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March 28, 2011

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Home » Feature » Travel

Time to take a hike

CHINA is a paradise for hikers, trekkers and mountain climbers of all skill levels. And as the weather warms, it's time for hiking. Chen Ye is our guide.

North, south, east and west, China has mountains to match the expectations and test the skills of beginning, intermediate and expert climbers.There are many delightful hikes that stop short of being real climbs. The scenery is breathtaking and there's lots of culture along the way.

Here are some springtime climbs.

Mt Putuo

Zhejiang Province

Only six hours' journey from Shanghai, Mt Putuo on an island in the East China Sea is one of China's four Buddhist mountains along with Mt Wutai in Shanxi Province, Mt Emei in Sichuan Province and Mt Jiuhua in Anhui Province.

The mountain in Zhejiang Province is part of a scenic archipelago. Its highest peak is only around 290 meters above sea level and Mt Putuo is really just a stroll.

The area features lush greenery, strange rock formations and interesting temples. The view from the summit over the Zhoushan Archipelago is breathtaking.

At its peak period, Mt Putuo had 82 temples with more than 4,000 monks and nuns. Tourists walking along mountain paths encounter many monks, who sometimes share their wisdom with visitors. Most temples are sacred to Guanyin, the goddess of Mercy.

There are three major temples on Mt Putuo today: Puji, Fayu and Huiji temples.

The most famous is Puji Temple covering 11,000 square meters and featuring a giant statue of Guanyin in the middle of the main hall, surrounded by 32 smaller statues of the goddess. There are nine halls in the temple.

Fayu Temple was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and incorporates the topography. Tall and ancient trees give it an atmosphere of tranquillity.

Huiji Temple, also built in the Ming Dynasty, is atop the mountain.

A night market on the island sells souvenirs of Mt Putuo and nearby eateries specialize in local snacks and seafood. There are many vegetarian restaurants.

In the main square near Puji Temple, guidebooks and maps in English are available.

Mt Wuyi

Fujian Province

A more challenging but not difficult climb is Mt Wuyi, averaging 350 meters above sea level in coastal Fujian Province where the climate is warm and mild. It has a reputation as the most charming mountain in southeastern China. There are spectacular cliffs, waterfalls and vistas as well as temples and relics.

It is also famous for Wuyi Oolong rock tea, so called because tea bushes grow in rocky areas and are nurtured by the mists and perfect temperature.

The name Wuyi comes from an legend about Wu and Yi, the sons of an 800-year-old hermit who lived on magical ganoderma mushroom. In ancient times flooding caused great suffering to people and damage to crops, so the two cut through the mountain and tamed the raging river by channeling it into nine branches. A palace was built in their name.

The area has one of the world's largest intact mid subtropical ecosystems. More than 90 percent of the area is covered by forest; more than 3,000 species of trees and plants grow there, and it is home to more than 400 species of animals.

A major attraction is Dawang Peak and Yunu Peak, which face each other, like a couple in love. The area is one of cliffs and luxuriant vegetation.

Legend has it that long ago a king fell in love with a commoner but she did not accept him because she knew their different rank would spell misfortune. The king would not give up; he asked a witch to turn the girl into Yunu peak so she would be there forever. He stood enthralled and finally he too became a mountain, Dawang Peak.

Jiuqu River, also known as Nine-Bend River, is popular for boating and riding a bamboo raft for sightseeing along its 9-kilometer length. The water is so pure and clear that pebbles and fish are clear visible.

How to get there

? Mt Putuo:

By boat - Take a 1 1/2 hour bus from Shanghai Nanpu Bridge Long-Distance Bus Station (1588 Waima Rd) to Luchao Port. Then it's a three-hour boat ride.

By bus - From Shanghai South Passenger Transport Terminal (289 Laohumin Rd), luxury buses regularly go to Zhoushan (five hours) where a fast boat takes another one hour to Mt Putuo.

? Mt Wuyi: A 10-hour train goes directly from Shanghai South Railway Station to the mountain area. Through April 29, special weekend trains leave Shanghai at 8:35pm Friday and return at 6:40am Monday.


Mt Emei

Sichuan Province

Another sacred Buddhist peak, Mt Emei in Sichuan Province, is a world heritage site dotted with beautiful temples and called by poets "the greatest beauty under heaven" and the "mountain of brightness."

It is said that the first Buddhist temple in China was built on Mt Emei, which is 3,099 meters above sea level, the highest of the four sacred Buddhist mountains.

It is famous for sunrises and the "Buddhist Light," a halo or rainbow created by perfect conditions of mist, clouds, light and landforms. Tourists and pilgrims can stay in a lodge at the summit.

Many temples and shrines are to be found along the way through luxuriant vegetation. Monkeys, birds and butterflies can be seen. Monkeys can be quite demanding of food from tourists.

Mt Emei (meaning a beauty's eyebrow) is so called because two of its facing peaks resemble the eyebrows of a traditional Chinese beauty.

In spring, the mountain is green, pink and white with blossoming trees. In autumn the leaves turn red, amber and gold. In winter it's beautiful and covered with snow, but too dangerous for climbing.

Standing in the mountains, one can often see swirling white clouds that obscure and then reveal mountains and vistas.

The major attraction, Baoguo Temple, is in the center of the Buddhist area of temples and shrines filled with relics. It was built in the Ming Dynasty and has been reconstructed. The temple's name was inscribed by the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Wannian Temple, literally 10,000 years' temple, is awe-inspiring in autumn because people can enjoy two different climates as they climb from the bottom to the top of the site, temple after temple on the mountainside.

A visit to Jiulao Cave, meaning nine seniors' cave, is popular because it is said to bring luck and a long and healthy life.

Legend has it that an emperor traveled to the site and saw an old man with silver hair practicing tai chi in front of the cave - obviously he had found the secret of youth and long life.

Yellow Mountain

Anhui Province

It's said that everyone should climb Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) once in their life because it is one of the greatest symbols of China. It is memorialized in paintings, poetry, music and martial arts films. The world heritage site in Anhui Province is 30 kilometers from east to west and 40 kilometers from north to south. The highest peak is 1,864 meters above sea level.

It is famous for bizarre rock formations and ancient pine trees, often growing from rocks at seemingly impossible angles. And of course the seas of clouds and mists. And waterfalls, streams and hot springs. The seasons are distinct. In spring it's green, blossoming and fragrant; in autumn, it's a blaze of color and in winter, it's a snow maiden.

Mountains and rocks bear colorful names. The Lion Peak looks like a lion and atop it is a huge stone named Monkey Watching the Sea. From Lotus Peak the view of the cloud seas is breathtaking.

Like Mt Emei, Yellow Mountain is famous for sunrise, ideally seen on Bright Peak.

Visitors should check the weather frequently since some peaks may be closed for safety reasons, such as heavy rain and ice.

How to get there

? Mt Emei: Take a flight from Shanghai to Chengdu (about three hours), then a bus to the mountain (about two hours).

? Yellow Mountain: Expressway bus takes 4 1/2hours from Shanghai to Tunxi, a town at the foot of the mountain, then another 40 minutes' bus ride to the mountain area.


Yulong Snow Mountain

Yunnan Province

On the southeast edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yulong, or Jade Dragon, Snow Mountain in Yunnan Province is for professional climbers only. But much of the mountain area is popular all year for hiking and covers several climate zones.

It has 13 peaks, the highest being Shanzidou at 5,596 meters above sea level. Shanzidou came to the world's notice during World War II when US pilots could clearly see it as one silver color signal while flying hundreds of miles away along one enormous mountain.

It is said that viewed from Lijiang ancient town, 25km away from Yulong, the mountain looks like a flying dragon playing with snow and clouds. Legend has it that from day to night, the jade dragon keeps on fighting and protecting their homeland with 13 swords, finally the devil gone in the dust and jade dragon disappeared.

The mountain area, which covers different climate zones, is home to more than 30 types of rare protected animal, including the snow leopard, scaly ant eater, Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, forest musk deer and spotted civet cat.

There is a saying that Yulong has 12 faces for 12 months. In spring it's famous for blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons and in autumn the sunset colors seem to move in the wind.


1. Choose a climb appropriate to your skill level.

2. Do not climb alone, always with a partner or group.

3. Check the weather before and during the climb.

4. Dress appropriately, wear comfortable boots and a hat.

5. Pack a water-proof coat, fresh water, food, first-aid kit, flashlight, sunscreen, sunglasses, change of clothes, maps and other items.


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