Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan, and is comprised of the diamond-shaped Sun Lake and curved Moon Lake. The Thao people call it "zintun" which may have been the earliest name given to Sun Moon Lake. The earliest record of the name "Sun Moon Lake" was in the article, “Travels to Shueilishe", written by Deng Chuan-an in 1821, which said, "I have no idea where the water comes from. It is about 10 li (half a kilometer) in length, and a third of that in width. The water is red and green, so it is named Sun Moon Lake." After the Han people came to reclaim the Shuishalian land, Sun Moon Lake was given more names, such as Shuishe Large Lake, Shuili Lake, Shuilishe Lake, Shuishehaizih, Bamboo Lake, Dragon Lake and so on. In the late Cing Dynasty, the western missionaries came to Sun Moon Lake to share their faith with the Thao people. They named Sun Moon Lake “Dragon Lake”, “Lake Candidius”, “Nin-Isivatan Lake”, etc.
The island on Sun Moon Lake was the ancient settlement of the Thao people. They consider it to be the home of Pashala, their highest-ranking ancestral spirit. The island is called “Lalu Island” in the Thao language. During the Cing Dynasty, it was called Pearl Islet, Pearl Hill, etc. There is a saying that Cinglong (Green Dragon) Mountain (Kunbariz Mountain in the Thao language) and Lunlong (Mountain Dragon) Mountain (Titabu in the Thao Language) are facing to each other with Lalu Island in the middle; it creates the image of two dragons playing with a pearl, so it was called Pearl Island. During the Cing Dynasty, Westerners called it Pearl Island. In the Japanese occupation period, it was called Jade Island and “Island in the Water”. After the restoration from the Japanese, it was called Guanghua Island.
After the 921 Earthquake of 1999, the Nantou County Government changed its name to Lalu Island out of respect for the Thao tribe.
The SML Scenic Area, encompassing some 9,000 hectares, is situated astride the geographic center of Taiwan in Nantou County. The town of Yuchi lies to the immediate north, Shuishe Mountain to the east, and Provincial Highway 21 and Shueili Township to the south. In addition to original provincial scenic area land, the SML National Scenic Area today also includes within its administrative area the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, the communities of Toushe and Checheng, Shuishe and Jiji Mountains, and the Shueili River.
Mountains in the Scenic Area rise from between 600 and 2,000 meters. From the highest ridges in the eastern section, the landscape gradually turns to rippling foothills and then to fast-flowing rivers and sweeping, verdant flatlands in the west. The latter, geographically a part of the Puli Basin, is the only section to preserve an alpine lake.
The central location of Sun Moon Lake also means that the bountiful tourism opportunities available in Nantou County are only a short drive away. The area draws tourists from all over the country and its unique attractions are increasingly a magnet for international visitors.