Mount Hua: One of China’s Five Great Mountains

With the Qinling Mountain to the south and the Yellow River to the north, Mount Hua (Hua Shan) lies in Huayin City, Shaanxi Province, 120 kilometers away from Xi’an. Called “Xiyue (Western Great Mountain)” in ancient times, Mount Hua is one of “China’s Five Great Mountains” and has long been regarded as the most precipitous mountain in China.

Mount Hua

Mount Hua consists of five peaks, namely the East Peak (also called Chaoyang Peak), the West Peak (Lotus Flower Peak), the South Peak (Landing Goose Peak), the North Peak (Cloud Terrace Peak), and the Center Peak (Jade Maiden Peak), each presenting a unique scenic beauty. From a distance, the five peaks look like a lotus flower in full bloom, hence the name – Mount Hua (Flower Mountain, as “hua” means flower in Chinese). And it is a wonder the mountain massif is made of an enormous piece of granite dating back to 120 million years.

The East Peak is 2,090 meters above sea level. The platform on the top of the peak has a commanding position and offers a broad view, therefore it becomes a famous place to enjoy the sun rise and is called the “Rising Sun Platform”. The path leading to the top of the East Peak was extremely dangerous in ancient times. The steep ridge is more than 33 meters high, on which several pits were chiseled. Without branches and vines to seize, climbers could only cling to the cliffisde and climb up the summit using their hands and feet together. Nowadays, several paths of steps have been cut and widened, so you can reach the summit safely.

Mount Hua - The East Peak

The East Peak has ten-odd sights. On the precipice of the side of East Shilou Peak, there are natural rocky lines looking like a gigantic palm print, which is called the “Immortal’s Palm of Mount Hua”, one of the Eight Scenic Wonders of the Guanzhong Area (the plain in the middle of Shaanxi Province). The Yanggong Tower north of the Rising Sun Platform and another Yanggong Tower on the West Peak face each other across a distance. Both towers were built for General Yang Hucheng. The East Peak also boasts Green Dragon Pool, Palace of Eight Views, and Taiji Dongyuan Gate, and so on.

Mount Hua - Immortal's Palm of Mount Hua

With an altitude of 2,082 meters, the West Peak is a natural huge rock. The steep and lofty cliffs in the northwest, which seem to be cut with a knife or sawed, represent the typical feature of Mount Hua. Sights can be found everywhere on West Peak, such as Cuiyun Palace, Lotus Flower Cave, God Juling’s Foot, Axe-Chopped Stone and the Cliff of Sacrifice, etc., which are accompanied by many beautiful fairy tales.

Mount Hua - The West Peak

The South Peak, with an altitude of 2,154.9 meters, is the highest peak of both Mount Hua and the other four great mountains in China. On the south side of the peak are upright cliffs overhanging a deep fault ravine. The Landing Goose Peak is a part of South Peak, which received its name because the migratory wild geese often stop here for a rest according to legend, and its name is often used as the name for the whole South Peak. The highest place of the Landing Goose Peak is the “Summit of Mount Hua”. Tourists who climb up the summit are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The famous Yellow River wanders far below and everything seems small. The inscriptions on the summit are also a feast for the eyes. Around the Landing Goose Peak, there are many sights, among which Yangtian Pool and Black Dragon Pool are on its summit and Niche of Immortal Anyu and the Guest-Greeting Pine on its southwest cliff.

Mount Hua - The South Peak

The North Peak is 1,614 meters above sea level. With its four sides overhanging, bright clouds enshrouded, the towering peak looks like it disappears into the clouds and thus got another name – the Cloud Terrace Peak. There are many sights on the peak, among which the famous ones are Zhenwu Hall, Jade Maiden Window, Yiyun Pavilion, the Laojun’s Furrow, Iron Bull Terrace, and Stone Archway of White Cloud Fairyland, and so on.

Mount Hua - The North Peak

Half a kilometer away from the Jinsuo Pass (Gold Lock Pass) stands the Center Peak, which is located in the middle of East, West and South peaks. On the peak are lush trees and marvelous flowers and rare plants, presenting quiet and beautiful environment. Jade Maiden Shrine is on its summit, which is said to be the place where Nongyű, daughter of Duke Mu of Qin of the Spring and Autumn Period, cultivated herself. Therefore, this peak is also called Jade Maiden Peak.

Mount Hua - The Center Peak

Mount Hua boasts different scenery in different seasons. The changeable weather makes “Cloudy Mount Hua” in spring, “Rainy Mount Hua” in summer, “Misty Mount Hua” in autumn, and “Snowy Mount Hua” in winter. Besides the beautiful scenery, Mount Hua also contains profound cultural connotations.

Mount Hua is one of the cradles of Chinese culture. According to the textural research by Zhang Taiyan, a famous scholar of the Qing Dynasty, both “Zhonghua” (China) and “Huaxia” (an ancient name of China) are named after Mount Hua. Over 10 emperors, including Emperor Qin Shihuang, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Empress Wu Zetian and Emperor Xuan Zong of the Tang Dynasty, went to Mount Hua to hold large-scale sacrificial activities.

Mount Hua is also one of the earliest birthplaces of Chinese Taoism and Taoist culture. Climbing Mount Hua was called “Chao Hua Shan” in the past, and “chao” means going to worship Taoist sages. Many temples have been built by the mountain or ridges. The famous ones include Yuquan Temple (Jade Spring Temple), East Taoist Temple, Temple of Immortals, Palace of Heavenly Queen, Zhenyue Palace and Jade Fairy Shrine, among which the Jade Spring Temple is the largest and most renowned.

Travel Tips:

1. The best time to visit Mount Hua is April to October. On March 15th according to Chinese lunar calendar, grand temple fairs and other celebration activities will be held on Mount Hua.

2. There are cable cars to the North Peak and West Peak respectively, which will bring you most of the way up the trail.

3. Mount Hua is famous for its precipitousness and sheer steepness, and the “Three Most Precipitous Paths on Mount Huaare the Changkong Plank Path, Yaozi Fanshen (Sparrow Hawk Turning Over) and Dark Dragon Ridge (Canglong Ling).

Descending eastward from the South Peak, you will see the Changkong Plank Path built along the surface of a vertical cliff. The cliffside plank path, which is about 0.33 meters (about 1.1 feet) wide, is the most dangerous path on Mount Hua.

Mount Hua - Changkong Plank Path

The path on the east side of the East Peak is very steep. A part of the path is known as Yaozi Fanshen, the second dangerous path on Mount Hua. It is so named because you have to make an about-face or turn your body over at the end of the road, as if you were a flying sparrow hawk. The 50-meter-long stepway is the only road to the Botai Terrace, also known as the Chess Pavilion.

Mount Hua - Yaozi Fanshen (Sparrow Hawk Turning Over)

Mount Hua - Chess Pavilion

Dark Dragon Ridge is the third most dangerous path on Mount Hua. From North Peak, if you want to complete a circuit climbing the other three main peaks, a trail along the Dark Dragon Ridge connects the North Peak with the East Peak, the West Peak and the South Peak.

Mount Huan - Dark Dragon Ridge (Canglong Ling)

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