[Check out the "Taoist Mtns of China Intro" blog-entry if you have not already]
Throughout Taoist history, pilgrims have come to pay their respect to Huashan, or 'Flower Mountain'. Chinese Emperors Tang Gaozhu and Tang Taizhong (Tang Dynasty) made famous journeys here. Taoists including Zhong Liquan, Lu Yan, Liu Chao, Wang Chuyi, Hao Datong, Tan Chuduan all once lived here. And, Chen Tuan, one of the founders of Taoism, spent 40 years on the mountain writing Taoist philosophy and reflections. The mountain is scattered with Temples and shrines, but at nothing near the density of precommunist time. Here and there you can spot a hermitage cave where a sage would sit and meditate, drink only spring water and eat gathered herbs, and live to be 500 years old (so they say). These caves are in the most difficult to reach places. Steps (little niches) carved into the vertical cliff faces climb up 10 to 30 meters, and there is a cave opening, or a long chain dangling from a little door high on a precipice. Interestingly, the princess Jinxian, the daughter of emperor Rui Zhong (Tang Dynasty), once came to Mount Hua to pursue Tao. I guess she lived in a cave, because afterward, emperor Tang Xuanzhong ordered the construction of Woman-Immortal Temple and Silver Cloud Monastery, making a specific space for women to study on the mountain.
The next day we began our assent with a visit to the Yuquan Yuan (Jade Fountain) Temple at the base of the climb. In the morning grey, groups of men and women doing Tai Chi Chuan on its plaza. The temple's gardens have the architectural style of the classical gardens in south China; with a pond in the center and several pavilions around it. Beside the 'Huixin Rock' are the precipitous 370 rock steps called 'Qianchi Zhuang'. These are considered to be the primary "breath-taking path" of Mt. Huashan. It is called this because when walking up it, the narrow sliver of sky above the high walls makes you feel like you are at the bottom of a well.
Huashan is really a group of 5 rocky peaks high among the knife-blade ridges of the Qinling Mountains. Standing in a circle around the central granite dome, Huashan East, South, West, and North Peaks resemble a colossal lotus flower in full blossom. Thus it's name, Flower Mountain.
After my delicious lunch, i walked down South Peak and up to the top of East Peak (Chaoyand Peak). The views from here are spectacular! And, I can see the tops of the row of heads walking on Blue Dragon Range ridge below. I tie my prayer, hang out on this summit (2100m) a while, and enjoy the afternoon sunlight through the twisted pine trees. Quartz dikes on the cliff face look shaped into the form of a giant palm print, reminding me of the "Facing Sun" Peak's story. A long time ago, on March 3rd of the Lunar Calendar, a torrential flood erupted, destroying the villages within the Huashan area. This disaster was caused by the Queen Mother of the West, who held her 'Flat Peach Carnival' celebration that year. She carelessly spilled a little jade wine down from paradise, causing a serious flood below. This news was quickly reported by Deity Shaohao to the Jade Emperor in Celestial Paradise. He gave a prompt order to Deity Juling to go down to tame the flood. When Deity Juling, full of vigor and vitality, descended from the clouds, he arrived at the precipitous cliff of East Peak. At the moment that he laid his left hand on one side (the dikes) and his right leg on the other, he ripped the mountain into two halves and immediately the flood rushed out and away.
I stop daydreaming and begin my way down. The route down had the steepest stairs/ladder with chain I ever walked on, and it was made more interesting because the crowds were closing in. I re-entered turbo mode and bee-lined down the mountain toward the cable car. My rapid decent was surprisingly interrupted by my name being called! Huh?! Across from me are a couple Rod and I met 2.5 weeks ago while climbing Taishan! These two are doing a bike trip across china and decided on a whim to walk up Huashan... on the same day, same time... small world for sure.
I blitz down to North Peak and connivingly cut 3/4 of the cable car line. OK, I'm learning! I make it back to the Hotel to meet Rod with time to spare.