ChinaOnYourMind: Mountains

Pinnacles and Peaks of China
For over 2,000 years, Chinese, from emperors to peasants, have been making pilgr../images to sacred summits, especially to the Five Sacred Mountains staked out by the native Daoist priest and to the Four Famous Peaks established later by the Buddhist.

The Nine Sacred Mountains are:

Religion Height Province City Nearby
Emei Shan Buddhist 10,095ft Sichuan Chengdu
Bei Heng Shan Daoist 6,617 ft Shanxi Datong
Nan Heng Shan Daoist 4,232 ft Hunan Changsha
Hua Shan Daoist 6,552 ft Shanxi Xi'an
Jiuhua Shan Buddhist 4,340 ft Anhui Hangzhou
Putuo Shan Buddhist 932 ft Zhejiang Ningbo
Song Shan Daoist 4,900 ft Henan Luoyang
Tai Shan Daoist 5,069 ft Shandong Tai'an
Wutai Shan Buddhist 10,003 ft Shanxi Datong

In addition, Huang Shan
is famous for its unparalleled beauty and should be lumped in the same category of the Nine Sacred Mountains. The old Chinese saying summarizes it the best, "No need to visit any other mountains after a trip to the Five Sacred ones; However, even the Five Sacred ones are not worth seeing after coming back from Huang Shan".

Emei Shan

mountainsemeishan.jpg - 8437 Bytes Emei Shan is the mountain dedicated to Puxian, the Bodhisattva of Universal Kindness. The breath-taking view from the summit and the strange "Buddha's Halo" are most famous.

Emei Shan is best explored on foot. Therefore, it has a wide choice of walking trails to be followed. The trails on Emei Shan twist through cool bamboo thickets where countless butterflies dance in the summer sunlight. Compared with the trails on the northern mountains, the trails here are much more enjoyable.

Be prepared to deal with the monkey beggars on the road. They usually don't take no as an answer.

Famous temples on Emei Shan are Pavilion of the clear Singing Waters, Baoguo Monastery and Wannian Temple.

Bei Heng Shan

Bei Hengshan used to be regarded as the final barrier between China and the barbarian tribes from the north. Today, it's most forgotten and overtaken by other more popular sacred mountain. Its isolation, quietness and loneliness are exactly the charm of this ancient mountain.

The Heng Zong Monastery dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). There are so many magnificent halls and temples on this mountain, you probably will need to spend two days here to thoroughly go through them.

Do ascend to the summit to experience its space and massiveness. It's a great place for meditation.

Nan Heng Shan

Nan Hengshan is the place for the god of fire in Taoism. Historically, many officials even emperors have come here to pray for deliverance from the floods.

Nan Hengshan is more famous for its misty fog, endless bamboo oceans and mountain capping clouds than its temples. Hugh Farley's description of the scenery in 1935 summarizes, " Magnificent, on the other hand, was the view, for the temples stands on a pinnacle of rock with unobstructed vision in all directionsˇ­.Never before in China have I so fully appreciated the proximity or contrast of fertility and barrenness, of water and of drought, of living greenness like the sea and stark brownness like the desert."

Hua Shan

Hua Shan is such a sharp mountain that it bends the Yellow River to the sea. For thousands of years, emperors of numerous dynasties came here to perform the spring and autumn rites, praying for the prosperity and peace of their kingdoms as well as their longevity. It is believed that Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China, had reached the summit in his search for the fountain of youth. Daoist hermits retreated to Hua Shan where they became the immortals of Daoism tradition. The entire mountain is dotted with old temples from various dynasties.

The essence of the mountain is wild, distant, fierce and holy. It is also the most dangerous mountain. Just look at the names of the different parts of the mountain: River Gorge of 18 Bends, The Thousand Stairs, The Sky Ladder. People still die on Hua Shan every year, falling from its edges.

No one summarized Hua Shan as well as Hedda Morrison did. During her trip to Hua Shan in 1935, she wrote that the "importance of Hua Shan lay partly in its being a supreme example of the type of landscape so appreciated by Chinese artists." So, if you want to find out what the ancient artists appreciated, come to find out for yourself in Hua Shan.

Huan Shan is about three hours' driving from Xi'an.

Jiuhua Shan

Jiuhua Shan is the supreme dwelling place of Dizang Pusa, God of the underworld.

The legendary 99 peaks of Juihua Shan still stand today. However, Jiuhua Shan was immortalized in Chinese tradition by two contemporaries who met each other on these very slopes around 747 AD. One was Li Bai, undoubtedly the greatest romantic poet China has ever seen. The other one was the prince pilgrim from Korea, Kim Kiao Kak who after 75 years of praying to Dizang Pusa, god of the underworld, died here. Upon his death, he became the reincarnation of the mountain god.

Other places of interest are Heavenly Terrace, the one-thousand-year-old Phoenix Pine and the Green Cloud Nunnery.

Putuo Shan

Putuo Shan was dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, by an imperial decree in the 13th century. The island is a remarkable sanctuary of peace and beauty off the coast of Zhejiang Province.

There are three famous monasteries in Putuoshan, Puji Si, Huijin Si and Fayu Si. All these temples are Ming or Qing structures.

Another famous sight is the Bridge of Great Being from which the faithful could look into the cave for an appearance of Guanyin. During the Ming Dynasty, many believers threw them into the sea at the first appearance of a rainbow in the pinched, sunstruck spray to leap to better lives.

Today's Putuo Shan is also a navy base which is a bit ironic considering Putuo Shan was dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy.

Song Shan

mountainssongshan.jpg - 7787 Bytes Song Shan, the Daoist peak at the center of China, has two of the most famous temples, the Zhong Yue, China's oldest Daoist Temple and ShaoLin, world center of the martial arts and birthplace of Zen Buddhism.

Zhong Yue contains about one thousand halls and pavilions. The famous Four Iron Guards are still protecting this Daoist temple. Standing ten feet tall, they were cast in 1064 AD, modeled after the soldiers of their time. Another magic relic is " The True Map of the Five Mountains", caved in 1604. It placed Song Shan in the center, Bei Heng Shan to the north, Nan Heng Shan to the south, Hua Shan to the west and Tai Shan to the east.

Shaolin temple was the meditation place for Da Mo, also known as Bodhidharma, the 28th incarnation of the Buddha. He spent nine years in solitary meditation staring at the wall of a cave. When he emerged, he founded a new sect of Buddhism, known as Chan in China and Zen in Japan. You can still find the wall that Da Mo faced when he was meditating. On the wall, there is a vague human image, said to be left by Da Mo himself.

Shaolin also contains a magnificent Forest of Stupas, the largest collection in China of these small brick pagodas that hold holy relics and remains of great monks. The oldest stupa here was built in 746, the oldest stupa in China.

Tai Shan

Tai Shan is the center of the five Taoist Sacred Mountains. As Confucius said, 'From the summit of Mount Tai the earth seems small.' Throughout history, emperors regularly visited Tai Shan leaving behind trails of historic relics.

Tai Shan is most famous for the sunrise over the sea of clouds that lies above the plain. This is best described by Mary Augusta Mullikin and Anna Hotchkis in the book, The Nine Sacred Mountains of China:' On a clear day the view form the top is one continuous line of interlacing mountains lying to the north and east, whereas to the south the plain spreads out in a glory of light, as though the tawny soil had become a golden yellow carpet.'

Tai Shan is dedicated to the Taoist deity, the Jade Emperor. The Dai Temple at the foot of the mountain is one of the most famous temples in China.

Wutai Shan

Despite the dwindling in the number of temples exiting in this Buddhist sacred mountain, there are still enough of them left to get one lost. The name of the Temple Village is still deserving.

The Landmark of Wu Taishan is the Great White Tibetan Pagoda. Wutai Shan is also famous for its Tibet-like bright blue sky and the breath taking natural beauty.

Huang Shan

mountainshuangshan.jpg - 25718 Bytes Although Huang Shan is not one of the Sacred Mountains, it is definitely the most beautiful. Its series of craggy peaks inspired a whole school of painting in the late Ming.

The famous scenery includes: Stone That Flew From Afar (Feilai Feng), Welcome Pine of HuangSHang (Huang Ke Song), the Cloud Ladders, etc.

With two lakes, three waterfalls, 24 streams and 72 peaks, Huang Shan was declared a World Natural and Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO Heritage Committee.

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