Day 6 16th December 2014
Wudang Mountain here we come. As a national park there are lots of protective measures in place and we can’t bring much luggage up with us. Quick repack for an overnight bag and wear as many clothes as possible – it’s at least 3 degrees colder up top and it’s not exactly balmy down here.
When the tour guide offers us sick bags for the bus, we have a foretaste of what the drive is going to be like. Hairpin bends all the way up with vertiginous drop to one side. The mountains are forested all the way to the top. Feels like being in a Chinese painting. There are greeny-grey cliffs with mixed pine and deciduous forest. Although it’s late December there is still plenty of autumnal colour.
Our first stopping place is the Golden Peak. I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of all the temples but this one was amazing. We have had beautifully clear weather throughout this trip and today is all blue skies and bright sun. After a cable car ride, there were the usual steep steps, and the peak is encircled by a red wall in imitation of the Forbidden City.
The wall and the peak combined make the shape of a turtle with a snake on its back, which is the symbol of Wudang. There are a multitude of stops on the way up including a lucky hall – you can get rid of bad luck by walking around the back of an enclosed altar, completely in the dark. The there was a hall of filial piety.
Once there was a requirement to have a certificate of filial piety before you were allowed in. As none of us had a note from our mum, the monk took pity on us and let us have a look around. Inside were several statues, including one of Zheng San Feng, the founder of Tai Chi, who lived to the age of 136 years.
Right at the top, the temple itself is to honour Lao Ze, the author of the Dao De Jing. The temple is solid metal, bronze and gold. It was brought up here in pieces and the mortice and tenon joints sealed up with molten mercury and gold.
Inside, there is a golden lamp that has not gone out for 600 years, as the door of the temple faces East and the prevailing winds are North-South. The temple is on a base of solid fossilised stones (of bamboo leaves), which is more precious than jade. We spotted the three treasures and then made our way back down, past an oak tree of more than 600 years of age.
Moving back down the mountain, stop off at the Fu Zhen temple, which is for parents to pray for their children’s studies, and on to the peaceful gardens, walking around a lake with black swans and dead lotus plants.
We tried playing pooh sticks on the bridge, but although the water looked like it was moving, our sticks stayed where we dropped them in. The more athletically minded tried running across the bridge stepping only on the lintels, but it all fell apart at the apex.
Off to find our hotel, the aptly named Tai Chi Hotel.
Mount Wudang is an experience of a lifetime. Everywhere we are exhorted to be considerate and care for the Holy Land of the Daoists. In return we are assured of having happy lives. All the bins carry slogans to remind us not to cause fires – a forest fire here would be a disaster for the all cultural relics and Ming Dynasty wooden temples which are inaccessible by road.
Rather than tire you all out with a “What I did on my holidays” list of all the places and things we have seen, I will let the photos speak for themselves (once I can find enough bandwidth or get back home). Maybe one day we will be back here as there is more to see, and maybe you will be seeing it yourself.