Exploring the holy mountain

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

This afternoon we arrived back in civilisation after two days and nights exploring Emei Shan, one of the great holy mountains of Chinese Buddhism. We spent both nights in monasteries. Here's a round-up of Tuesday to today (Thursday).

Tuesday 14 June:
On the bus by 7am for the two-hour ride to Leshan, home of the giant sitting Buddha, carved from sheer sandstone cliffs and 71 metres tall. However, this massive Buddha is only one of many hundreds of fascinating Buddhist relics found on and around the holy mountain of Leshan - we took the morning to explore the sculpture park and temples, as well as an extensive network of cave shrines and cave tombs, carved from Leshan's pinkish sandstone.

We enjoyed a super lunch on a quiet terrace overlooking the river, but by the time we reached the climax of our visit, at about 1.30pm, we found that the crowds had beaten us to it - literally many hundreds of Chinese tourists were milling around the viewing areas, and the steep path down the big Buddha's side was simply too crowded, so we gave it a miss. However, our glimpses of the giant sculpture were impressive enough - a head the size of a double storey house!

From there, another hour or so by bus brought us to the foot of Emei Shan, one of the most holy of Chinese mountains. Our accommodation for the night was Bauguo Monastery, a tranquil spot not far from the village, and surrounded by a sea of the lush green vegetation that characterises this area.

Wednesday 15 June:
After an early night, we met up with our local guide, a retired school teacher and Tai Chi expert who calls himself Zebedee. We took the public bus to the top car park just below the summit of Emei Shan, a two hour ride, and from there took the cable-car to the very top. The views from the top are amazing - folds of velvet green roll into the distance, beyond the sheer cliffs directly below. The summit itself is pretty developed and crowded, so not really a tranquil spot at all.

For tranquility we had to wait until the afternoon, when we started our hike to HongChunPing Monastery, situated half-way down the mountain. Three hours or so of walking along well-constructed paths took us away from the crowds (thank goodness!) and into the heart of the wonderfully lush forests on the flanks of Emei Shan. HongChunPing seemed restful and quiet, afloat in a sea of green; but the place got busier as sunset approached: hundreds of peasant pilgrims, carrying enormous bags and baskets on their backs, arrived at the monastery, looking for somewhere to spend the night after summiting on foot and worshipping at the top. Our group turned in early after a super meal cooked by Betty and Harry (their English names!), a middle-aged couple who run a small food stall - called the Hard Wok Cafe (!) - just outside the monastery.

Thursday 16 June:
After a comfortable night's sleep, we awoke very early to shouting and clanging - the sounds of the pilgrims preparing to leave. Our guide, Zebedee, gave us a half-hour Tai Chi lesson in the courtyard of the monastery, much to the amusement of onlookers. Even though we were nowhere near getting the hang of it, we found it very relaxing.

Zebedee led us on a 5-hour scenic walk down - through the misty cloud forests and then past bamboo and fan palm plantations, traditional farmhouses and vegetable patches of beans, chillis and brinjals. On the way we popped in a local primary school during the pupils' lunch break - they leapt excitedly around us, posing for pictures... the poor teachers would have battled to calm them down after we left!!!

Now we're resting up in a lovely hotel in Emei Shan village before tranferring to a boat tomorrow for a two day cruise through the famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze river.
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katherineaw on

Thank you!
Hi guys, just wanted to say thanks for posting this entry. I'm actually heading off to China in two weeks and will now be using an itinerary based off yours for the leshan & emei shan sections. It was great to hear from people who have done it before! Katherine

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