The ancient pines of Aman Peak
By Richard Saunders, Special to The China Post
October 9, 2008, 11:11 am TWN
In comparison with many of Taiwan's more famous ancient trees, the Dasheng Tree (大神神木), on the slopes of Aman Peak (阿屘尖) on the border between Taoyuan and Taipei Counties is a mere baby in size. It's not the size of the tree that makes it such an impressive sight, but its position, surely the finest of any ancient giant on the island.
For Dasheng Tree sits, or rather hangs on for dear life, at the brink of an overhanging cliff of bare rock perhaps seventy meters in height, its branches stretching picturesquely out over the abyss, where several thousand years of typhoons have been unable to dislodge it.
Most of Taiwan's oldest trees are either red cypress or redwoods, yet the Dasheng Tree, and the other regal old specimens on Aman Peak are black pines, stunted old giants whose gnarled branches and sprays of needle-like leaves reaching out over the rocky slopes are a little reminiscent of the famous old pines of Huang Shan (黃山) in China.
The scenic beauty of Aman Peak and the surrounding wooded peaks, known collectively, if rather inappropriately, as Lungshan Park (龍山公園, "Dragon Hill Park") is admittedly very humble stuff compared with the splendors of one of China's most magnificent mountain landscapes, but Dragon Hill's magnificent pines, dotted liberally amidst the mixed woodland that thickly clothes the rocky ridges here, give the landscape a distinctive beauty that makes the effort of getting there well worthwhile.
The biggest strain of a visit to Lungshan Park is likely to be felt by your vehicle, as getting up there entails negotiating an extremely steep mountain lane. Pray there are no cars coming the other way (luckily, Lungshan Park seems to be rarely visited, even at weekends), because for most of its length it's a single track road, with passing places at intervals. Thankfully, after the first (and steepest) section the gradient becomes less severe, and the going is easier (with some splendid mountain views further up) for most of the remaining distance.
Finally the road reaches the ridge and ends at a small car park, overlooked by the rather plain-looking Lungshan Temple, perched on the steep wooded heights of Aman Peak, which rises directly above. Leave the car to recover awhile, and head uphill towards the temple via a concrete footpath which starts by a large map board.