Mount Yuelu Scenic Area is located on the west bank of the Xiang River near the city of Changsha, Hunan Province. It is a mountainous area characterized by jagged peaks and an old, but dense forest, and by a valley with rivers and lakes that abound in flora and fauna. It is a cultural-historical site, and also a site of revolutionary monuments.
The name "Yuelu" derives from a famous line in the book, Story of Nanyue, authored by Liu Song from the Southern and Northern (CE 386-588) Dynasties period. The line in question reads "Eight hundred square meters around Nanyue, the head is Huiyan and the foot is Yuelu". The explanation follows from the fact that Nanyue is an alternative name for Mount Hengshan (Heng Mountain, to be correct, since "shan" means mountain), one of the five sacred mountains in Chinese mythology, and from the fact that Mount Yuelu is a continuation of the same mountain range to which Mount Hengshan belongs. Huiyan was a famous Buddhist teacher.
In addition to its natural if somewhat rugged beauty, Mount Yuelu Scenic Area is dotted with sites of inspiring cultural heritage that are dear to the Chinese people, such as Yuelu Academy, Aiwan Pavilion, Ancient Yuelu Mountain Temple, and the Monument to King Yu, as well as monuments to various revolutionary figures from China's emergence from the Imperial era. Many of these sites, or their names, are either related to literary works by highly esteemed authors or are related to higher learning/ the pursuit of knowledge, and therefore they are considered national treasures in which every Chinese person, high or low, takes pride.
Yuelu Academy is the most ancient academy in China. It was established in A.D 960, Northern Song Dynasty. In AD 1015, the academy became famous for the highest-quality study base. Then the academy received recognition of Emporer Song Zhenzong, who ruled China during the period of AD. 998-1022. From then on, Yuelu Academy became one of the four most famous and biggest academies of China. In 1926, the periord of Republic of China, the academy’s name was changed as Hunan University.
From then on, Yuelu Academy became one of the four academies in China. In 1926, during the post-Imperial, Republic of China period, the academy's name was changed to Hunan University. Through a modern name, Hunan University thus has a history that can date back to one thousand years ago.
The original name of Aiwan Pavilion at the foot of Mount Yuelu was Hongye ("Red Leaves") Pavilion. The pavilion faces east, and is surrounded by hills on three sides. It was built during the reign (CE 1735-1796) of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, and got its name from a poem by Du Mu, which says: "Go up to a cool mountain far away, a winding stone path over there; There is a household in the depths of the white clouds. Stop my carriage, for I love the maple forest in the deep autumn; the leaves in the frost are redder than the flowers in February." The pavilion, like the poem, is simple, yet elegant.
Ancient Yuelu Mountain Temple
Ancient Yuelu Mountain Temple, aka Lushan Temple (from Lushan County, not to be confused with the more renowned Lushan Temple on Mount Lushan in Jiangxi Province), is situated in the ancient forest of Mount Yuelu. Built during the Western Jin (CE 265-316) Dynasty, it is one of the oldest temples in Hunan. The temple is sandwiched in between Pleasant Breeze Gorge (on the left) and White Cranes Spring (on the right), and thus overlooks a deep abyss with trees and a river below, offering a spectacular view. Indeed, the temple, surrounded as it is by maple trees, was renowned as "the first famous scenic site in China during the Han and Wei Dynasties, and the site of the first Taoist and Buddhist rituals in Hunan".
Monument to King Yu
The Monument to King Yu stands on a stunningly purple rock wall of the peak of Mount Yuelu, facing east. It records the story of King Yu controlling water. After his father was killed for controlling water, King Yu, who had learned the art from his father, continued in his father's footsteps. The King's power to control water was related to certain events which in turn were related to numerology. For example, according to legend, King Yu did not listen to music for 7 years and would not enter his home until he had passed it up 3 times.
The Monument to King Yu is 1.7 meters high and 1.4 meters wide. On the monument, there are 9 lines, 9 words to each line, except for the last line, which has 4 words less, giving 77 words in all. The words look like polliwog, i.e., they are different from the bone script of the period. They are very difficult to discipher. It is said that this may be because the script represents some unknown, esoteric Taoist symbols. Another theory holds that the script on the monument was fabricated by later, Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty Taoists. However, as far back as 1200 years ago, the poet Han Yu had learned about this monument, and climbed Mount Goulou of Mount Nanyue (Hengshan Mountain) in search of it, and wrote a poem about it.
In any case, Chinese people do not mind if it is a fabrication or not, they attach great value to the monument and believe that King Yu may indeed have been capable of controlling water. There are ten monuments to King Yu in China. It is said that they are all replications of the Monument to King Yu on Mount Yuelu.
The Tomb of Huangxing
Huangxing was a Chinese revolutionary leader, miitarist, and statesman who became the first army commander-in-chief of the post-Imperial Republic of China. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Kuomintang. He was next in line, within the newly formed Republic of China, to the first provisional president of the RC, Sun Yat-sen, the leader who was most instrumental in bringing down the Qing Dynasty. Xuanxing was known as the "Eight Fingered General" because of the wounds he sustained during the war.
The Tomb of Cai Er
Cai Er was an illustrious Chinese revolutionary leader and warlord. He was born Cai Genyin in the city of Shaoyang, Hunan Province. Cai Er studied at Yuelu Academy, then went to Japan in 1899 in order to pursue his studies there. Having returned to China already a year later, Cai Er joined a revolutionary group that staged an uprising, but when this failed, Cai Er returned to Japan. However, he returned to his homeland to take part in the 1911 revolution (the so-called Xinhai Revolution) that ousted the last Qing Dynasty emperor, Emperor Xuantong.
Cai Er was appointed to the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Military Government of Yunnan Province after the revolution. When a would-be usurper, Yuan Shikai, tried to take over the newly formed republic and proclaim himself the new monarch, Cai Er led a 20,000 strong force against the 80,000 strong army of Yuan Shikai, defeating Yuan's army and thus forcing Yuan to abandon any notion of taking over the country. Yuan, who was still a powerful force to be reckoned with, remained as the Governor of Sichuan until his death, and the post then went to Cai Er.
The Tomb of Chen Tianhua
Chen Tianhua was born in Xinhua, in Hunan Province. Chen was the poor son of a poor, unsuccessful scholar. Chen worked as a pedlar for a time, then enrolled in a series of colleges that specialized in "new learning" (no doubt Japanese and Western influenced) in the late 1890s. In 1903 Chen travelled to Japan on a government scholarship, but quickly became involved in radical student protests there, which formed him politically.
Chen wrote two books while in Japan: Soul-Searching and Alarm Bells. By 1904 Chen was back in Hunan Province, this time in Changsha, where he co-founded an anti-Imperialist revolutionary group that published a journal, the Liyu Bao. Chen fled to Japan on two occasions in order to avoid arrest for his revolutionary activities. However, he was back in China in 1905 where he became a founding member of Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary group, the Tongmeng Hui. Later that same year, Chen, a romantic perhaps à la Ché Guevara - and finally radicalized to the point of all-or-nothing - drowned himself in Tokyo Bay in protest against the Japanese government's compliance with a Qing Dynasty request to crack down on the radical political activites of visiting Chinese students.
Lastly, the area of Mount Yuelu was the venue where a youthful Mao Zedong and his youthful comrades got together to discuss their own revolutionary plans, so Mount Yuelu indeed has a history of revolutionary struggle.
Revolutionary history notwithstanding, Mount Yuelu remains a uniquely beautiful site to visit, even for non-revolutionaries, but especially for romantic types.