Just one of the several ancient temples open to the public at Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui province on October 14, 2010. (Photo: CRIENGLISH.com)
Outside of Tongling,in the southeastern part of Chizhou city, Anhui province, lies Jiuhua Mountain. Its name literally means "Nine Brilliant Mountains," but the 100 square kilometer area actually consists of 99 peaks, with the tallest one reaching 1,341 meters. It's a lush, green mountainous area where Buddhist and Taoist monks live among the low hanging clouds and bamboo trees harmoniously with nature. Most of the Buddhist temples found here are of Mahayana Buddhism origins, with the more remote peaks belonging to the Taoist Buddhist school of thought.
In wanting to understand China more, I realized that it is necessary to explore the country's ancient past, rather than only on its recent history. How one goes about that and where one decides to start depends mostly on circumstance and luck. Thankfully there's no set way or prescribed path. It's more about being in the right place at the right time, where you accidentally stumble upon something you never knew existed. So after spending five days in Tongling, myself and other reporters from CRI were treated to an excursion through the holy area of Jiuhua Mountain, which was nice to way to end several days celebrating the 11th Annual Bronze Exhibition.
The bus up the mountain was a careful ride which took us on a winding and twisting journey through one of China's most sacred mountain ranges. As for its religious past, Jiuhua Mountain is known as the home to Dizang Pusa, the God of the Underworld.
Without question, Jiuhua Mountain's 99 peaks make it one of China's most amazing scenic destinations—it could easily take days to cover this vast expanse. It's a vibrant place alive with the Buddhist and Taoist monks living there among ancient temples. You'll only find vegetarian restaurants here, along with small shops selling incense, local woodwork carvings, and other souvenirs. The area also offers affordable hotels for those who want to spend more time within this tranquil sanctuary. And please be respectful, cameras are not allowed inside any of the ancient temples, nor are visitors allowed to take photos even from the outside.
A temple courtyard where cauldrons of incense is burned while visitors pray to Buddha on October 14, 2010.(Photo: CRIENGLISH.com)
Legend has it that Jiuhua Mountain became famous in the year 747 A.D., when the Chinese poet Li Bai met Kim Kiao Kak, a Korean prince who died in the mountains after seventy-five years of praying to Dizang Pusa. Li Bai's fate was quite different. He died in the nearby Yangtze River while trying to embrace the reflection of the moon, but luckily not before writing some of the finest poetry in literary history.
Another unique feature of the area is its abundance of bamboo trees. The Minyuan Garden is a place where one can absorb this natural treasure, as this area consists of 160 hectares of thick green bamboo trees. Other places not to miss are the Longxi (Dragon) Stream, Ancient Phoenix Pine (over 1,000 years old), Huayan Cave, Telpher Stop, Huiju Temple, and the Green Cloud Nunnery.
After a vegetarian lunch consisting of noodles, soup, rice, boiled snails and other dishes, we descended the rainy mountain all feeling, for one reason or another, more peaceful. The area has a meditative quality to it you won't find among many mountain ranges.
One of my favorite things about living in China is discovering the surprises it has to offer. Enjoying the scenery and peacefulness of Jiuhua Mountain is something everyone should take in at least once, regardless of where you live or where you're from. For those already in China, you have no excuse; go as soon as you can.
One of the many incense cauldrons found at various temples throughout Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui province on October 14, 2010. (Photo: CRIENGLISH.com)
By Lance Crayon (CRIENGLISH.com)