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Mount. Huashan in Shaanxi

As early as two thousand years ago the Huashan was recognized as one of the five great mountains of China. One hundred and twenty kilometers east of the ancient city of Xi’an, it is known for its sheer cliffs and precipices. Countless poets and scholars have attempted to capture its awesome grandeur. Five peaks are most prominent: the North, South, East, West and Middle Peaks. The South Peak is the tallest at 2,100 meters and is accessible only from the North Peak. Indeed to reach any of the other peaks one must start the climb at the foot of the North Peak. Yuquan Garden(Jade Fountain Garden)is the starting point. Xi Yi, a scholar of the tenth century, was said to have lived here as a hermit having escaped officaildom for the seclusions of Huashan. He sleeps here today, a reclining statue in the temple dedicated to him. The mountain path is rough; the rigors of the first stretch-“18 Bends”一is relieved only by occasional pauses to savor the surrounding mountain scene. Eighteen Bends leads to a small basin. From here on, the climb becomes ever more perilous. Imperial Court officials who made the climb in sedan chairs would end their trip here. Two words carved into a nearby rock warn: “Turn Back”. The steepness of the path ahead of the steps leading upward look like a ladder hanging over the cliff. Only those who choose to face the danger with strength and courage continue their climb. Only they can enjoy the supreme beauty of Hua shan.

The path upward is almost perpendicular. Steps were cut into the rock face by travelers who climbed here through the centuries past. Iron chains have been installed for support. The crevice of ‘Thousand Feet Precipice’’is only wide enough for one person to pass through at a time. Farther on is another flight of 570 stone steps. Cut out of the sheer cliff is“Laojun’s Furrow”. Laojun, an immortal in Chinese mythology, is said to have been so moved by the suffering of the people burdened with cutting the path that one night he ploughed out a path with his ox. His plough was said to have hung on a rocky hook on the North Peak. Beyond the“Furrow” is the“Monkey’s Frown’’a dangerously steep Recent that causes even monkeys To gaze upon it with hesitation. Conquer this obstacle and the North Peak greets you with open-arms at 1,520 meters. In mid-June of l949, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, winning battle after battle, pushed Chiang Kai shek’s troops into retreat. A remnant band of these troops in Shaanxi fled to Huashan. Taking advantage of the natural barriers, they entrenched themselves for the last stand with only one route up the mountain, they kept close guard feeling a measure of security. Never could they imagine that a PLA unit of seven Men, with the help of the local people, would perform the impossible. Climbing up the eastern slope by rope and bamboo pole they stabbed into the heart of the enemy. The Chiang Kai-shek forces, taken by surprise, were thoroughly defeated by the main forces which followed.

A single“Blue Dragon Ridge”links the North Peak with the four others. Only two or three feet wide, sheer cliffs drop away for thousands of feet on either side. The path narrows at times so that to go forward along “Ear Touching Cliff”, for Instance, you must literally cling to the side of the precipice. Finally, in a depression at the foot of Middle Peak, with East, West and South Peaks almost surrounding you on three sides, you can pause to rest in safety.

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