Nantou

Taiwan Sakura Guide (臺灣櫻花地圖)

One of the clearest indications that Spring has arrived in Taiwan is when the cherry blossoms start to bloom throughout the country. The people of Taiwan have a tremendous amount of respect for the beauty of the cherry blossoms and viewing them is an important part of many if not most families social calendar. 

The blossoms which are often referred to as "Sakura" grow in the early arts of the year when the Taiwanese winter is coming to an end and usually appear near the conclusion of the all-important Spring Festival (春節) or Lunar New Year (農曆新年) celebrations which is one of the most important holiday seasons of the year in Asia.  

One of the most important aspects of the Spring Festival is that people both young and old in Taiwan have are on vacation and often use that time to travel around the island. The appearance of Taiwan's sakura are a good reason for people to get out of the city and enjoy nature. 

Given the beauty of Taiwan's cherry blossoms they are afforded a large amount of respect by the people of this country but that respect is often considered to be a remnant of the Japanese Colonial Period when Japanese culture and education were forced upon the people of the island.

The respect people in Taiwan have for Japanese culture may just be one more reason why Taiwanese love sakura so much, but I would also point out that among all the countries I've visited in the world, none have had the appreciation and love for the beauty of the natural environment as the people of Taiwan. 

Taiwan is a fertile land with fruit, flowers and vegetables growing all over the place. When there are flowers to be seen, you can be sure to see crowds of people enjoying the beauty of nature and practicing the age-old tradition known in Japan as "Hanami" (花見) or “flower-viewing”.

For the few months of the year when the blossoms are in bloom the country turns a beautiful shade of pink and in areas where cherry blossoms are abundant, you'll also find abundance in crowds rushing to see them.

From what I've noticed over the years of running this site is that there are very limited resources about 'cherry-blossom viewing' in English and the resources that are available in Chinese are usually just selling tour group packages to different locations. Some of my most popular blog posts and the ones that generate not only the most traffic but the most comments are my posts about cherry-blossoms. People travelling to Taiwan and expats living here want to know where to find them and unfortunately that information is often lacking. 

What I'm going to attempt to do with this post is explain a few of the most common varieties of Sakura here in Taiwan and provide a map of the best places to find them which should help guide users to places around the country where they'll be able to find the blossoms.

I hope that this short guide helps out and that you can find the location most suitable for you to view these beautiful blossoms. 

1. Taiwanese Sakura (臺灣山櫻花)

The indigenous Taiwanese Mountain Sakura are the most common type of cherry blossom in Taiwan. The flowers are a dark shade of pink and when you are in an area where there are quite a few trees it can be one of the most beautiful experiences of your life.

These trees grow all over the country but the most common places to find them are on Alishan (阿里山), Yangmingshan (陽明山), Dakeng (大坑) and Zhongli's Ju-Guang Park (中壢莒光公園)

Blooming Period: Late January to March.

2. Yoshino Cherry (吉野櫻)

The Yoshino Cherry is probably the most popular of all the Sakura in Taiwan due to the fact that it is considered the most "Japanese". These trees with their beautiful light-pink blossoms are not endemic to Taiwan and were brought here during the Japanese colonial era from Mount Yoshinoyama (吉野山) in Japan's Nara Prefecture (奈良市). As Japan's most popular cherry blossom a lot of people in Taiwan will plan their yearly schedules around the blossoming season to take a trip to Japan to see them. You don't have to take a trip to Japan to see these flowers though, they grow in abundance in several places around the country.

The most common places to find Yoshino Cherries are on Alishan (阿里山), Wuling Farm (武陵農場), Aowanda (奧萬大), the Formosan Culture Village (九族文化村) and at Danshui's Tian-Yuan Temple (天元宮)

Blooming Period: Mid March - Late April.

3. Double-Layer Sakura / Yaezakura (八重櫻 / やえざくら)

Double-Layer Sakura go by a few names but they are common in both Taiwan and Japan. We can refer to them as 'Double-Layer Sakura', 'Yaezakura' or 'Late-Blooming Sakura'. The Double-Layer Sakura is a multi-layered cherry blossom and is a blanket term that defines several different species of cherry blossom that have more than 5 petals. The varieties of Sakura in this type vary in colour ranging from light to dark pink and are often hard to identify individually unless you're an expert. In Taiwan people refer to them simply as the "eight variety sakura" (八重櫻) which helps solve some of the confusion as to what they actually are. 

The most common places to find these types of blossoms growing in abundance are on Yangmingshan (陽明山) and Alishan (阿里山) while they can be found on many smaller mountains throughout northern Taiwan.

Blooming Period: February - March. 


Sakura Map (臺灣櫻花地圖)

This map is something that I took the time to create to help people find the best and closest locations for viewing cherry blossoms. You are welcome to use it or share it however you like and if you have any leads for further locations that I can add on the map, let me know and I'll update it.

In the map I just provide the geographic location and the name in English and Chinese. When I have more time I'll add some logistical information for travellers on how to get to each point. I hope what is available thus far is of use to people. 

 A few things to remember

Cherry blossoms while beautiful are extremely vulnerable to the weather. Taiwan's winter's are often unpredictable and are known to be cold, rainy and windy. Weather conditions often affect the health and the amount of blossoms that are available.

A few locations like Danshui's Tian-Yuan Temple and Wuling Farm have websites that give the most recent information about the growth of the blossoms in their respective area. With the majority of the other points on the map though such information isn't available. 

Something else to take into consideration is that while the blossoming season is typically between March and April, Global Warming has affected the blossoming periods with them appearing a bit earlier in recent years. This means that if the blossoms appear earlier, they are also more likely to disappear much more quickly. If you are planning a trip to Taiwan to view the Cherry Blossoms, you should do a bit of research beforehand as you may end up a bit disappointed.

The cherry blossom season is one of the busiest flower-viewing seasons in Taiwan and is one that you won't want to miss if you're in the country in the early stages of the new year. I highly recommend a trip to any of the top spots listed above but if you're afraid of crowds you can find some great places to visit on the map above.  If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! 

Happy Sakura hunting!  


Gallery / Flickr (High Res Shots)

Wuchang Temple (集集武昌宮)

Wuchang Temple (武昌宮) is another of Taiwan's famous temples, but its fame is somewhat based on the infamous nature of of its history. I will do my best to explain the history of the temple, but I think I should start out by mentioning the main reason why the temple holds a special place in the hearts of Taiwanese people. 

The temple wasn’t always a household name in Taiwan, but that changed when it became one of the iconic images of the terrible terrible events of September 21st, 1999, better known as the 921 Earthquake (921大地震) or the Jiji Earthquake (集集大地震) 

The earthquake, 7.3 -7.7 in magnitude struck central Taiwan killing 2415 people, injuring 11,305 and caused over 10 billion dollars worth of damage around the country. The earthquake etched itself into the consciousness of the entire country and its effects have been long-lasting. The slow response to the earthquake was also one of the deciding factors that took away the KMT’s 50 year grip on power, the first time since the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

Old Wuchang Temple (舊武昌宮)

New Wuchang (新武昌宮)

The epicentre of the massive earthquake was in the small town of Jiji (集集) in Nantou county (南投縣) yet it destroyed and damaged buildings throughout the entire country. The destruction of Jiji’s Wuchang Temple however became one of the iconic images of the earthquake and what remains of it today has been preserved as a reminder to the people of Taiwan of the events of that terrible day. 

The original Wuchang temple was built in 1923 and was dedicated to a Taoist deity named the Zhenwu Supreme Emperor (玄天上帝), but it is not the temple that lies in ruins today. The ruins of the temple that you see today (which has been designated as a 921 Memorial site) is relatively new. In 1990, a wealthy local person donated a 471 square meter (471坪) plot of land to the temple and a year later a newer version of the temple started construction. From the information I've seen, 70 million NT dollars (2 million US) were allocated for its construction and it took eight years to complete. If you do the math, that means that the completed temple was only about a year old before it was destroyed by the earthquake.

Some of the destruction

Completely warped metal bars

Normally in Taiwan, this kind of thing would be considered a really bad omen, and they probably wouldn't have built another version of the temple, but when rescue teams were sent into the ruins of the temple, they found that the statues inside the temple survived the ordeal unscathed and for some reason the beards on the statues grew. 

The story of the statues reverberated around the country and donations started to pile in to make a new Wuchang temple, and a new home for these statues which were considered blessed by the gods. The statues were thus placed in protective cases and preserved for years until a new temple could be built to house them. 

Stone carving on the of the side pillars of the temple.

The old temple was left in its original state, and has become somewhat of a tourist spot for people visiting the town of Jiji, which itself has seen somewhat of a renaissance in the amount of tourism that it attracts each year. The ruins of Wuchang temple thus sit there as a stark reminder of the destructive nature of mother nature and of course to the religious that nothing is permanent and that nothing lasts forever, which are important tenets of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs.

I won't bother going into very much detail about that kind of tourism however because my friend Alexander also blogged about the temple sharing some excellent photos and also going into excellent detail about how all of this has become a sort of “disaster tourism.” I think he did such a good job describing the current situation at the temple so I won't regurgitate his points here!

Shiny and New

They say the third time is a charm, so in April 2007, eight years after the earthquake and destruction of the second Wuchang temple, construction began on the third temple. This time they were serious and had a construction budget of one hundred million New Taiwan Dollars ($3 million US) commissioning well-known wood-work, stone-carving and painting artisans from around the country to assist in the completion of the new temple. 

Construction of the new temple lasted six years and was finally opened to the public on October 12th, 2013 with three days of celebrations and traditional rituals. The new Wuchang temple is much bigger than the original with two additional buildings off to the side of the main temple with shrines and offices.

The newly completed temple sits directly in front of the ruins of the former temple and is now a memorial museum. Since the temple has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, there is an option for guided tours (Mandarin only) that will explain the destruction of the former temple and the significance of the newer one. 

The main shrine room

The main shrine room.

What strikes me most about the new temple is the craftsmanship that went into its construction. Taiwanese temples, especially Taoist temples are usually quite extravagant, but this one goes out of its way, and that is probably due to the large budget that was used to construct the temple.

The wood-work inside the main shrine room is beautiful and highly detailed. I could have just grabbed a chair and sat there looking at it for hours. The stone work on the outside of the temple and on the pillars is also highly detailed and I think the artists who contributed to the construction of the temple deserve a hand for not only their work, but their dedication to the preservation of traditional Taiwanese temple art. 

If you are in the Jiji area, make sure you check out both the old temple and spend some time taking in the atmosphere and artistry of the new version and of course take some time to learn about the terrible 921 earthquake that forever changed this country. 

Hopefully the third time is a charm and this time Wuchang Temple has better luck. The amount of craftsmanship and work that went into constructing this one is quite considerable! 

Stay safe Wuchang Temple!