Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
A TV serial produced by Chinese Television System (CTS), Holy Ridge began airing on October 24, 2005. Directed by Zheng Dehua, Wang Jingui, Lü Shiyuan, and Xin Jianzong, the production comprised seventeen episodes and won the 41st Annual Golden Bell Best TV Drama Award. “Holy Ridge” is the name of a precipitous escarpment in the Snow Mountain (Xue Shan) range in central Taiwan. Running from Great Bajian Mountain to Snow Mountain, the formation has been called “Holy Ridge” since the Japanese colonial era. The serial is set amidst the majestic mountain scenery of Shei-pa National Park, where characters recount their various ideals and dilemmas, finding answers or becoming further bewildered as the story unfolds.
Ever since the British invented the modern sport of mountain climbing in the mid-nineteenth century, the activity has been viewed as a sublime aesthetic undertaking, an escape from urban civilization and a challenge to the self. Mountain climbing is a process of moving toward the heights on foot, an endeavor that changes a climber’s physical experience and cognitive space. In Holy Ridge, mountaineer Lin Zhiwei (Fan Zhiwei) gets lost in the Snow Mountains on Christmas Eve, and his narrative voiceovers are interwoven throughout the series, examining the relationship between humans and mountains. Why climb mountains? How can I find my “self” in the course of climbing a mountain? For various reasons, all of the characters in the series live on Holy Ridge: A-Xing (Zhang Dayong), a young man from a good family who is performing public service in lieu of military obligations, hopes to be assigned to the national park so that he can rethink his life plan. Xiao Lan (Li Kangyi) dreams of studying fashion design in Japan, but must return to the mountains to look after her aged father, a retired soldier; though separated by generational differences, father and daughter are united in mutual affection. “Salmon” (Zhang Shaohuai), a slovenly assistant park-manager, is devoted to preserving the Formosan landlocked salmon, a species endemic to Taiwan. Indigenous park rangers Thunder Horse and A-Lang are inheritors of the Atayal people’s mountain wisdom, but also have knowledge of land management, modern ecology, and hunting regulations; thus, they work to progressively transform aboriginal people’s links to the mountain regions.
To greater or lesser degrees, characters in Holy Ridge are burdened with ideals, problems, and contradictions, yet all are microcosmic reflections of the relations between humans and the mountains. Not only are Taiwan’s mountains a sacred and unfathomable feature of the island’s landscape, in the course of history – whether through colonizers’ understanding and investigation of mountain regions, or as a result of conflicts between national land-management policies and aboriginal peoples’ way of life – definitions of and changes in humankind’s connection to the mountains have always been informed with cultural depth and complexity. In its characterizations and plot situations, Holy Ridge reflects Taiwan’s distinctive mountain culture.