Mount Qingcheng, located 16 kilometers southwest of the city of Dujiangyan and 68 kilometers northwest of the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, is a famous Taoist temple and one of the birthplaces of Taoism in China. With dense forest, a flight of 1,000 steps, and winding paths, Mount Qingcheng has been referred to as “the most tranquil place under Heaven”. It is mentioned in the same breath with the precipitous Jianmen Pass, elegant Mount Emei, and the magnificent Kuimen Gate.
Mount Qingcheng backs up the snow-covered Minshan Mountain and faces West Sichuan Plain. It was named Qingcheng (Azure City) because the green mountains join together to form an enclosure that looks very much like a city wall. The mountain, which is mainly conglomerates, has 36 peaks, with the highest peak standing 1,600 meters above sea level. The eleven Qingcheng Taoist temples can be compared to the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains, but the former have a simpler style using the traditional architecture of western Sichuan and are considerably older.
Mount Qingcheng can be divided into two parts: Qingcheng Front Mountain and Qingcheng Back Mountain. The main attractions of Qingcheng Front Mountain include the Jianfu Palace, Natural Pictures, Cave of Celestial Master (Tianshi Cave), and Shangqing Palace.
The Jianfu Palace lies at the foot of Mount Qingcheng under Zhangren Peak. Flanked with the ancient trees and surrounded by five peaks, the temple looks grandiose and majestic. A clean stream in its front adds to the tranquil charm of its surrounding. The complex consists of three primary halls, worshipping a number of immortals and founding masters of Taoism. On the pair pillars are carved the exceptionally long couplets of as many as 394 characters, mentioning a number of Taoist stories and the related sites.
About one kilometer west to the Jianfu Palace is the Natural Pictures, marked by a tower built in the Qing Dynasty, where dark cliffs rise up with green trees in mist like frames of beautiful pictures.
The Cave of Celestial Master, halfway up the mountain, is the primary and the largest temple of Mount Qingcheng. According to the legend, in the Eastern Han Dynasty it was the preaching site of Zhang Ling (also known as Zhang Daoling or Celestial Master Zhang), who founded the Way of the Celestial Masters sect of Taoism which is also known as the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice. A stone statue of Zhang Daoling stands in the cave’s site. In this area there are three buildings – the Palace of Three Purities (Sanqing Palace), the Palace of Three Emperors (Sanhuang Palace), and the Temple of Yellow Emperor (Huangdi Temple). The Palace of Three Purities, the main hall of the Tianshi Cave, houses three statues featuring the Taoist Trinity, the three highest Immortals in the Taoist pantheon; while in the Sanhuang Palace are worshipped the statues of the three ancestral emperors of Chinese people. The ancient ginkgo tree in front of the cave, folks say, was planted by Celestial Master Zhang himself, now over 50 meters high and more than 2,000 years old.
The Shangqing Palace, in the dominant color of dark, gray and earthen red, is the Taoist temple with the highest altitude in Mount Qingcheng. Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power) inscribed on the nanmu boards is precious cultural relic. The Chinese characters of “Palace of Supreme Clarity” on the entrance gate were written by Kiang Kaishek in WWⅡ.
While Qingcheng Front Mountain is famous and popular as a Taoist holy land, Qingcheng Back Mountain is better known for its tranquil and unspoiled picturesque scenery which offers a more secluded and enchanting alternative. In Qingcheng Back Mountain there are 74 pavilions, 197 wooden bridges, and about 20km stone slab paths or walkways. Reputed attractions in this area include Tai’an Temple, Immortals Cave, Flying Spring Gorge, and While Cloud Cave.
In 2,000 Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System were included in the World Cultural Heritage List by the UNESCO. Mount Qingcheng makes for an excellent day trip fro anyone looking to get out of Chengdu for a stroll in the country, a much easier climb than Mount Emei.