Huaqing Pool is situated about 35 kilometres east of the city of Xi‘an. Historically, the Western Zhou dynasty saw the construction of the Li Palace on the spot. In the Qin dynasty a pool was built with stones, and was given the name Lishan Tang (the Lishan Hot Spring). The site was extended into a palace in the Han dynasty, and renamed the Li Palace (the Resort Palace). In the Tang dynasty, Li Shimin (Emperor Tai Zong) ordered to construct the Hot Spring Palace, and Emperor Xuan Zong had a walled palace built around Lishan Mountain in the year of 747. It was known as the Huaqing Palace. It also had the name Huaqing Pool on account of its location on the hot springs.
Huaqing Pool is located at the foot of the Lishan Mountain, a branch range of the Qinling Ranges, and stands 1,256 metres high. It is covered with pines and cypresses, looking very much like a like a dark green galloping horse from a long distance. So it has the name of the Lishan Mountain (Li means a black horse).
The Tang dynasty Emperor Xuan Zong and his favourite lady, Yang Gui Fei used to make their home at Frost Drifting Hall in winter days. When winter came, snowflakes were floating in the air, and everything in sight was white. However, they came into thaw immediately in front of the hall. It owed a great deal to the luke warm vapour rising out of the hot spring. This is the Frost Drifting Hall that greets us today.
Close by the Frost Drifting Hall lies the Nine Dragon Pool. According to legend, the Central Shaanxi Plain was once stricken by a severe drought in the very remote past. Thus, by the order of the Jade Emperor (the Supreme Deity of Heaven), an old dragon came at the head of eight young ones, and made rain here. Yet when the disaster was just abating, they lowered their guard so much that it became serious again. In a fit of anger, the Jade Emperor kept the young dragons under the Jade Cause Way (玉堤), with the Morning Glow Pavilion and the Sunset Pavilion built at both ends of it respectively, to make the young dragons spout cleat water all day long to meet the needs of local irrigation. Besides, he had the old dragon confined to the bottom of the Roaring Dragon Waterside Pavilion situated at the upper end of the Jade Causeway, and obliged him to exercise control over the young.
The Nine-Bend Corridor west of the Nine Dragon Pool leads directly to the Marble Boat, which resembles a dragon boat on the water surface. In the Marble Boat lies the Nine Dragon Tang (the Nine Dragon Hot Spring where Emperor Xuan Zong used to take baths). At the head of his court ladies and hundreds of his officials, he would come to the Huanqing Palace to spend his winter days in October of the Lunar calendar and return to Chang‘an City as the year drew to its close. The Nine Dragon Hot Spring was originally built with crystal jade, whose surface was decorated with the carvings of fish, dragons, birds and flowers. In it twin lotus flowers also carved with white jade could be seen as well. The spring water welled from the break of an earthen jar, and spouted up to the lotus flowers. Hence the name Lotus Flower Tang (the Lotus Flower Hot Spring).
Hua Shan is the highest of Chinas five sacred mountains. It is 120 kilometers east of Xian. It has five peaks that resemble the petals of a flower. The highest peak is 2180 meters (7085 feet)。
We had had discussions about going to Hua Shan with some graduate students from Computer Science. That didnt work out due to changes in schedules on both sides. Also, they were planning to do the climb at night to be able to reach the peak at sunrise. That did not appeal to us. We wanted to spend a night on the mountain. Frans department arranged a trip for us, making reservations at the simple hotel on the North Peak. They sent two graduate students to accompany us, though they had not been to Hua Shan before. We met them at 8:00 on Saturday morning and took a taxi to the train station. There we asked around and located a mini-bus. The bus made a couple of stops. One was to see a presentation about the traditional medicines grown on the mountain and a chance to buy some of them. It probably would have been interesting if we understood Chinese. Our guides gave us the general outline about what was said. The other stop was a quick lunch stop.
There are two approaches to Hua Shan. [Chinese proverb: “There is one road and only one road to Hua Shan,” meaning that sometimes the hard way is the only way.] The west entrance involves 10 kilometers of walking on a road before you start climbing. We went with the east entrance, where the bus brings you to the base of a cable car that goes up to the 1500 meter North Peak. Our plan was to walk up to the North Peak, then climb to the four other peaks the next day and take the cable car down.
We started the climb in the early afternoon. The path consists of stone steps with rough chain link handrails in the narrowest areas (we wore our bicycling gloves for hand protection)。 Physically, it is more like climbing the steps of a skyscraper than trails at home. However, the temperature was about 95 degrees and there was not much shade. We brought lots of water, including some bottles that we froze and some Gatorade that we got at the fancy department store in downtown Xian. There are plenty of refreshment stands along the way where you can buy bottled water, the Chinese equivalent of Gatorade, and other drinks or snacks at a premium price.
We reached the North Peak before 4:00 PM and rested at the hotel. Our room was basic, but comfortable and clean enough. Because water is scarce on the mountain, there were neither showers nor sinks available for washing. In that sense the experience felt like camping, but we were sleeping in a big tent!
After dinner at the hotel restaurant, we spent some time talking with our guides. We were a bit surprised to find that they both think of Japan negatively, but like the U.S. It seems that Japans WWII behavior in China has not been forgotten, and is emphasized in school.
We saw a beautiful sunset and watched the sky become resplendent with thousands of stars, including the Milky Way galaxy. This was the clearest sky that we have seen in China. The fresh air at Hua Shan is a treat!
Our guides had both been planning to get up at 4:00 AM to watch the sunrise. Fran and I made sleep a priority. We did happen to wake up a bit before sunrise (our room faced east) and went outside to watch the sky become rosy. Ironically, our guides missed the sunrise because they had stayed up late watching the European soccer championships on the television in their room
The plan for the day was to climb the other four peaks, but we reserved the right to shorten the route. The first part was a steep climb to Middle Peak. After the low North Peak, all the others are at roughly 2000 meters. There were crowds on the way to Middle Peak – mostly Chinese hikers but we did see a few other wai guo (foreigners) as well.
We visited two Taoist temples en route to Middle Peak. Each one had an altar with incense and offerings of fruit. The friendly monks invited us to say a prayer or to send blessings to loved ones. Fran accepted their invitation. At the first temple, she lit incense sticks and knelt on a cushion in front of the altar saying a silent prayer for our safe journey to the various summits of Hua Shan (the prayer was answered)。 At the second temple, she knelt on a cushion in front of the altar and sent silent blessings to several friends who are experiencing challenging situations in their lives at present. After each blessing, she leaned forward and the monk struck a drum.
After Middle Peak, the crowds got much thinner. The next was East Peak, which had a steep ladder climbing rock. Fran was dubious about this ascent, but realized that the ladder wasnt so bad and went for it. That was a good decision because we were then able to do a loop and the trails got almost empty at this point. After skirting the top of a cliff with a steep dropoff on both sides, we had a pleasant walk to South Peak and West Peak. There was even a small amount of dirt trail! The summit of South Peak was the highest point on Hua Shan, so of course we asked another hiker to take a photo of our guides and us. The views from the tops of each peak were beautiful. Hua Shan and the surrounding mountains are very rugged and remind us somewhat of hiking in the southwestern United States or the Sierras.
We took a route that eventually brought us to the main line returning down from Middle to North Peak. We were happy to have ascended each of the five peaks (petals) of Flower Mountain.
By cable car (the longest in Asia)， it was just 7 minutes down to the park entrance. We caught a shuttle bus into town, then transferred to a bus for Xian.
Our guides told us that we had walked up and down a total of 4000 stairs! We were glad that we did not have this information when we started. For three days after returning home, our sore leg muscles instructed us to take the elevator to our fifth floor apartment rather than climbing the stairs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Hello! I am your guide on this trip to Huashan Mountain, Gu Shiyin. I will show you the beautiful scenery of Huashan Mountain.
Let me introduce Huashan to you first. Huashan Mountain is a scenic spot in the " Natural and Cultural Heritage List" or a national AAAAA scenic spot.
The place where we are now is Yuquan Hospital. There is a story about it. Princess Jin Xian of the Tang Dynasty accidentally dropped a jade hairpin into the water while washing her hair in the jade well of Yuegong in Shanshan Town. After returning to Yuquan Hospital, when washing hands with spring water, I found the jade hairpin and knew that the jade spring eye was connected with the jade well. So the spring was named Yuquan, and Yuquan Hospital was named for it.
This is the most famous place in Huashan - Changkong plank road. The place where you tread can only hold one foot. The chain around your waist can protect you, so dont be afraid. Everybody go up.
After walking along the long and empty plank road, I came to the place where Chen Xiang splits the mountain. There is also a legend here. Three Notre Dame fell in love with an ordinary man and got married. Due to the violation of the heavenly rules, her brother Erzhi pressed the Holy Mother of Three under the Huashan Mountain. She gave birth to a child named Chen Xiang. Ten years later, Chen Xiang knew the truth and fought with Er Lei God. With the help of the gods, he defeated Er Lei God and saved his mother.
Here is the kite turning over. All tourists should pay attention to safety and take a rest here.
There are too many beautiful scenery in Huashan Mountain to see today. Lets continue our tour tomorrow.