/ Staff writer, with CNA
A group of tree experts and enthusiasts attended a ground breaking ceremony in Miaoli County’s Houlong Township （後龍） on Thursday to remove cement that they said has been stifling a 200-year-old banyan tree that provides shade for a temple.
Miaoli Coastal Environment Development Association president Hung Wei-feng （洪維鋒） said the tree has played an important role in the development of the local community, providing a “cool” environment for community college faculty and students, and local residents to pursue historical and cultural projects.
Last year, the tree appeared to fall ill, with many of its branches drying up, Hung said, adding that it was trimmed in an attempt to restore it to health.
However, more branches and leaves withered, worrying local community and school leaders, he said.
It was suggested that cement around the tree might be harming it, so they prayed to the Earth deity and asked for advice on how to bring the tree back to good health.
Leaders of non-governmental organizations, an elementary-school principal and community leaders threw divination blocks in front of the deity’s statue and the blocks said to remove the cement.
On Thursday, “tree doctor” Peng Yu-ming （彭鈺明） and Miaoli Community College chief secretary Tai Wen-hsiang （戴文祥） marked the start of the cement’s removal with a ceremony.
When the cement has been cleared, the tree’s roots will start absorbing air and water, Peng said.
Three poles should be erected to support the tree so it would stand a better chance of recovering, Peng added.
Hung said the work should be completed by the end of the month.
He urged members of the public to volunteer to clean up the surrounding area and take care of the “newly young” tree.
A 200-year-old banyan tree growing above an Earth God temple in Miaoli County’s Houlong Township is pictured in an undated photograph. Photo copied by Cheng Ming-hsiang, Taipei Times