Huangshan Travel Guide
Last updated by chinatravel at 2013-11-4
The city of Huangshan (Mount Huang) is named after its next-door neighbor, the mountain of the same name, which means "Yellow Mountain". Huanshan is located in the southeastern corner of Anhui Province, near the province's borders with Jiangxi and Zhejiang Provinces. The city stands in the shadow of the mountain, both literally and figuratively: it is the mountain that made the city what it is. But the mountain was not always famous; it was hardly known when it was called Yishan (shan means "mountain" while yi generally means "one" or "a", though I have run across an explanation which says that Yishan can also mean "dark-green (if not "jade-green" - or perhaps "black-green") mountain"). Or maybe Yishan, in the context of the mountain in question, just means "the mountain"?
It was not so much the mountain's name change from Yishan to Huangshan (reputedly, in honor of the Yellow Emperor, the legendary emperor who is the mythological, ancestral father of the Han Chinese people) that made it famous, but the fact that it was an emperor, Emperor Xuanzong (he reigned during the period CE 712-756) of the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty, who renamed it, and the personage for whom the mountain was renamed - AND, the period in which it was renamed, for the Tang Dynasty is considered a particularly enlightened period in China's cultural history, with neighboring countries falling over each other in a rush to imitate the Chinese. The mountain - and the city it gave rise to - owes its fame to its history, namely, to its archeological and cultural history, the former arising from the fact that Mount Huang is a real, living Jurassic park (it was created as part of a larger crustal uplift during the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era) - minus the dinosaurs, thankfully! - while the latter arises from the cultural links to the mountain that sprang up as a result of the renaming of the mountain.
Once renamed by one distinguished emperor in honor of another, albeit, a mythological one, the mountain became the object of literary and artistic praise, as poets, writers of prose, calligraphers and painters descended upon it. The first noted personage to praise Mount Huang was Li Bai (701-762), the famous Tang Dynasty poet. From the beginning of the Tang Dynasty to the end of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, over 20,000 poems and prose tributes were composed in honor of Mount Huang. Similarly, numerous painters, especially those who worked in so-called Ink and Wash painting, paid tribute to the mountain. Some of the anonymous works faithfully capture the trademark geological structure of the mountain, scantily clad with pine trees and adorned with flowers, and sometimes enshrouded in mists. Some of these anonymous art works appear today on dime-store table placemats the world over. Mount Huang even spawned a school of painting by the same name.
Mount Huang is famous for four characteristic features, called its "four wonders": its gnarled old pine trees (such as the Ying Ke ("Welcoming-Guests") Pine, many of which are believed to be over 1500 years old, and where the most gnarled and twisted exemplars are the most revered, as they are considered survivors of the greatest of hardships); its oddly-shaped granite rock outcroppings; the "sea of clouds" that often enshroud the mountain, though the peaks are only enshrouded in clouds and mists about 200 days a year :) - in fact, it is often said that whereas other mountains are best observed from their base, Mount Huang, because of the ring of clouds and mists that surround the mountain about 3/4 the way up, is best viewed from the top down; and lastly, its thermal springs. James Cameron, the director of the blockbuster film, Titanic, has recently said that the virtual mountain landscapes that he used in his latest film, Avatar, were inspired by the landscapes on Mount Huang. An old Chinese saying regarding the incomparable, haunting beauty of Mount Huang goes, "To witness the beauty of China's mountains, one need only visit Mount Huang."
The State Council of the People's Republic of China undertook to protect the mountain, recognizing its natural and cultural-historical value, declaring it an official national historical site of natural beauty in 1982. This was followed by UNESCO recognition in 1990, when Mount Huang was officially listed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, mainly for its natural beauty and for its role as a pristine habitat for rare and threatened species, both of plant and animal life, such as the Tibetan Macaque monkey, a species local to Mount Huang (to read more about Mount Huang on a separate page, go here).
As beautiful as the mountain is - and as important it is to the city of the same name (Mount Huang is one of China's prime tea-growing areas, and offers a unique, moist climate in which certain very special teas grow, including the justly famous Mao Feng Cha ("Furry Peak Tea")) - the city of Huangshan is more than just the mountain. Some of the nearby natural attractions include Lake Taiping, the Xin'an River, Guniujiang Nature Reserve and Qingliang Peak Nature Reserve. Nearby Qiyun Mountain is one of the four holiest Taoist places of worship in China. In addition, the nearby ancient villages of Tunxi, Hongcun and Xidi, the memorial archways in Shexian County and the traditional old houses in Yixian County are great examples of the area's traditional cultural. The ancient villages of Hongcun and Xidi, with their ancient stone arched bridges, their Buddhist temples and pagodas, served as the background for the film set of another blockbuster film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Taiwanese-born Ang Lee.
The area in and around Huangshan is also home to the Huizhou Culture - aka the Xin'an Culture - one of China's major regional cultures. Huizhou/ Xin'an Culture includes Xin'an Philosophy, the Xin'an School of Painting, the Xin'an School of Medicine, the Huizhou Style of Architecture, Anhui Pot Gardening, Huizhou Sculpture, Huizhou Opera, and - of course - the world famous Huizhou Cuisine. Huizhou Culture is well represented in the ancient villages of Hongcun and Xidi, which lie at the foot of Mount Huang.
Top Things to Do in Huangshan
Huangshan Travel Guide
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