The Alishan National Scenic Area is a mountain resort and nature reserve located in Alishan township, Chiayi County, Taiwan.
The Alishan area was originally settled by the Tsou tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines; the name derives from the aboriginal word Jarissang. Ethnic Han Chinese settlers first settled on the plains near modern-day Chiayi as early as the late Ming Dynasty (around the mid-17th century), but did not move into the mountains until the late 18th century, establishing the towns of Ruili (瑞里), Ruifeng (瑞峰), Xiding (隙頂), and Fenqihu (奮起湖). The resulting armed clashes between the settlers and the aborigines pushed the aborigines even further into the mountains.
Following the cession of Taiwan to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, Japanese expeditions to the area found large quantities of cypress (檜木, or hinoki in Japanese). This led to the development of the logging industry in the area and the export of local cypress and Taiwania wood. A series of narrow-gauge railways were built in the area during this time to facilitate the transportation of lumber from the mountains to the plains below, part of which continues to operate as the Alishan Forest Railway. Several new villages also began to sprout up along the railway lines. It was also during this time that the first tourists began to visit the area. Plans were even drawn up to incorporate the area into the new Niitaka (New Highest) Arisan National Park (新高阿里山国立公園).
With the exhaustion of forest resources by the 1970s, domestic and international tourism overtook logging to become the primary economic activity in the area. The tourism industry continued to expand with the completion of the Alishan highway in the 1980s, displacing the railroad as the primary mode of transportation up the mountain. To combat the problems associated with the growing crowds of tourists and the expanding high mountain tea and wasabi plantations, the area was declared a national scenic area in 2001. The area covers the Alishan Forest Recreation Area and the Han Chinese villages of Ruili, Fengshan (豐山), and Taihe (太和), as well as the Tsou people of Dabang (達邦), Shanmei (山美), and Chashan (茶山), and the administrative area spans four townships, including Meishan Township, Zhuqi Township, Fanlu Township, and Alishan Township.
On 1 December 2014, fire broke out at Alishan spreading over more than 5 hectares of land. The area affected was located near Tapang No. 3 Bridge. The fire was believed to happen due to dry ground which was vulnerable to fire because of the absence of rain in the area for months.