Emei Mountain, No.1 Beauty under Heaven

Emei Shan is the highest of China’s four holy Buddhist mountains,rising 3,099mabove sea level about 170kmfrom Chengdu. Buddhists believe the mountain is home to Samantabhadra-patron of the Lotus Sutra and Bodhisattva of Pervading Goodness.The route to the summit crosses a lush and diverse landscape with enchanted rock formations, waterfalls and narrow gorges. Climbing upwards you’ll encounter countless temples and pavilions. Thousands of pilgrims walk the way to the top, many of them elderly and sporting canes with their pockets filled with incense and ghostdom paper money to be burned.The first temple erected on the mountain was built during the Han dynasty, and during the Ming and Qing dynasties, Emei Shan became one of the China’s most important centers for Buddhism. Many of its 100 temples fell into despair after the fall of the Qing dynasty, but since 1976, much has been done to restore past glory.

By far the most beautiful path to the top follows the southern route, which is also the longest. However, you’ll be rewarded with marvelous landscapes and pass by colonies of monkeys. A word of warning, don’t monkey around with the monkeys, they can be aggressive and they’ll steal right out of your bag if you happen to open it in front of them. But if you act humble and show them your empty hands, they’re also smart enough to go look for wealthier prey. Either that or buy a strong walking stick for self-defense.

At 550mis the BaoguoTemple with a 25-ton bronze bell dating from 1564. the Qingyin Pavilion offers some of the best views on the mountain. The WannianTemple, built in the Jin dynasty houses a 7mhigh bronze figure of Samantabhadra sitting on a six-tusked white elephant weighing 62-tons. Between Hongchunping, at 1,120m, at the XianfengTemple you pass by the 99 Curves and the thousands of steps will start to make themselves felt in your muscles, but the splendid views here should reinvigorate even the exhausted. At the LeidongpingTemplethere is a cable car going to the top of the mountain. Continuing on foot from here takes another 2 hours. If the weather cooperates, the vista is divine at the 3077mhigh GoldenPeak. This is the place to relax, meditate and enjoy the sunset. The sunrise is also one of China’s legendary experiences, but enjoying this means hiking up at night to be at the peak by sunrise. On GoldenPeak, the GoldenPeakTemple is a very active place of worship, so transcendence might not be lost among the hubbub of pilgrims. The highest point of Emei Shan is the Ten Thousand Buddha Summit at3,099m, a monorail can take you tere from GoldenPeak.