Trek to Taoist Tranquility on Misty Sanqing Mountain

If you want to find a good mountain, follow the Taoists. Eager to find a tranquil place to cultivate themselves and to meet the immortals, they are regular visitors of beautiful mountains.

Sanqing Mountain in Jiangxi Province, although not very well-known to many people today, was regarded as a sacred place for Taoists in the Tang Dynasty period (618-907), when Taoism was at its most popular. The mountain remained very popular among people seeking immortality until the 18th century, when Emperor Qianlong preferred Buddhism to Taoism.

Sanqing Mountain's fame as a Taoist resort has faded, but its natural beauty remains. Stay on the mountain for a day, and you will understand why ancient Taoist master Ge Hong (284-364) made pills of immortality here more than 1,700 years ago.

With beautiful clouds, mist and strange-shaped pine trees, Sanqing Mountain is a fairyland far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The mountain is shrouded in mist for about 200 days each year. On misty days, dense fog envelops the mountain completely and makes you think you are wandering in the clouds. Once in a while, wind blows away the mist, and a stiff, imposing peak suddenly appears right in front of you. Sometimes you can even see the fog creep up on you, gently penetrating the pine trees on the cliff.

About 80 percent of Sanqing Mountain is covered by primeval forests. More than 2,500 kinds of plants exist here, most of which can be used to make traditional Chinese medicine.

Because it has plenty of clouds, the mountain is an excellent place to watch the sun rise and set. Huge clouds become splendidly red, as if half the sky were on fire.

Pine trees on Sanqing Mountain are as beautiful as those on Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province, where they are regarded as the most beautiful in China. Many pine trees on the mountain are more than 100 years old. Many years of exposure to wind, sunshine and rain have twisted their branches and wrinkled their trunks and bark, which has given them strength and charm like old men's wisdom.

A 500-year-old pine tree on the 1,500-meter-high Yutai platform is a good example of the mountain's pine trees. The tree is 1.1 meters in perimeter and three meters in height. Its branches twist like a snake, while its roots are anchored deep in the narrow gaps between rocks.

Like most mountains, the most beautiful view is from the summit of Sanqing Mountain, though the 1,800-meter-high mountain peak has remained inaccessible to ordinary tourists until recently because it is very rugged and steep.

In 1995, a cable car was built to take tourists up to about 1,600 meters high. From 1,600 meters to the peak, a concrete path was built along the sheer rock face. Walking on the path -- said to be the highest tourist trail in the world -- is an exciting experience. On one side the cliffs rise sheer above you, while on the other side a deep valley falls below you. But for the handrail, one would easily fall a thousand meters to the foot of the rock face.

Travel Tips

To go to Sanqing Mountain, take a train to Shangrao or Yingtan station in Jiangxi Province and transfer to the mountain by bus. There is no direct train from Shenzhen and you have to take a train in Guangzhou Railway Station or East Guangzhou station.

Recommended trains: K48, which starts at 9:14 a.m. from Guangzhou Railway Station and arrives at Shangrao at 1:46 a.m. the next morning; K210, which leaves Guangzhou Railway Station at 2:58 p.m. and arrives at Shangrao at 7:43 a.m. the next day, and 2091, which leaves Guangzhou East Railway Station at 1:12 p.m. and arrives at Yingtan at 5:47 a.m. the next morning.

To watch sunrise, stay near Yuntai Platform. The best seasons for watching sunsets are autumn and winter, when there is less rainfall.

Take warm coats with you even in summertime, as it might be quite cold in early mornings and late evenings.

The area is famous for its local fish, chicken, tea and pears.

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Sanqing Mountain 3

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update by Rocky Huang on 2009-06-15