Mt. Emei inSichuan Province

“Beauty Under Heaven” is how Mount Emei has been described by Chinese men of letter since ancient time. “The State of Shu” abounds in fairy mountains, but none the match of Emei” wrote the great poet of the Tang dynasty Li Bai (Bo), who lived from 701 to 762. Mount Emei is one of the four mountain ranges in China held sacred by Buddhists. It is located in Sichuan (Szechuan) Province, about 155 kilometers southeast of Chengdu, the provincal capital.

The range is carpeted in azaleas, ancient gingko trees, dove trees arid cedars, specimens which are of great value in botanical research. Medicinal herbs are ubiquitous, while Emei is a and birds. The lesser panda, serow, which is a species of goat antelope, and the silver pheasant live bere. Monkeys abound. It is a haven of butterflies, which seek the deep shadows. Identification of 280 species has been made, including the exotic multi-color phoenix butterfly and the withered-leaf butterfly which looks for all the world like a sere oval-shaped leaf. There are tree-climbing frogs and some gold-color ones whose croaking is really pleasant.

Complementing the natural beauty of Mount Emei are the towers, temples and pavilions set amidst the slopes.

Climbers of the mountain start at Baoguo Temple built in the 16th century and located at Emei’s foot. In the temple grounds is a 7-meter high, I4-story bronze tower engraved with some 4,700 Buddhist figures and the Huayan Sat:as in full.

About a quarter of the way up is Qingyin (Pure Sound) Pavilion surrounded by green cliffs. It was built in the 4th century. The Heilong (Black Dragon) and Bailong (White Dragon) streams flow rapidly on either side, spaned by two parallel arched bridges. The turbulent waters of the two “dragons” merge below the pavilion to crash against a huge heart- shaped rock and roar thunderously, sending spume into the air to form a cloud of mist which appears as a rainbow in the sun.

A narrow plank pathway squeezes its way between two sheer precipices, while beneath it the crystal-dear Black Dragon Stream gurgles down the narrow valley. Overhanging vine: covered cliffs nearly meet above, revealing only what is called “A Strip of Heaven”. Proceed for another ten kilometers and you’ll be at Hong-chunping, a mountain glen with dense woods and bamboo groves. A drizzle is common here in early morning, the air is refreshing, and the place is a welcome retreat from summer heat.

Scenes along the way as you climb over brooks and along mountain paths will often remind you of a landscape painting. Fairy Peak Temple bas a rare plant whose: hire blossom with two slender petals like the wings of a dove gives it the name “dove tree”. Beside Fairy Peak Temple is a cave large enough for some ten thousand people if they crowd in. Call out in front of the cave and your voice bounces back from deep inside. Bats and cliff swallows are permanent dwellers of the cave.

Another 14 kilometers’ ascent brings you to Elephant Bath Pond, so named from the legend, when the Buddha Samantabhabra mounted the Golden Summit on an elephant, he stopped here to wash his mount. Moonlight filtering through the dense foliage here casts a lace-like pattern of light on the mirror-smooth pool and is especially enchanting.