Liji Moon World (aka Liji Badlands) is a rare geological formation right next to Taitung City in eastern Taiwan (not to be confused with the larger and better Tianliao Moon World). It is composed of easily eroding clay deposits, that erode faster than plants can grow on them, creating a unique moon-like landscape. If you are in Taitung, you should take the short trip across the Beinan River and enjoy these beautiful eroding masses of clay and dirt.
Typical badlands are found in dryer climates, are composed of sedimentary rocks, typically have very little vegetation, and have deep valleys or ravines. The badlands in Taiwan are unique in that they are in a tropical rain forest. How is this possible?
The soil at Liji Badlands formed under the ocean millions of years ago, forming a layer of sediment called a melagne. Over millions of years, the land was lifted up due to plate tectonics until it became dry land. The rocks are composed of mudstone, sandstone, shale, and chalk. Because of high alkaline levels due to chalk in the soil, trees and grass cannot grow, and basically the only plant that can grow in the soil is spiny bamboo. The lack of vegetation as well as high rainfall gives way to quick eroding hills, or badlands. The Beinan River (卑南溪) also helped to carve out the landscape and bare hills.
Because of the white greyish color, the hills seem to glow when in moonlight, hence the name "Moon World." However to the casual observer, the landscape looks like the surface of the moon as well. The name "Liji" comes from the name of the village where the formations are located.
How to get there:
By car: From Taitung City, take the East 45 highway out of the city, across Beinan River and the badlands will be on your right.
By train: Get off at Taitung Station, and from there you can literally walk to the badlands; its only 2KM away. Alternatively you can rent a scooter or take a taxi.
By plane: From Taitung Airport, hire a scooter or taxi and then take highway 11 then the East 45 Highway to the badlands.
Hours: 24 hours a day!
Map: Please see below:
Our journey to Liji Badlands started from Chishang, and we arrived there by scooter. The views along the way were fantastic!
A broken suspension bridge across the Xiugulan River on the way to Liji.
After we drove on the one lane mountain road for about an hour, we finally made it to the small town of Liji and the Liji badlands! In front of the badlands is a park and boardwalk.
Okay, before I bore you with some grammatically poor signs, enjoy some drone footage:
Okay, now onto the many signs around the park. Even though this park is smaller than Tianliao Moon World, it has much more educational information along the trails.
I will write out what these signs say just in case you cannot read them on your tiny phone/computer screen.
"Liji Badlands and Little Huangshan Area"
"The East Rift valley was formed when the Central Mountain Range and the Coastal Mountain Range came together. Aside from the magnificent mountain terrain, the most unusual geological landscapes here are the Liji Badlands and Little Huangshan. The formation of the Liji Badlands, located at the southern tip of the Coastal Mountain Range, remains a matter of controversy today. The poor permeability of the soil that makes up the Liji Melange caused erosion and slumping of the surface, resulting in this special dented appearance that we see today. Little Huangshan faces the Liji Badlands across the Beinan River and is located on the Beinan Conglomerate layer of the Central Mountain Range. Here too, rainwater erosion has exposed the rock to form a landscape like that of the famous Huangshan ("Yellow Mountain") in Mainland China. When the sun shines, the waters of the Beinan River are abundant, and its surface flat, the beautiful sight of the mountain's reflection on the water is a wonder to behold."
The rugged steep grooves and rain erosion valley of the Liji Melange look like a pleated skirt on the earth. It was once the deep sea sediment southeast of Taiwan. For millions of years, the sediment was compresses northeastward, sheared and burst up by the Philippine Sea Plate to emerge from the surface of the earth and eroded to become the huge and thick mud rock badlands. The extensive shearing of stratums has upset the order of the layers. The smooth sheared facets spread across the mélange and foreign rocks such as the sand rocks and oceanic crust substances are drawn into. The terrain is distributed on the west side of the central and southern sections of the coastal mountains range. Since the exposed part is most typical in Liji Village, it is named “Liji Melange”
“The terrain evolution of Liji Badlands Melange”
“The Liji Melange is formed of very fine-grained mud rocks which contain rich mud and minerals and therefore have very small gaps with poor water penetrability and poor ventilation. The rain can only erode along the surface to form the rain erosion ditches. However, when the ditch gaps appear on the top of the stratum, rains begin to sink to a certain depth to create a sliding surface causing the crust to slide, which is the cause of frequent collapses in the Liji Melange. After the collapse of the stratum, the rains form new erosion ditches on the steep sliding surface and the next collapse occurs as the top ditch gap is created. The soil repatriates until the terrain is fully leveled. This is the earth surface evolution process of the Liji Melagne, a very unstable stratum.”
Main view of the eroding soil near Liji Badlands park.
“The Explanation of Special Geography and Biology”
"The Liji Badlands of Beinan Township are located in the south end of the coast mountains. The Liji Melange, folded by Eurasian and Philippine tectonic plates, is formed from fin pellets of mudstones with poor permeation. Because of the serious erosion, avoid visiting here on rainy days. The most common plants here are the giant miscanthus, white popinac, (Imported from Salvado in 1980 to produce raw material of paper pulp, also known as giant leucawna). Taiwan acacia and viscosa. Most of these plants grow on the lower levels of large, amassed amounts of collapse soil and rocks. In contrast, Chinese pistaches and Taiwan arundo formosana grow on the top of the collapsed soil and rocks, and along the tops of gullies."
More views of the expansive badlands.
"Environmental Disasters of Liji Melange"
"The Liji Melange is an extremely unstable stratum and any artificial attempt to change the condition is difficult. The example of the realignment of Hsiaojian River shows that the destruction of the area is just a matter of time after a typhoon or storm. The nature has its own succession mechanism and the best way to address the Liji Melange is to allow natural succession of this second forest as a way to show respect to the land."
If it's too hot, take a rest under this beautiful pavilion.
"What is a confused Layer?"
"With regard to confuse layer (mélange), refers to the Sea plate and the deep-sea sediments above the igneous rock, because the role of plate subduction and polymerization, resulting in the original sequence completely destroyed, and were prone to extrusion and collision, is fraught with complex the dislocation formation and shear transfer. This formation, known as “confused with layers.”
View of the badlands from the boardwalk.
"Liji Badlands Melange Distribution and Causes"
"The Liji Melange is formed by cracked land mud layer as the base mingles with foreign rocks in various sizes. This rock layer emerges on the southern tip of the Coastal Mountain Ridge extends along the west margin of the ridge to Lehe which is neat the Antung Spring. The mélange is about 70km long and 1-3 km wide. Regarding the forming of the Liji Melange, many early-day Geologists believed it was the oceanic trench sediment (submerged rock) as a result of the submergence of the Paleo-South Sea Crust southeastward to under the Philippine Sea Plate. However, some recent scholars believe that mélange originated from the Northern Luzon Arc--- it is the sediment of the forearc basin, The sediment was crushed northwestward and pushed up by the Philippine Sea Plate to form the Liji Melange."
Across the river you can see Huangshan Mountain, an extension of the badlands across the river.
View of the lefthad cliff side.
Mt Huangshan in the background as well as a fruit stand in front of the park. Nothing against the fruit stand, but "Badland fruit" does not sound very appetizing.
View of the badlands o the right side of the valley.
The main trail and view from the park.
If you actually try to go down this trail, you will quickly find that it is completely washed out. Everything is covered in mud and it doesn't seem like many people come here. I was not about to get my shoes muddy.
Overgrown main trail through the valley. It seems like no one is doing upkeep on this park except for near the main boardwalk.
From Liji Bridge which crosses the Beinan River into Taitung County, you can get a view of the badlands that stretch across its northern bank. This frankly looks more impressive than the park.
A random island in the Beinan river that someone has carved steps in.
Liji Badlands are an impressive sight, and are much more accessible than Tianliao Moon World. However they are not well kept and definitely not the most impressive or extensive badlands in Taiwan. If you only have time to see one badland park while you are in Taiwan, I would still recommend just visiting Tianliao Moon World. See our blog about Tianliao Moon World here.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.