Travel Time – Sanqing Mountain

Sanqing (san ching) Mountain, China is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in JiangXi (jang she) province. In this gentle, sub-tropical climate about 80 percent of Sanqing Mountain is covered by primeval forests with ancient pine trees twisted by high winds, 100 species of azaleas, bamboo and ironwood trees. There are more than 2,500 kinds of plants found here, some unique to Sanqing Mountain and most can be used to make traditional Chinese medicines.

Far from city life, Sanqing Shan (mountain) is like a fairyland with beautiful clouds and mist. The mist drapes over a thousand peaks 200 days out of the year. The highest peak rises 1817m above sea level. Huge clouds become splendidly red at sunrise and sunset, as if half the sky were on fire. The mist transforms into ten thousand streams pouring into pools providing sustenance for rare birds and animals including black bears and rhesus monkeys, while the luxuriant vegetation provides abundant food. The water is as clear as crystal and it is said that drinking the refreshing water has a rejuvenating effect.

The mountain’s natural pinnacles form s41pectacular landscapes that take on the appearance of recognizable objects such as ‘Python Rising’, Taoist Monk Worshipping’, ‘Nine Dragons Joking with Phoenix’, ‘The Monkey King’ and so many more. The most famous formation is ‘The Goddess’ standing more than 60 metres high. Legend has it that she was the only daughter of an old man who made a living by gathering medicinal herbs. His daughter let out a secret about the supreme deity of Taoism, so she had to receive the punishment of being turned into a stone mountain. You can clearly see her sitting with her feet curled up under her, arms wrapped in a shawl and head slightly bowed looking pensively out into the clouds.

Due to its cliffs and ruggedness, it is very hard for tourists to climb Sanqing Mountain on foot although some do – especially the locals who deliver supplies to the resorts. The most eye-catching scenery can only be appreciated from on top of the mountain; so i n 1995, a cable car was built to carry tourists up 1,600m to hotels built into the mountain. From the resort area to the peak, a concrete path was built along the sheer rock face. The path is said to be the highest tourist trail in the world and is an exciting, often breathtaking experience. On one side, the cliffs rise straight up above you, while on the other side a deep valley falls below you.

The cultural legacy of Sanqing Shan is 1700 years old. Taoists made this a sacred mountain for people seeking immortality during the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). Sanqing means ‘three pure ones’ and was named for the three main peaks that the Taoists believed resembled their three gods. There are several temples that were built by hand, some carved into stone. The oldest being over 1600 years ago and found 1530m up the mountain where the Taoists carved the steps into the rock leading to the temple. The Taoists believed in ‘natural law’ by combining human art and craftsmanship with nature. They planned their holy places carefully to fully reflect the essence of heaven, the land and human beings.

TerryLynn Saunders lives in Nanaimo enjoys traveling.