Today, the national park has only two aboriginal villages – Dongpu and Meishan, inhabited by aborigines of the Bunun tribe. The Bunun were originally residents of Taiwan’s western plain. Decades of Han Chinese encroachment and the search for better hunting grounds forced these people further and further eastward, into the central mountains. Today, their tribe is dispersed through much of Taiwan’s central mountain range and they have long since adapted to life away from the plains. Religious ceremony is central to Bunun life, with a major festival taking place nearly every month. While now primarily involved in settled occupations (tea, vegetable, and plum cultivation), the Bunun traditionally relied on slash and burn agriculture for sustenance, supplemented by hunting and the gathering of food plants in the wild. Converted to the Christina faith several generations ago by Protestant and Catholic missionaries, the Bunun still preserve many elements of their own traditional rituals in the Christianity they practice today.
The park has preserved paths and roadways initially built during the Qing Dynasty and Japanese colonial periods. One of these roads, known today as the Batongguan Trail, runs for 152 kilometers from Linyipu Jhushan in Nantou County to Pushihge Yuli in Hualian County. It was the road used by a Qing Dynasty general and his “Flying tiger” army during the late 1870s. Legend has it that he had it built in only 10 months. The road has the distinction as the only “class I” historical trail in Taiwan. During their colonial rule of Taiwan, the Japanese constructed several additional trails to facilitate their control of aborigine tribes living along the Laku Laku and Laonong streams. It is these trails today which are frequented by hikers and which testify to the path of early development in the Yushan area as well as the history of infringement upon and resistance of the area’s original inhabitants.