Eco-tourism hasn't yet taken root in Taiwan, but for the Atayal tribe of Hsinchu County's Smangus (司馬庫斯) the roots were put down some 2,500 years ago -- a grove of Formosan cypress trees that spent its first two millennia in utter isolation has become something of an economic boon for the remote Aboriginal village since being discovered in 1991.
\nThe grove stands silently beside a stream high in the mountains near Tapachienshan, the mountain sacred to the Atayal as their place of origin, which graces the back of NT$500 notes. The trees are not only among the oldest on the island, they're among the biggest. According to a 1996 report by Taiwan's Forestry Bureau, the grove is home to the nation's second and third largest trees, respectively 20.5m and 19.7m in girth.
\nNo wonder then that these giants are known in Chinese as divine trees (
PHOTO: DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES
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