked for too long. These things and the beauty of Taiwan’s culture have been well documented by our mountaineering friends. With urgency and necessity they should be promoted and shared.”

In recent years the Forestry Bureau and Council of Agriculture commissioned Yang and Hsu to publish their findings. So far the couple’s research documenting the Nenggao National Trail (能高越嶺道), the Jinshueiying Ancient Trail (浸水營古道) and the Hehuan National Trail (合歡越嶺道) have been published, and there are plans to publish their research on the Syakaro National Trail (霞喀羅古道) and the Tsou people’s trail in Chiayi County’s Alishan (阿里山).

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