Having heard so much about Mount Qingcheng, an important center of Taoism (Daoism) in China, my friend Easter and I, along with another one of our classmates, Yang Jiaojiao, decided to spend our May Day holiday together, hiking and exploring Mount Qingcheng.
Located in the northwest of Chengdu, 68km (41miles) from the city center, near Dujiangyan city, Mount Qingcheng is regarded as one of the most famous historical mountains in China, and is a national scenic spot.
Mount Qingcheng enjoys a reputation for being peaceful, quiet and secluded. The name QingCheng Mountain means "Green Mountain," and QingCheng mountain lives up to its name. It is an ideal place to escape the intense summer heat. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists spend their summer holiday relaxing and cooling off in the shade provided by the leafy foliage of Qincheng Mountain.
For tourists interested in spectacular Taoist architecture, the front side of Qingcheng Mountain is their best choice. There you can find many famous sites of historical importance, including Jianfu Palace, the Shangqing Palace, and the Tianshi Cave. But nature lovers and hikers might prefer to go the back side of Mount Qingcheng to soak in its natural beauty; its murmuring streams, imposing mountains, verdant forests and elegant waterfalls.
On April 30th, we caught an early bus from the Chadianzi Bus Station, near the Yangxi flyover, to the front side of Qingcheng Mountain. The ticket cost 23 RMB and the ride took an hour. The moment our bus began to climb the mountain, we got excited by the sight of the tall, straight trees lining both sides of the road. The air was fresh and cool. The wind blew across our faces and we inhaled the scent of green leaves.
After arriving at the station, it cost us another 15 RMB each to hire a minibus to the back side of Qingcheng Mountain. The minibus drove along a steep, narrow road winding through a dense forest, making us scream with every twist and turn. The traffic increased as we neared the back side of Qingcheng Mountain. Our driver informed us the journey round the mountain, from the front to the back, usually takes about 30 minutes, traffic permitting. While waiting for the traffic to move, we enjoyed a nice view of local villages nestled in the forest. Finally, we arrived at the office selling tickets to enter the back side of Mount Qingcheng. Because we are students, tickets cost us 10RMB each, but full price is 20RMB.
At noon, we began climbing the mountain. Near the entrance there were many stalls selling all kinds of merchandise from snacks to handicrafts and souvenirs. On our way up, we met many hikers equipped with sunhats, sunglasses, bottles of water and snacks. People were selling food and drink along the path, but the price was deplorably high, three to five times higher and the prices only got steeper the closer we got to the top of the mountain.
For the most part, the trail was in good condition with stone steps leading the way and sometimes flat paved road embedded with cobblestones to increase traction. Whenever we felt tired we rested for several minutes on a boulder or at one of the many pavilions built along the trail. While resting, we often saw people taking photos of beautiful waterfalls tumbling down the rock walls and the magnificent green mountains in the distance.
Besides the pavilions, the waterfalls, rock formations and lush mountains, we passed through several other impressive scenic spots including Cuiying Lake, Tongtian Cave and Baiyun Ancient Village before finally reaching the top: Baiyun Temple. We had to hire a boat to cross the lake in order to continue our journey, which cost 2RMB per person one-way. The boat carries about 100 tourists a trip and is poled along by two ferrymen with long bamboo sticks. In peak tourist season (April to November) you might have to wait 20 minutes before getting on the boat.
One surprise was seeing people walking down the mountain wearing golden medals around their necks. We guessed these people might have bought the medals on top of the mountain as a prize for having successfully summited. We were partly right. When we reached Baiyun Temple, we found out for ourselves. The golden medals are sold in the temple for 20RMB, with your name and arrival date engraved on the back side and a Buddhist figure on the front side. It is said that having one of these medals hanging over your heart will bring you good fortune and blessings.
I'd say nothing beats standing on top of a mountain with a sweat-soaked shirt and a cool wind blowing across your face. But as we had to hurry back to Chengdu, we didn't have as much time to spend as on the mountain top as we would have liked. It took about two hours to get down the same path we had climbed up earlier in the day and we even ran along several segments of the trail in order to save time. It was already past seven o'clock when we reached the entrance again. Unfortunately, we hadn't been able to book a train ticket back to Chengdu before climbing the mountain and the regular bus back to Chengdu stops operating at seven. We grew worried that we might have to spend a night in Dujiangyan. Fortunately, we found a privately operated bus at the foot of the mountain and rode back Chengdu just in time catch the last public buses home.