Enjoying the “Snow of May” in Taiwan

By Kurt Weidner
Photos/ Council for Hakka Affairs, Executive Yuan; Vision Int’l

When Taiwan’s short spring is in its final days and the next long, hot, and humid summer is just around the corner, the wooded hills of Miaoli turn white. What looks like snow on trees from a distance (for example, when driving on the Second Northern Freeway) is in fact the blossoms of the tung tree (also known as the paulownia tree). This beautiful sight is the second major highlight of the year for flower lovers in Taiwan after the cherry-blossom season, which lasts from late February to early April.

Thousands of visitors head to hill and forest in April and May to see the snow-white blossoms up close. Tung trees can be found in many parts of Taiwan, but their concentration is highest in the counties of Miaoli and Hsinchu, located in the northwest of the island. These two counties also have the highest concentration of Hakka people in Taiwan, an ethnic group that, over the last century, has had a close relationship with the tree and its attractive blossoms.

The tung tree, a deciduous tree growing up to 20 meters tall, is common in southern China, Burma, and northwestern Taiwan, and has long been used commercially for the production of tung oil, which is derived from its seeds. During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895~1945), the Japanese planted the tree in large numbers in the hills of Miaoli, which offered ideal conditions for its growth. The oil was used in paint, varnish, caulking, and wood finish, and for other purposes such as the coating of paper umbrellas. The wood was made into furniture, wooden clogs, toothpicks, and matches. Later, however, the tree lost its commercial value when cheaper synthetic alternatives to tung oil became available. The tree plantations were abandoned, and the trees soon spread at random over large neighboring areas, creating the tung-tree forests that exist today.

There are two species of the tung tree in Taiwan, aluerites fordii hemsi (you tong shu in Chinese), which blooms from April to July, and aleurites montana (mu you tong), which blooms a bit earlier, from March to May. The blossoms are loved for their colorful beauty – pure-white petals and bright-red filaments with yellow anthers. What makes them especially popular in Taiwan is their snow-like appearance; because of their large numbers and size, trees seen from afar seem to be covered with a layer of snow. When the blossoms fall in large numbers to the ground they often completely cover stretches of country roads and hiking trails, not unlike fallen snow. In a land where the winters are not cold enough to generate any snow except in the high mountains, the scenes created by the tung blossoms are a welcome alternative to the snowscapes common in colder climates.

The Festival

In 2002 the Council for Hakka Affairs, Executive Yuan, staged the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival for the first time. This annual event is centered on the blooming season, the aim being to attract visitors to come and gaze at the amazing floral beauty and at the same time experience the many intriguing aspects of Hakka culture. During numerous activities staged over several weeks you get the chance to taste traditional Hakka fare, listen to traditional Hakka music and watch other forms of entertainment, and to buy unique traditional handicrafts. The Hakka were heavily involved in the tung-tree business when the industry was flourishing, and their close relationship with the tree is evident in the fact that they have adopted the blossoms as a symbol of their culture and as motifs on a wide variety of handicrafts, from traditional garb to innovative pottery.

The festival is a grand happening lasting several weeks, from April to May this year, involving a large number of villages and communities in Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, and Nantou counties. There will be several hundred cultural events during the festival period. In order to help visitors get their bearings and find out what’s in store at different locations, the council each year publishes an informative booklet with maps showing the best spots for getting close to the snow-white blossom. The booklet also contains a list of shops and restaurants where you can buy Hakka products and feast on Hakka specialties. For more information, visit http://tung.hakka.gov.tw. This very helpful website (in Chinese, English, and Japanese) presents you with much valuable information on the best places to visit, cultural programs, available tours, shops, restaurants, and guesthouses. There is even a frequently updated map showing the current status of the tung-tree bloom around Taiwan.


Lovely Lotus Flower Fields

Little Streets and Small Alleys

Noodles, Buns, and Dumplings

Shin Kong Chao Feng Resort Ranch

Hao Bu Hao Chi?

Taitung by the sea

Sleep, Eat, and Buy Options in Alishan’s North Sector

Mt. Guanyin

A Night at the Market

Alishan North

Green and Sleepy

Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail

Taiwan and Hotpot

Jinyue Indigenous Village

Seven Stars Mountain

DaMorLee Leisure Farm

Quick Trip to Taipei

Up into the High Mountains

Romantic Evenings in Kaohsiung

Railways to Bikeways

Xiang Luo Lei Restaurant

Land Ho! Penghu – Beckoning You

The Guanshan Town Circle Bicycle Path

The Heart of Hualien

Dageeli Tribe Restaurant

Coastal Hualien

Ximending (West Gate District)

Bunun Hunters Restaurant

Hello Hualien!

The Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area

Tianwei Highway Garden

Prowlin’ in Maolin

Strawberry Town

The Maolin National Scenic Area

Stairways to the Sky

Pedaling Along

Daluan Restaurant

Around the Northern Tip

Hats and Mats

Orange Country

Travel Taiwan, Film Taiwan!

A Place to Relax

Through the Grapevine

The Tatami of Dongshi


Lion’s Head Mountain and Beipu

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)


Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild


Taipei Int'l Flora Expo




Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!


Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART


Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu