Mount Lu (Lushan) is situated about 20 kilometers due south of the city of Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, in southeastern China, not far from the borders of Hubei and Anhui Provinces. Mount Lu holds a special place in the hearts of the people of China, since it has a history as one of the country's original spiritual centers, being revered especially by Taoists and Buddhists. Zhang Daoling, the interpreter, as it were, of Taoism (the spiritual father of Taoism was Lao-tzu, but it was Zhang Daoling, more commonly referred to as Zhang Ling, who "codified" Taoism and thus brought it to a broader mass, having founded the first Taoist sect, the Tianshi Dao, or "Celestial Path" sect), practiced Taoism on Mount Lu during the Eastern Han (CE 25-220) Dynasty. Zhang Ling was also a member of the Orthodox Oneness School of Taoism, popularly called Wudoumi Dao, or "Way of Five Pecks of Rice" school of Taoism.*
Two centuries later, during the Song (CE 420-478) rule of the Southern Dynasties (CE 420-588) era of the Southern and Northern (CE 386-588) Dynasties period, another - and almost equally famous - Taoist monk, Lu Xiujing, who was a Confucianist in his youth but who, as an adult, cast himself headlong into the practice of Taoism, abandoning his wife and children in order to practice Taoism exclusively, spent much time on Mount Lu, where he established a Taoist temple that came to be known after Lu's nickname, Jianji. But Mount Lu was also sacred, as indicated, to Buddhists.
During the Eastern Jin (CE 317-420) Dynasty, a famous Buddhist monk by the name of Huiyuan, who founded the Jingtuzong ("Pure Land") sect of Buddhism, established Donglin ("East Wood") Temple on Mount Lu. An eager and inquisitive disciple of Huiyuan, Zhu Daosheng, also spent much time on Mount Lu (in fact, Zhu spent time on Mount Lu during various periods of his religious "quest"), where he became an adherent of the Nirvana Sutra sect of Buddhism, which espoused the notion of sudden enlightenment. Today, not only Taoism and Buddhism are represented on Mount Lu, there are many sites on the mountain that are revered by Confucianists, while Christian (Catholic and Protestant) as well as Islamic places of worship are also to be found on the famous mountain.
Mount Lu is a typical a horst-style block mountain (a horst is a narrow section of land that lies between two faults, and which has been pushed up as a result of the tectonic pressure on it from the two, larger land blocks on either side of it). With its 12 scenic sites, its 37 special attractions and its 370 various other noteworthy sites, Mount Lu is a popular tourist destination, thanks in no small part to its many spectacular natural features that result from the mountain's horst origin, such as ravines, grottoes, rock outcroppings, mountain streams, waterfalls, etc. Mount Lu's highest peak is Dahanyang Peak, at roughly 1500 meters above sea level. Another renowned peak on Mount Lu is Five Old Men Peak, so-named because the five peaks in question all sit side by side, as it were, forming an almost straight line.
The most famous waterfall on Mount Lu is Three Step Waterfall, which name is a reference to the fact that the waterfall spills over three glaciation-formed, natural terraces, enroute to the pool below. The Yuan (CE 1279-1368) Dynasty painter, Zhao Ziang recorded the following description of Three Step Waterfall:
Flowing like a jade curtain,
it falls a thousand feet.
The crescent moon is the curtain hook,
hanging high in the night sky.
Countless writers, artists, calligraphers, and other famous personages from China's past have written similar poems in homage to Mount Lu, or to specific sites on the mountain, just as there are over 900 cliff inscriptions and over 300 stelae on Mount Lu with poems and couplets in praise of this famous mountain.
Another popular site on Mount Lu is Hanpo Pass, which lies between the Five Old Men Peak ridge and another famous Lushan peak, Nine Wonder Peak. The deep natural depression called Hanpo Pass - though it is in fact a lower-level mountain range itself - has a series of stone steps carved into the face of one of its slopes, atop which stands Hanpo Pavilion. Hanpo Pavilion offers the best panoramic view of the entire area, given its central location, from whence one can also see Poyang Lake glimmering in the distance. Hanpo Pavilion is also THE venue to observe the rising sun as it clears the highest mountain peaks east of the pavilion and floods the lower mountain ranges, valleys and gorges below with bright light that catches reflective surfaces here and there, and casts deep shadows on the leeward side of trees, rocks, and even entire canyon walls. It is said to be a very tonic experience.
Other prominent sites on Mount Lu include Xianren ("Supernatural being") Cave, Bailu Cave, Ninety-Nine Rounds, Heaven Pool, Lushan Clouds, and the other famous waterfall on Mount Lu, Sandie Spring Waterfall, which some consider of greater beauty than Three Step Waterfall. Hidden in a deep ravine, Sandie Spring Waterfall was first discovered during the Southern Song (CE 1127-1279) Dynasty. It is a wispy stream of water that falls from a great height, dispersing into a snowy-like mist that crashes onto the stone surface below, then glances off into a spray that shoots over another precipice and into a jade-green pool below. There is a saying at Mount Lu that a visitor has not yet seen Mount Lu until s/he has laid eyes on Sandie Spring Waterfall.
The village of Gu Ling is located in the heart of Mount Lu, at about 1200 meters above sea level. Gu Ling, whose name stems from the Chinese name for a bull, since the city is supposed to be in the shape of said animal (the city's symbol is of course a bull, a large statue of which occupies a prominent place in the village), has a number of hotels, shops, restaurants, bars, souvenir kiosks, coffee- and tea houses, and also dance halls. But Gu Ling is not just asphalt, bright lights and merrymaking; a meadow full of colorful, fragrant flowers surrounds the village, with pathways that wind among trees and which will eventually lead one to a cosy, quiet pavilion.
It is no surprise that Mount Lu's Quaternary Glaciation National Geopark is listed under UNESCO's Global Geoparks Network, nor can it come as a surprise, given Mount Lu's religious-cultural heritage, that Lushan National Park has been listed, since 1996, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
* Those wishing to become followers of the school were required to pay a fee of 5 pecks of rice (a peck being roughly equal to 9 liters), a not insignificant expense at the time, which is why the government branded the movement as "Rice Robbers".