Mountains and Bronze Masks
Zhangjiajie National Park
In order to visit Zhangjiajie National Park I stayed in Zhangjiajie Village which, although relatively ‘touristic’, has the advantage that it is just a 5 minute walk from the park entrance and hence no further transport is required to reach the National Park. My hotel, the Zhangjiajie Pipaxi Hotel (˜200¥ per night) was not fabulous but it was clean, had a half-decent restaurant and functioning WiFi. The latter came in handy as on my last day I was unable to leave my hotel because of strong winds and torrential downpours which resulted in mudslides and the roads being blocked by uprooted trees and branches. Unfortunately, being cooped up in my hotel meant that I did not get to do my hike in the Tianzi Shan Scenic Area.
Storm notwithstanding, I still managed to do two hikes. The first hike took me up to the Huangshi Village Plateau which involved clambering up about 3900 stone steps and then down again by which time my legs were hurting slightly. After arriving back at the bottom of the stairway I decided to follow the Golden Whip Stream Path which, luckily is very flat, and takes you round the bottom of the carts peaks and is very pretty indeed. The second one is a bit more difficult to describe and therefore I have marked it on the map below (together with the 1st hike). This hike involves quite a lot of stairs as well but one you are at the top of plateau the views are just amazing (assuming it does not rain and there is no fog). In my case there was a torrential downpour when I got to the top, which resulted in all the tourists melting away. But then the sun came out and the clouds dissipated and I got some stunning views.
Unfortunately, the day after the storm I had to leave, as I was flying to Chongqing. Luckily, my driver who took me back to the airport next day knew enough of the backroads to get me to the airport in time for my flight to Chóngqìng.
A word of advice! If you want to avoid the tourist crowds avoid visiting the parks on a weekend or during the Chinese national holidays. Moreover, stay away from the cable cars, the shuttle buses and the picnic areas as these areas get very crowded as well. Away from these places the number of tourists drops of exponentially. For some reason the tourist groups with their megaphones and flags do not seem to venture away from these.
I bought a 4 day pass (about ¥250) at the ticket station. Note that you will have to pay in cash and carry some form of ID (your passport) with you as the ticket will be in your name. The ticket includes admission to the park and use of the internal bus system but it does not include the cable cars or scenic elevator. Each of these requires an addition ticket costing around of ¥60 or ¥70, I can’t quite remember.
How to get there:
I flew from Beijing to Zhangjiajie City and had the hotel, in Zhangjiajie Village, pick me up at the airport which cost me about ¥140. From the airport to Zhangjiajie Village, which is located right at the southern entrance to the Zhangjiajie National Park, is about 30 to 40 kms. If the hotel or hostel does not pick you up from the airport your other option is to take a taxi (¥100) or the bus no. 4. It takes about an hour by bus and the price for a ticket is ¥50 .
In Chongqing I stayed at the ‘Chongqing Travelling With Hotel(Jie Fang Bei)’ which is very easy to get to since the the Metro station Jiaochangkou (Line 2) is just across the road from the hotel. The building itself does not look very exciting and the area behind the hotel looked very run down. However, the hotel itself was anything but. The rooms themselves, having a very modern feel to them, were actually really nice and clean. The staff at the reception were also very friendly and helpful and there is free Wifi throughout the hotel. Moreover, there is a couple of nice restaurants close by. This is probably the best hotel I had during this trip and one of the nicer ones I had in China in general. The price per night was about ¥300.
Unfortunately, I did not have much time to explore Chongqing itself, which was a pity as it is supposed to be one of the more vibrant and exciting cities in China. I basically used Chongqing as a basis to visit the Dazu Buddhist Caves, Wulong National Geology Park and the Fishing Town Fortress. However, I managed to visit Ciqikou Ancient Town which is probably the only part of ‘old’ Chongqing still standing. As it is the only place in Chongqing were the old Ming dynasty architecture is still standing it attracts quite a lot of tourists and therefore is very commercialised. Nevertheless, i managed to spend a pleasant afternoon wondering around the place. The easiest way to reach Ciqikou is probably by subway (Line 1) although there are plenty of buses going there as well (, 220, 237, 261, 467 among others).
Chongqing is known as the ‘Mountain City’ and it makes Rome, the City of the Seven Hills look flat. It also had a definite 3D feel too it and while wondering around the city I got the distinct feeling that for a given latitude, longitude there were several levels of the city above or below you.
Chongqing is also the first place where I first came across dry pot (as opposed to Chinese hotpot), which comes in many different flavours but always contains copious amounts of chilli. If you never tried dry pot before you should definitely give it a go, especially if you like hot food! My favourite one was a chilli, chicken and prawn hotpot – I had it several times and since the restaurants in Chongqing were often not geared towards solo travellers I had two order for two persons, which was not really a problem as I normally skimped on lunch!!
While staying in Chongqing I made three day trips to the Dazu Buddhist Caves, the Fishing Village Fortress and the Wulong National Geological Park, all of them well worth the effort. If you want a quiet day out and avoid the hustle and bustle of Chongqing I can definitely recommend the Fishing Village Fortress. When I visited in July I had the place to myself apart from a few Chances families picnicking there. It was one of the most peaceful places in China I have come across and there is quite a lot to see including a 1000 year old sleeping Buddha, carved into the rock face.
Dàzú Buddhist Caves
The rock carvings at Dazu were first created in the seventh century and developed over a wide area and with great energy mainly from the late ninth to the mid thirteenth centuries. They represent the last great expression of this monumental art form in China. Comprising more than fifty thousand statues hewn from sandstone outcrops at seventy-five different sites, the Dazu carvings constitute a high point in the history of cave temple art in China. They build on the early cave temple tradition but develop it in new directions, integrating the ideologies of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism to produce sculpted devotional complexes which are uniquely and wholly Chinese in character. Dazu stands apart from other cave temple sites both artistically and in terms of subject matter, much of which is secular in nature. At Baodingshan in particular, there are many charming – as well as sobering – representations of Chinese family and daily life.
The earliest cave temple site in Dazu is Beishan, initiated in 892 by the military commander Wei Junjing and expanded along the rock face for five hundred metres until 1162. In 892 Dazu had been made the administrative seat for a large region in modern central Sichuan and Wei Junjing had been put in charge as Commanding General. The new class of military-civilian administrators was strongly supported by the landowners, and together they became generous and powerful patrons of the religious art that flourished in the Dazu area well into the Song dynasty (960-1279).
Of all the rock-carved sites in Dazu County, the most extensive and impressive is Baodingshan (‘Summit of Treasures’). Executed between 1174 and 1252 under the direction of a local monk called Zhao Zhifeng (born 1159), Baodingshan is the only site in China that embodies the development of Buddhist teaching during the Song dynasty. Here, Zhao Zhifeng planned a place of instruction and ritual practice for the various schools of Buddhism active in Sichuan at the time, including the Pure Land, Huayan and Chan traditions.
Baodingshan is a sequence of thirty-one monumental tableaux carved around a horse-shoe shaped gully. Zhao and his followers gave the site a uniquely coherent character by using a thread of Buddhist doctrine to connect the whole, a fact underlined by the presence throughout of lengthy inscriptions quoting Buddhist scriptures. Religious tenets were also illustrated by references to contemporary popular and elite culture, no doubt reflecting a dependence on patronage from prominent secular figures. Included are representations of Confucian and Daoist beliefs widely held by the ordinary population, such as the important Confucian value of respect between parents and children.
The result is a real treasure house of Chinese art history, an important synthesis of the ideas of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism as well as a fascinating insight into Chinese popular culture. The sequence of carved reliefs is not only impressive in its scale but also extremely rich in content and highly innovative in style. Breaking from the tradition of static, repetitive groupings of three, five or even nine figures that are found in earlier Buddhist cave complexes such as Longmen, they incorporate densely populated scenes that balance sacred subject matter with depictions of everyday life. This unique insight into Song-dynasty society is one of the siteís most distinctive characteristics.
How to get there:
From the Caiyuanba Bus Station in Chongqing take the bus to Dàzú (大足)。 This bus leaves every 30 minutes (7.00-19.00) and takes about 2.5 hours. The bus from Chongqing will drop you off at the Dazu Old Bus Station. From this bus station take the bus 101 or a taxi to get to Dongguanzhan bust stop. A 10 to 15 minutes walk will get you to the entrance of the Buddhist Caves at Treasured Summit Hill (Băodĭng Shān 宝顶山).
The caves at North Hill and South Hill can be reached via short walks from Dàzú town or by taxi while the Stone Gate Hill and Stone Seal Hill, 20 kms southwest of Dàzú town can only be reached by taxi.
Fishing Town Fortress
The Fishing Town Fortress (Diaoyucheng) was initially built in 1243 during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) as a key military town in Chongqing to defend against the Mongols from the north. Famed throughout China for being one of the great ancient battlegrounds, this 700-year-old fortress is perched on top of a 300m-tall hill at a bend in the Jialing River. The Yangzi Basin was the last stand of the Southern Song dynasty and famously, in the 13th century, the fortress withstood the mighty Mongol armies for an incredible 36 years, during which time an estimated 200 battles were fought here. Though numbering more than ten thousand and led by the Great Khan Moengke himself, the Mongols were unable to take the tiny fortress. The commander of the fortress, Yu Jian, won many brilliant victories, culminating in the deaths of Moengke and his vanguard General Wang Tege. The death of Moengke resulted in the immediate withdrawal of all Mongol forces Mongol troops from Syria and East Asia, although it did not prevent the fall of the Southern Song Dynasty.
The fortress was protected by an 8km-long, 30m-tall double wall, punctuated with eight gate towers. Much of the outer wall and all the main gates remain today; some partly restored, others crumbling away. There is little here in terms of facilities apart from a noodle vendor or two, but it’s a fascinating and peaceful place to walk around. Narrow stone pathways lead you through the forest, past Buddhist rock carvings, temples, engraved poems, bamboo groves, the wall and its gateways and some fabulous lookout points. Sights not to miss include the serene, 11m-long, 1000-year-old Sleeping Buddha cut into the overhang of a cliff. the Huguo Temple which dates from the Tang dynasty and the Imperial Cave an ancient drainage passage with steps leading down to it, clinging to the outside of the fort wall.
How to get there:
From the Caiyuanba Bus Station you can take a bus to Héchuān from where you need to take a taxi to the Fortress. The last bus back to Chongqing leaves Héchuān at 6pm. Alternatively, it is also possible to take the train from the Chongqing North Station to Héchuān. I have to admit though that I simply hired a driver for the day in order to take me there.
Wulóng National Geology Park
With its echoing caves, plunging sinkholes, stony ravines, and breath-taking natural bridges, the Wulong National Geology Park represents an integral part of the karst landscape in southern China and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Located in Wulong County of Chongqing Municipality, the park is divided into three major areas, which each encompass a notable attraction. The first section is home to the Three Natural Bridges; the second contains Qingkou Tiankeng; and the third boasts the magnificent Furong Cave.
Not far from the delightfully named town of Xiannushan or “Fairy Mountain”, the Three Natural Bridges are a series of three limestone bridges that were formed naturally over time. They are known as Tianlong or “Sky Dragon”, Qinglong or “Azure Dragon”, and Heilong or “Black Dragon” respectively. As the largest natural bridge cluster in Asia, they certainly live up to their grand names! Each bridge rises at an average height of around 200 metres (656 ft.) and spans approximately 400 metres (1,312 ft.) in length. Tianlong Bridge, which features an ancient military outpost directly within its vast arch, is arguably most well-known as the set of Zhang Yimou’s epic Curse of the Golden Flower . The caves nestled within its expanse are maze-like, with the largest stretching to over 400 metres (1,312 ft.) in length.
Qinglong Bridge is considered to be at its most impressive after rainfall, when a waterfall pours over the arch and forms a light mist. As the sunlight reflects on the mist, it creates a miniature rainbow within the bridge’s arch that is said to appear like a dragon ascending to the heavens. Similarly, Heilong Bridge is so-named for the long, dark ravine running under its arch, which resembles a black dragon winding its way out from under the mountains. On top of the bridge, wide tracts of farmland and four delicate springs support an abundance of lush greenery. These bridges are matched in beauty only by the nearby Xiannu or “Fairy” Mountain, a national forest park made up of snow-capped peaks, verdant forests, and alpine meadows.
By comparison to the lofty heights of the Three Natural Bridges and Fairy Mountain, the Qingkou Tiankeng Scenic Area may seem like a bit of a downer! It is centred on unique karst landforms known as “tiankeng”, which roughly translates to “sinkhole” or “doline”. These are large depressions or chasms in the earth that have been caused by the surface layer either collapsing or being eroded away. The scenic area is unsurprisingly named after its most esteemed resident: the Qingkou Tiankeng. The tiankeng cluster found in this area is thought to be the only one in the world that was formed by surface water erosion. Each of the five sinkholes in this area has an average diameter and depth of around 300 metres (984 ft.), so watch your step and be careful not to fall in! Located on the bank of the Furong River, the final scenic area revolves around Furong or “Lotus” Cave. The cave itself is a whopping 2,846 metres (9,337 ft.) in length, with numerous vertical shafts, stalactites, and stalagmites dotted throughout its hollow expanse. These strange rock formations are said to look like frozen waterfalls and petrified palm trees, creating a labyrinthine fairy-tale world populated by grotesque and alien figures.
How to get there:
As I wanted to visit the Wulong National Geology Park in a single day I asked my hostel in Chongqing to book me onto a Chinese Tour to the park. This is the definitely the easiest way to visit the park, the disadvantage being that you do not get to spend near enough time in the park itself which is pretty spectacular (I got about 3-4 hours in the park itself, the whole trip lasting close to 13 hours). The advantage was that I made friends with some of the Chinese people and ended up having a nice evening meal in Chongqing. If you have plenty of time on your hands you can take a bus from Chongqing’s Sigongli Bus Station to Wulong from where you need to get a taxi to get to the park itself, which is about 22km northeast of Wulong Town. Moreover, you need to arrange transport to get around the park which is absolutely massive.
From Chongqing I took an early high-speed train to Chengdu which took about an hour and three quarters. For a second class ticket you pay about $25. If you are taking a high-speed train which leaves from the Chongqing North Railway Station make sure that you are going to the North Terminal of the Railway Station (Longtousi Subway Station, Line 3) and not to the South Terminal (Chongqing Bei, Line). Both terminals are quite a distance apart and if you get out at the wrong terminal you are likely to miss your train. I managed to avoid this because I asked somebody in the tube whether Chongqing Bei was the right tube station to get out. After telling them that I wanted to go to Chengdu they said I should get out at Longtousi. If you get out at the wrong terminal, all is not lost since there is a bus (No 663) connecting both terminals.
After dropping of my rucksack at my hotel, the Buddha Zen Hotel near the Wenshu Temple, I headed to the Wenshu Temple’s tea garden for several relaxing cups of jasmine tea. The tea garden is located inside a laid-back, little courtyard, which in addition to the tea house, also houses a vegetarian restaurant (which by all accounts is very popular although I did not eat there) and a food stall selling cold noodles. On my first visit to the tea garden I just sat outside, drank tea, chatted to the very friendly waiters/waitresses and engaged in some people watching. During, my second visit I ventured into the tea house itself where I seemed to be the only customer. The inside of the tea house was very beautiful as was the ‘presentation’ of my tea – much prettier than in the courtyard outside. However, this improved presentation also came with an ‘improved’ price tag (although I think I also invested in higher quality tea leaves ).
Another good place to have some tea is the He Ming teahouse in the Chengdu People’s Park. This tea garden is bigger and busier than the one at the Wenshu Temple and the service is less friendly mainly because the waiters/waitresses are busier. Nevertheless, on my day of from sight-seeing I managed to spend an afternoon just sitting here watching the world go by drinking tea and eating plates of cold noodles. For a little extra you can even have your ears cleaned professionally (so to speak), something I have never seen before.
The location of the Buddha Zen Hotel is pretty ideal as it is close to one of the main temples in Chengdu and there are plenty of eateries and teahouses around. Moreover the closest underground station (Line 1, Wenchuyuan Station) is within a 5 minute walk. The area around the Wenchu Temple must have been recently re-developed as quite a few buildings, including the Buddha Zen Hotel have been build in a mock Ming Dynasty style. However, do not let that put you off, the hotel itself is clean, my room was comfortable and the mattresses were, in my opinion, slightly softer than the Chinese standard, which tends to the very hard.
Having recently developed a love for Chinese dry pot I actually ate it several days in a row and my favourite definitely was the chicken and prawn variety. The only problem I had as a solo traveller was that the smallest dry pot, including rice, was easily enough for two people. I have never eaten that many prawns in a single sitting in my whole life.
If you are into Chinese archaeology and early history than Chengdu is the ideal place for you to visit as it is very easy to get to both the Jincha Site and the Sanxingdui Museums. The bronze masks they uncovered at Sanxingdui are breathtakingly beautiful and you can easily spend half a day here. Although, the Jincha Site Museum is not quite as spectacular, it is equally interesting as it is possible to visit the excavation area.
The Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛 – Lèshān Dàfó) is a 71-metre (233 ft) tall stone statue of Buddha Maitreya, carved into the cliff face of the Xiluan Peak of Mt. Lingyun Mountain overlooking the confluence of the Mingjiang, Dadu and Qingyi Jiang Rivers. Construction began in the Tang Dynasty, during the first year of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (713 A.D) and the statue was completed in the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Dezong (803 A.D).
In the eight century Leshan, then known as Jiazhou was a prosperous inland port and trading center. Silk and textiles from Chengdu and agricultural products from the Chuanxi Plains were shipped down the Minjiang River to join the Qingyi Jiang and Dadu rivers which opened up trade routes with the rest of China. However, during the flood season the confluence of these three fast-flowing rivers, which joined at the base of Mt. Lingyun caused dangerous turbulences that capsized boats and resulted in a large numbers of death every season. In order to appease the river gods and to calm the turbulent rivers below Mt. Lingyun, a monk named Hai Tong, decided to carve a giant statue of Buddha Maitreya beside the river. According to legend, Hai Tong who was born in Guizhou and lived in the Lingyun Monastery , begged for 20 years to acquire the necessary funds for his work. When the funding for the Giant Buddha was threatened by local government officials requiring large amounts of money from Hai Tong, he told them that they could have his eyeballs but not the money for the construction of the Buddha. He then gouged out his own eyes to show his sincerity and devotion to the cause, thus scaring the government officials aways and saving the money to start building the state of Buddha Maitreya. Unfortunately, carving the statue out of the clidd face was such massive undertaking and took such a long time that Hai Tong passed away when only the head and chest of the statue were completed. After his death, construction became stuck due to insufficient funding and only resumed seventy years later, when two military governors, Zhangqiu Jianqiong and Wei Gao of Xichuan, Jiannan Prefecture raised funds to continue the construction of the statue, which was completed by Hai Tong’s disciples in 803 A.D. The original stele describing the construction of the Giant Buddha can still be seen today on the cliff on the right of the statue. Apparently, the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the water safe for passing ships.
The entire statue was carved into the cliff face, except the 7m long ears which were constructed out of wood, the attached to the statue and covered with clay. The buddha’s head is about 15 meters high and is covered in 1021 spiralling curves. Moreover, Until its destruction by the Mongols at the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the statue was covered by a huge thirteen storey structure in order to protect it from the elements. In addition, the Tang dynasty architects incorporated a sophisticated, internal drainage system, consisting of hidden gutters and channels that are hidden inside the statue’s hair, collar, chest and ears, into the giant statue to prevent the deterioration of the surface by water runoff, a system that still is in working order today.
How to get there:
I took the high-speed train from Chengdu East to Leshan which takes about 50 minutes. The price for a second class single ticket is $9. From the Leshan train station take the bus No 3 to get to the Great Buddha. The earliest train leaves Chengu at about 6am and they run roughly every half an hour. The latest train back to Chengdu leaves at 9pm and goes back to Chengdu South.
In 1929, a peasant in Sichuan province, on the western borders of China’s traditional territory, uncovered jade and stone artefacts whilst repairing a sewage ditch. This was a site that was located about forty kilometres (twenty-four miles) from Chengdu, but following these initial, accidental finds it was largely forgotten for second time. The significance of the jade and stone was not understood until 1986, when archaeologists unearthed two pits of Bronze Age treasures that included jades, about a hundred elephant tusks, and stunning, giant bronze sculptures 2.4 metres-high (eight feet) that suggest an impressive technical ability, one that was present nowhere else in the world at the time at which they were made.
The treasures, which had been broken and buried as if they had been sacrificed, came from a lost ancient Chinese civilisation, now known as the Sanxingdui. Further excavations revealed that the pits were part a walled city which occupied an area of some 3.5 square kilometres. Sanxingdui is the type-site of the Sanxingdui Culture which dates back to about 1600 BCE and which spread across western and southern parts of China and was contemporary with the Erlitou culture centred on the eastern province of Henan, and the later part of the Shang Dynasty based at Anyang.
The people of this civilisation had previously been lost to history. They lived in a walled city on the banks of the Minjiang River, but had not developed writing, although it was already in use by the Zhou dynasty to the east, four hundred kilometres (250 miles) away. The development of a culture this far west in China was something of a surprise. It was also a challenge to the accepted narrative of Chinese culture and development happening almost solely along the Yellow River. A new model of Chinese cultural emergence has had to be developed which sees several centres of innovation appearing, many of which contributed either directly or indirectly to China’s development. That achieved, much greater freedom has been gained to examine sites of interest far and wide across China.
Archaeologists now believe that the culture deliberately dismantled itself at a point in time between 1000 BC and 800 BC. Explanations for why it disappeared involved war and flood, but neither were very convincing. Then, around AD 2000, archaeologists found the remains of another ancient city, one called Jinsha, again near Chengdu. Although the Jinsha site contained none of the impressive bronzes of Sanxingdui, it did yield up a gold crown with an engraved motif of fish, arrows, and birds that was very similar to a golden staff found at Sanxingdui. This led some scholars to believe that the people from Sanxingdui may have relocated to Jinsha.
The reason for the move was another mystery though. In 2014 a study by river science researchers at Tsinghua University in Chengdu came to the conclusion that the culture had ended due to the effects of a massive earthquake shortly after 1000 BC. The catastrophe, it is theorised, may have dammed the river high up in the mountains, long before it reached the city. A long stretch of the Yanmen Ravine through which the river now flows, high up in the mountains, is missing the normal signs here of glacial erosion, suggesting that these signs were wiped out by the earthquake and subsequent rock fall. The water would have diverted here, finding a new route, one which took it well away from the city and thereby reduced the available water supply.
More recently, the Sanxingdui culture has been linked to the ancient kingdom of Shu (from which comes the modern Sichuan name). This little-recorded kingdom was also centred on the Sichuan Basin, and was not considered to be part of China ‘proper’ until its conquest by the Qin in 316 BC, during the Warring States period.
The Sanxingdui Museum consists of two exhibition halls covering nearly 12000 square meters. Gallery one displays a variety of artifacts made of gold, bronze, jade, and pottery. Gallery two exhibits bronze statues, sculptures, masks, and other bronze artifacts that have amazed scholars by their craftsmanship and unique styles. Their bronze craftsmanship was brilliant. The smiths mixed tin, copper and lead in a proportion that enabled them to cast some of the largest Bronze-age objects ever found.
How to get there:
I think the easiest way to get to the Sanxingdui Museum is to take a direct bus from the Xinnanmen Bus Station. Buses leave six times a day between 8.30am and 3pm and return to the Xinnanmen Bus Station every quarter of an hour or so between 6.40am and 6.50pm.
Jinsha Site Museum
The Jinsha site was discovered in 2001, in the western suburbs of Chengdu. Located about 50 km away from Sanxingdui, the site flourished around 1000 BC and shares cultural similarities with the Sanxingdui site. Unlike the site at Sanxingdui, Jinsha did not have a city wall. The Jinsha culture (1200–650 BC) was the final phase of Sanxingdui culture. Both Sanxingdui and Jinsha belonged to the ancient Shu Kingdom and as such the move form Sanxingdui to Jinsha represents a relocation of the political center away from Sanxingdui.
The whole site covers about 500 hectars of which about 30 have been excavated. The museum basically consists of 2 main areas namely the “Relic Hall” and the “Exhibition Hall”. In the “Relic Hall” you can wonder around part of the excavated area via an elevated walkway, while many of the artifacts discovered during the excavation are displayed in the “Exhibition Hall” .
How to get there:
Getting to the museum is straightforward. Take the metro line 2 to Yipintianxia (一品天下）and then it is about an 800 meters walk down the Middle Ringroad Tonghe Road (中环路同和路） to the Jinsha Site Museum.
Mount Qingcheng is reputed to be the birthplace of Taoism. In 142 CE the philosopher Zhang Dao-Ling founded the doctrine of Taoism here and in the following year he reputedly took up permanent residence in what became known as the Celestial Cave of the Tianshi. During the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE ) a number of Taoist temples were built on the mountain, and it became the centre from which the teachings of Taoism were disseminated widely throughout China. During the Tang Dynasty the works of Du Guang-ting, one of the most important figures in Chinese thought and science, were collected together there as what came to be known as the “Taoist Scriptures”.
The Qingcheng Shan range towers above the Chengdu Plain, and the Min River flows down one of its slopes, creating a scenic area that covers 200 square kilometers. The mountain range has about 36 peaks the tallest being the Laoxiao Ding with an elevation of 1,260 meters above sea level. The peaks stand in a circle like an ancient wall protecting a city. Trees grow luxuriantly on the mountains, creating greenery all year round, and giving it the name Qingcheng Shan — ‘green city wall mountains’. The Qingcheng Shan park is divided into two parts, called the “Front Mountain” and the “Back Mountain” . The “Front Mountain” has long been a major travel highlight in the Chengdu area because of its numerous ancient Taoist and Buddhist Temples, the main ones being Jianfu Palace at the base of the mountain, the Tianshi Celestial Cave and the Shanqing Palace. The “Nack Mountain” which has only opened up fairly recently, is, on the other hand, pretty much devoid of temples. However, with its beautiful nature it is a good place to go for hikes and to escape the hustle and bustle of Chengdu City.
How to get there:
In order to get to Qingcheng Shan I took the metro to Xipu, which is the last stop on the Metro line 2. At Xipu I caught a train to Qingcheng Shan station from where a bus (No 101) takes you to the Qian Shan, the front side of the mountain. If you want to go the more rugged north side you need to take a tourist bus, which also leaves in from of the station.