ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “迎客松

FROM MONKEY WATCHING THE SEA (猴子觀海) TO WELCOME PINE (迎客松), HUANGSHAN (黄山), Anhui, China

Getting up at 4am wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but the temptation of watching the sunrise over the sea of clouds of Huangshan was too difficult to resist.  Given the wet weather the day before, we weren’t too optimistic about seeing the perfect sunrise.  We put on our headlamps and raincoats, carried our cameras and hiking poles, and headed out into the dark.  The air was filled with light drizzling and mist.  We decided to go ahead despite the unpromising weather.  In the dark, we hiked for about half an hour before reaching Shilin Hotel (獅林大酒店), from where a small path would lead up to Lion Peak (獅子峰), our intended spot to watch sunrise.  Followed by another small group of tourists, we found our way up the small path, passing by Refreshing Terrace (清涼台), a popular sunrise hotspot that was already filled with people.  We walked further up hoping to reach Lion Peak, but soon found out that the path to Lion Peak was fenced off.  We had no choice but switched to another lookout nearby called the “Monkey Watching the Sea” (猴子觀海).

There were half a dozen or so people at the lookout when we arrived.  We shared a rock with a woman from Shandong.  We chatted a bit as more people cramped onto the lookout.  The cloud was thick and the fog never went away.  From 5:45am to 6:15am there were a few moments when the fog subsided a little, exposing the silhouette of the rocky peaks of Huangshan’s Beihai (北海) area.  Adjacent to the lookout we could see a small rock standing on a flat mountaintop that resembled a monkey in sitting position.  This scene is known as “Monkey Watching the Sea” (猴子觀海).  No rising sun from the horizon nor vivid skies, our Huangshan sunrise experience was limited to a few moments of mountains emerging from heavy fog.  We left the lookout and returned to our hotel for breakfast.

After checking out, we began our hike over to the south side of the summit area, where a number of the popular attractions gathered.  In the fog, we slowly found our way to Yuping or Jade Screen (玉屏) Cable Car Station for our ultimate descend.  We first hiked up to Bright Summit Peak (光明頂).  At 1,840m, Bright Summit Peak is one of the highest points in Huangshan, and it also serves as a circulation hub where a few paths converge.  Everything was completely covered in fog when we reached Bright Summit Peak.  We didn’t stay long as the top was really noisy and crowded.  We followed the sign pointing to Jade Screen Scenic Area.  First we reached Turtle Peak (鳌鱼峰).  We stopped atop the “turtle shell” for a few minutes, though all we could see around us was white fog.  We continued our journey and next we reached “Ladder on the Clouds” (百步雲梯), a steep rock stair that led us up to another high point.  This side of the summit area was way more crowded with local tourists than the West Sea Canyon we visited the day before.   Again because of the fog, we didn’t stop for long.  Our next stop was Lotus Stamen Peak (蓮蕊峰), from where a steep stair could be seen leading to the famous Lotus Peak (蓮花峰).  It was unfortunately closed as well.  Continuing our journey, we finally reached Yuping Scenic Area where the granite mountains were renounced for their resemblance a Chinese screen made of granite stones.

Before we went for Yuping cable car we decided to check out the famous “Welcome Pine” (迎客松).  Renowned as the welcoming feature for all travelers since ancient times, the “Welcome Pine” has long been the star of Huangshan.  Unfortunately, due to its fame came its misery.  All local visitors love to get close to the tree for a photo.  Sometimes, they may get a little too close and actually damaged the tree and its roots.  Nowadays, the fragile “Welcome Pine” is fenced off and artificially reinforced.  At least it is more fortunate than the nearby Farewell Pine (送客松), which died a while ago.

After “Welcome Pine” and a brief stay at the Yuping area, we felt it was time for our descend, as we were hoping to catch a bus from Tangkou to Hangzhou, where we would stay the last night of our trip.  It was awfully foggy and wet during our stay at the summit area of Huangshan, but we had a good taste of its spectacular granite formations, and a few magical moments of poetic scenery.

1The first magical moment when the fog subsided, exposing the silhouette of the rocky peaks of Huangshan’s Beihai (北海).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the lookout, we could see the rock formation “Monkey Watching the Sea” (猴子觀海). The sun was slowing rising above the horizon in behind.

3 This was the clearest moment we had during our wait for the sunrise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALayering of pine trees in thick fog.  Pinus hwangshanensis, or Huangshan Pine, is indeed an endemic species found only in Eastern China.

4Although we could not see the perfect sunrise but we found ourselves lucky to have a few glimpses of the granite peaks in the sea of cloud in such bad weather.  After watching the sunrise, we enjoyed the quiet morning walk back to our hotel for breakfast.

4bThe Couple Pine (連理松) is a unique attraction especially for couples.  Most of the pine trees that we saw were oddly shaped with a few long branches stretching out but the Couple Pine is actually consisted of two tall trees with similar height and branch arrangement.

4cIt was sometime difficult to distinguish which rock formation was natural and which was man-made. Some natural rock formations were too perfect that it had an artificial feel to it.  This was indeed the “head” of the Turtle Peak (鳌鱼峰).

5This stretch of the trail was the most frustrating because of the crowd and the noise. This trail links a number of famous spots of the Yuping area, and inevitably it is very popular among day trippers and tourist groups. There were moments of sun-break. When the sun was out, it was scorching hot with the humidity.

6The stone steps are leading up to the Lotus Peak (蓮花峰), the tallest peak at Huangshan. On the day of our visit, it was closed to visitors for maintenance.  Many said that Lotus Peak and Heavenly Capital Peak (天都峰) open to visitors alternatively.

6bThe further down we got, the thicker was the fog. Visibility was low and everything was veiled with a greyish tone.

6cThis path is leading down to the foot of the mountain from the Welcome Pine (迎客松) area. Since we had to catch the long distance bus to Huangzhou, we decided to take the cable car.

7The famous Welcome Pine (迎客松) – in the far background on the left – is a magnet to the local tourists. Because of its popularity, this ancient pine tree has been heavily visited and is starting to show signs of decay. Today, special rule is in place to keep tourist crowd away from the pine tree.

7bA closeup of the pine needles.

8Standing on the small terrace in front of the cable car station, we fixed our gaze on the moving Yuping cable car disappearing in the mist one after another.  We found the scene very romantic.

9In bright sunny day, we could see better and further but the foggy weather gave a mysterious atmosphere to our Huangshan visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATicket office at the Yuping cable car station on the summit. The design of the station is hardly a complement to the contemporary design of the cable car.

10The cable car ride down to the mountain was quite comfortable.  It wasn’t the most crowded time of the day and we were delighted to have our own car. The cable car was designed by Austrian Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH, a leading cable car manufacturer. The design gave visitors a panoramic view of the natural scenery.

* * *

Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China

Advertisements

WEST SEA CANYON (西海大峡谷), HUANGSHAN (黃山), Anhui, China

Peculiar granite peaks, ancient pine trees, and the majestic sea of clouds, Huangshan (黄山) is considered by many as the most picturesque mountain range in China.  Throughout history, the scenery of Huangshan has long been a popular subject for Chinese literature and paintings.  What so special about Huangshan is its frequent foggy days during which the entire summit area is concealed behind moving mist, revealing only small fragments of its rocky silhouette at certain moments.  This mysterious scenery has become a major inspiration for the pursuit of yi jing (意境).  Yi jing refers to a way to see beauty through poetic revelation.  The pursuit of yi jing is common in Chinese artwork and poetry.  Artists or poets often find ways to express yi jing in their work through abstract depiction or selectively not showing something in order to convey the hidden beauty of the whole picture.  To put it in other words, yi jing is about conveying the essence of something without depicting it fully, just like the scenery of Huangshan, whose real beauty is often hidden from view.

At 1,864m, Lotus Peak (蓮花峰) is already the tallest peak in Huangshan.  While the height of 1,864m is hardly the tallest mountain in China, the granite peaks shaded first by an ancient sea and then retreating glaciers had inspired ancient poets and painters and modern photographers and movie directors (James Cameron cited Huangshan as a major inspiration for 2009’s Avatar).  With its unique scenery and endemic pine trees, in 1990 Huangshan was enlisted on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  Today Huangshan is a top tourist destination in China.  At the summit area there are several hotels and guesthouses, cable car services at four different locations, and extensive paved trails crisscrossing the famous peaks and scenic lookouts, capturing the imagination and hearts of visitors from dynastic era to the contemporary.

At around 6am, we left the youth hostel at Tunxi’s Laojie and hopped on a tourist bus heading to Tangkou (湯口), the base town at the south entrance of Huangshan’s scenic area.  The bus journey took about 1.5 hour.  At Tangkou, we got to transfer onto a shuttle bus designated for a specific cable car station; but beforehand, we had to decide which path to take. There were a few options to climb to the summit area of Huangshan, either by cable car or by half-day hike.  Since we preferred to spend more time at the summit so we decided to take the cable car.  There are two cable car stations accessible by shuttle bus from Tangkou, the Yungu (雲谷) and the Yuping (玉屏).  We picked the Yungu cable car for its close proximity to our hotel Xihai Hotel (西海飯店) at the summit area.  The cable car journey only took about ten minutes.  It was drizzling when we arrived the submit area.  In light rain, we found our way to the hotel in light rain, checked in, dropped off our bags, and headed out again to the trail head of West Sea Canyon.

The summit area of Huangshan host a series of hiking trails.  The area is large enough to keep any visitor busy for at least two days.  Given the unpredictable weather of Huangshan (over 200 rainy days per year), staying a night on the summit area of Huangshan is the minimum.  Most local visitors and tour groups favour the Yuping scenic area, where the Welcome Pine (迎客松), Heavenly Capital Peak (天都峰) and Lotus Flower Peak (莲花峰) are located.  We opted for the less crowded West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷), where a narrow cliff-side footpath zigzagging its way down the steep canyon.  Despite the rain, the cliff-side footpath down the canyon was manageable.  Just as we started our descend, the mist suddenly came and concealed much of the mountain scenery.  The famous mist and sea of clouds prevailed.  Occasional moments when the granite peaks emerged from the clearing mist were purely magical.  We took our time finding our way surefootedly down the steep steps until we reached a pavilion at the canyon’s bottom.  We stopped several times along the way watching the moving mist and photographing the picturesque Huangshan scenery as if meandering through a mysterious Chinese painting.

At the bottom of West Sea Canyon, we took the new West Sea Canyon Funicular back up to the summit area.  The rain got heavier and the visibility got worsen by the time we returned to the submit.  We hiked across the west side of the summit area, passed by the Flying Rock (飛來石) and Bright Summit Peak (光明頂) before returning to the Xihai Hotel.  It was rainy and foggy all the way.  By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were soaking wet.  At the hotel entrance deck, we could hardly see beyond a few meters in the fog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first glimpse of West Sea’s scenery as we were heading to the trail head of West Sea Canyon from the Xihai Hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExpression of love is universal. Huangshan is also a popular place for lovers leaving their love padlocks onto the fences as a manifesto of love.

3Mountain scenery varies in different seasons, weather and time of day.  At Huangshan, it was all about the mysterious scenery in the mist.

4The Chinese named this granite formation, “the Flower Blooming on a Brush Tip” (夢筆生花).  It is one of the most popular views at the North Sea area.

5Looking down to the West Sea Canyon, the mist was gathering at the valley.

6We were amazed by the engineering of the extensive cliff-side footpath with stone steps held by horizontal supports attached to the rock cliffs of the mountain.

7Mysterious mountain view of the West Sea Canyon.

8Visibility was low and everyone was paying extra attention on the trail.

9The sea of clouds at the West Sea Canyon.

10The pine trees and the winding footpath attached to the sheer cliff.

11This picture was taking when we paused and took a break at the mid level of the West Sea Canyon. We were enchanted by the changing mist in front of us.  We patiently waited for the magical moments when the granite mountain emerged from the mist for a few seconds.

12Embraced by the mighty peaks of Huangshan, we cherished the moments when we were alone on the trail.

13We marveled at the pine trees growing from tiny cracks in the rocks. Before we often saw pine trees being depicted in strange gestures in Chinese paintings.  Now we finally saw the real thing and realized where their inspiration originated.

14Changing scenery of the mist-encased granite mountains.

15Approaching the bottom of the West Sea Canyon.

16Before the West Sea Valley funicular came in service in 2013, the West Sea Canyon trail was like a secret paradise for individual travelers who wanted to seek moment of tranquility away from the horrendous crowds in the summit area. We had mixed feelings for the new funicular.  We cheered for its convenience (without doing the return climb via a treacherous cliff-side path and thus saving 2.5 hours of time) but we feared that the West Sea Canyon would eventually lose its serenity.  During our visit, we opted for the funicular to save us from the knee and thigh-killing return climb.

* * *

Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China