Best Summer Escape near Wuhan: Wudang Mountain

Best Summer Escape near Wuhan: Wudang Mountain

Wudang Mountain (武当山)is located in the city of Shi Yan(十堰)in Hubei province, which is only five hours by train or bus from Wuhan. This mountain is unarguably one of the top tourist attractions in China: the mountain’s ancient architecture is on UNESCO's list of World Historical Heritage; it is a Taoist mecca hosting some of the oldest and most glorious Taoist temples; and it is where Taiqi, the popular martial art style of China, originates from. For those who find the summer heat in Wuhan unbearable, it's also one of the most popular summer get-away destinations in China.

At Wudang Mountain, one can rest in the shadow of hundred-year-old trees, wash one’s feet in the waterfall’s cold water, or just let the sweet breeze calm one’s mind; the Wudang Mountain has everything that a beautiful mountain should offer. But what makes Wudang truly special is its cultural legacy.

Thanks to its beautiful scenery and central location in China, Wudang Mountain was picked by the Taoists over a thousand years ago as the sacred place to connect with their gods. Like other religions in China, Taoists prefer to build their temples on the least accessible cliffs. The Nanyan Palace (南岩宫)is one of these wonders. It lies on a narrow cliff facing south, attached to the mountainside. From a distance, it looks as if the temple is just hanging on the rocks. From inside, the temple feels as if somehow it had infused the mountain’s essence.

On the peak of Wudang Mountain, 1613 meters above sea level, sits the Taihe Palace (太和宫). This luxurious temple was first built by the Emperor Zhu Li, of the Ming Dynasty, more than 600 hundred years ago. Taoism was the official religion at the time, and Emperor Zhu himself named the temple "The Palace of Taihe on the Great Mountain". It is also called the Golden Peak because most of its parts are gilded copper. The gigantic sculpture of "Zhengwu God"(真武神), the legendary founder of Taoism, sitting in the center of the main court, is also made of copper and weighs more than 10 tons.

In the middle of the mountain is the Zixiao Palace (紫霄宫), which has an even longer history. It was first built by Emperor Hui of the Song Dynasty more than a thousand years ago. Zixiao, or purple cloud in Chinese, was intended as a place to pray for good weather by Emperor Hui. The temple was burned down several times in various wars, but it was also repeatedly rebuilt by the emperors of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, where they prayed for good fortune.

A personal favorite among the architectural splendors of Wudang Mountain is the Fuzheng Temple (复真观). It has several courts that were built along a steep slope, which even modern architects gawk admiringly at. There is a narrow road sandwiched by red walls with green roofs, which is typical of classic Ming architecture, and leads you down the slope. One cannot help feeling like walking through the twists and turns of Chinese history when following this winding road, and the red walls have a fitting name: "the Nine-Twists Wall of the Yellow River" (九曲黄河墙).

Another worthy stop is the Kongfu School of Wudang. More than a thousand years ago, the Taoists of Wudang not only developed a unique way of understanding life and the universe, they also invented an influential style of kongfu, which is known as the "Wudang Pai" (武当派). It is often believed the origins of kongfu stemmed from the martial art practiced by the monks of the Buddhist temple Shaolin (少林). Actually, Wudang has a status as high as Shaolin in the history of kongfu. The Taoists of Wudang believed that one's strength comes from mastering the energy running through one's body, adjusting the balance between yin and yang, and achieving inner peace. They founded their style of kongfu on their philosophy and never separated the exercise of body from that of the mind. In fact, the art of Taiqi (太极), which is now popular all over the world, was invented by a Taoist Master of Wudang, Zhang Sanfeng (张三丰), more than 700 years ago. Nowadays, with a little luck, one can spot some students from the Kongfu School of Wudang, wearing traditional Taoist robes, practicing their kongfu in front of the Zixiao Palace, where Master Zhang Sanfeng used to stand.

Speaking of culture legacy, this guide would not be complete without a mention of the special cuisines of Wudang. Vegetarians will have a great time here, as over the years the vegetarian Taoists have developed many delicious dishes, such as the steamed fish or the Taoist shrimp. Don’t be surprised, these dishes are of course, made with fake meat. You can find vegetarian restaurants, with fresh, mountain-picked vegetables, in both the Zixiao and Taihe Palaces.

Getting There:
Take the train at Wudang Train Station (武昌火车站) to Wudang Mountain; Take the bus at Fujiapo Bus Station(傅家坡汽车站)to Wudang Mountain; Drive along the Wu Shi Highway (武十高速)to Wudang Mountain exit(5 hours).

Entrance Fee: 110 RMB

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Keywords: Wudang Mountain travel Wudang Mountain temples Wudang Mountain Taiqi Wudang Mountain

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