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Lion’s Head Mountain Visitor Center
The Lion’s Head Mountain Visitor Center was rebuilt from an abandoned school, which was Shishan Elementary School that had been founded in 1954. Owing to the continual emigration of the area, the number of the school’s students dwindled to only 12, and its teaching and administrative staff, as the Taiwanese saying goes, had to “serve as the principal and janitor simultaneously.” As a result, after its last commencement on July 1, 1986, Shishan Elementary School was officially abolished and merged into Emei Elementary School. In 2001, the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area Administration (TMNSAA) of the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications reconstructed the abandoned school site into the Lion’s Head Mountain Visitor Center in order to provide comprehensive tourist information and service.
Peaceful Heart Tea House, located just beside the Visitor Center, originally a teachers’ dormitory, has gained a classically elegant look after being rebuilt by the TMNSAA. It is hard to believe its predecessor is an elementary school’s teaching and administrative staff’s dorm. The Tea House looks out on a broad beautiful natural scene with a group of green mountains in the distance. From a small pond nearby, pleasant frog singing can be heard; meanwhile, whiffs of fragrant tea smell flow into one’s nostrils on and off. All of these can only be experienced here. Visitors can sit under a thousand-year-old tung tree to taste yummy authentic Hakka food and lei cha (mashed tea), or sip a cup of ice-drip Oriental Beauty Tea that is slowly extracted at low temperatures. During the tung blossom season, you can order a tung blossom meal, watch “May snowflakes” fly and dance, and immerse yourself in a romantic ambiance. In here, the tasty Hakka food and unsophisticated interior design both can make your afternoon time more relaxing and pleasant. This is a good place to think of nothing at all to reduce your daily stress.
Glutinous Rice Bridge & Shuilian Cave
Walk out the Lion’s Head Mountain Visitor Center’s gate and turn right, and you can visit the Shuilian Cave Sanskrit Temple, which is the most northern of the Lion’s Head Mountain’s several temples, and has the lowest altitude and largest temple cave.
The Shuilian Cave is the largest natural cave on the Lion’s Head Mountain, with a mountain spring flowing from the cave top, hanging in front of the rock wall like a water curtain, hence its name Shuilain (Water Curtain) Cave. The valley has been washed and cut by rocks and steam water for thousands of years, so a beautiful gorge landscape has formed. In front of the cave, a stream runs by, and the gurgling water is like incessant Sanskrit chanting, hence its name “Sanskrit Temple.”
The century-old Shuilian Bridge is also called the Glutinous Rice Bridge. In 1918, when the Japanese occupied Taiwan, the bridge was built with piles of rocks using glutinous rice as an adhesive, hence its name “Glutinous Rice Bridge.” Along the way, you can hear the gurgling stream water as well as the chirping of birds and insects, observe such unique geological features as gorges and kettle holes, in addition to a variety of vines, ferns, stream fish and the impressive one-thread sky. All of these belong to the best section of the Lion’s Head Ecological Trail.
Quanhua Temple is one of the earliest built temples on the Lion’s Head Mountain, and is also the largest one. Constructed in 1901, it is now more than a century old and worships the Jade Emperor, hence also called “Heaven Temple.” In addition to its three primary temples (Heaven, Underworld and Elysium), there are the two temples of Raoyi Temple and Sheli Cave and five major gates (Nantian, Ziyang, Qingxu, Daode and Jingtu). We often mention that Quanhua Temple is actually a “joint operations office” for Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, as you can burn a stick of incense to have all the blessings from more than 40 Bodhisattvas.
The temples at Quanhua Temple are filled with all kinds of exquisite reliefs, woodcarvings, stone carvings, colored paintings, and the rock inscriptions on the Lion’s Head Mountain cliff walls. A Buddhism lecture hall boasts a huge calligraphic work of Diamond Sutra, 16.5 meters in length and 2.7 meters in width, with 5,448 characters on it, written by Taiwan’s renowned calligraphy and stone tablet inscription master Lin Senhui, who stayed secluded for 90 days to accomplish this masterpiece, which has become Quanhua Temple’s permanently kept cultural asset. Looking out on a number of imposing mountains, Quanhua Temple is equipped with such facilities as Buddhism lecture halls, accommodations, pavilions, corridors, healthy forest trails, etc.
Lion’s Head Mountain Historic Trail
The Lion’s Head Mountain Historic Trail connects Nanzhuang Township of Miaoli County and Emei Township of Hsinchu County, with the “lion’s head” at Nanzhuang and the “lion’s tail” at Emei. You could enter the trail via the archway of Lion’s Head Mountain Hiking Entrance at Nanzhuang, Miaoli to enjoy hiking up the green stones at a relaxed pace.
The trail is divided halfway at the Moon Watching Pavilion; a half is under the jurisdiction of Miaoli, while the other half Hsinchu. The first half has a completely preserved stone step trail, while the second half is a paved trail that slopes gently. There are five temples at the front mountain; besides religious worship, visitors can enjoy a distant beautiful view of Nanzhuang mountains. Six temples are located on the rear mountain, where ecology and forests are more abundant. The shaded trails are good places for leisure activities.
Along the Lion's Head Mountain Historic Trail, forests are emerald green and luxuriant, and the ambiance is tranquil and comfortable, with mist forming once in a while. When you are in the mist, you will feel like visiting dreamland. With the trail 3,500 meters long, a return hike may spend approximately three hours. However, if you take Tour Taiwan, you may save around one and a half hours, thus you will have more time to enjoy the impressive scenery along this historic trail.
Nanzhuang Old Post Office
Built from cypress timber, Nanzhuang Old Post Office is a Japanese-style office building. During the Japanese occupation, it was called “Nanzhuang Mail Office.” In 1946, its name was changed to “Nanzhuang Post & Telecommunications Office.” In 1949, when the two services were divided, its name was again altered to “Nanzhuang Post Office.” However, nowadays people usually call it “Nanzhuang Old Post Office.” In 2003, the building was officially registered as a Miaoli County historical building to be well preserved. At present, it serves as the service center of Nanzhuang Tourism Industry Association. Meanwhile, the building also exhibits the developmental history of Nanzhuang mining industry, nostalgic relics and cultural and creative products.
Nanzhuang Old Street
If you come to Nanzhuang, never forget to visit such super scenic spots as the Osmanthus Lane, Nogi Kawasaki trail, Si Shan Ken, etc. at Nanzhuang Old Street. The alleys and lanes here are narrow and tortuous, with old buildings reminding you of the past times. At Osmanthus Lane, you can taste delicious characteristic dishes like Osmanthus dumplings, Osmanthus omelets, Nanzhuang hand-made noodles, Hakka refreshments, etc. The flagstone Nogi Kawasaki Trail paved during the Japanese occupation was named after the Japanese General Maresuke Nogi, as local residents appreciated his raising funds to build this sloped section of stone steps to help solve the inconvenient traffic from which the local residents suffered. Si Shan Ken is located at the tail end of the Osmanthus Lane entrance. Due to a nearby water gate, this place is also called “Shui Bien Tou.” The water was very clear and clean, so the residents placed stone slabs on the water channel for clothes washing, and women at Nanzhuang liked to wash clothes, dishes and pots here. Meanwhile, many people exchanged news and gossips in the morning and evening here to improve their relationships. Although nowadays tap water has become available gradually, local women still like to wash things along the water channel in order to chat with each other.