West Hills, Kunming
The West Hills stretch from north to south for 40 km. The rolling hills are at an elevation of 1,900 – 2,350 meters and are magnificent and grand.
The hills resemble a reclining girl lying along the shore of Dianchi Lake with her long hair flowing down into the lake. Therefore, the West Hills has the nickname of the "Sleeping Beauty Hills". The West Hills include excellent sceneries of rolling hills, luxuriously green forests, together with singing birds and blooming flowers. The major sites include Huating Temple (Huating Si), an ancient Buddhist temple; Taihua Temple (Taihua Si), a temple with charming courtyard; Sanqing Pavilion (Sanqing Ge), a Taoist temple; Nie Er's Graveyard; and Dragon Gate (Longmen) with a collection of Taoist caves and sculptures.
Highlights of the West Hills
Dragon Gate is the steepest spot in the West Hills, but the view is spectacular. It seems to be a place hung on the cliff, and the winding stone stairs seem to be reaching the sky at the end. Beside Dragon Gate are some stone rooms of Ocean of Cloud (Yunhai), Stone Forest (Shilin), Colorful Cloud (Caiyun) Cave, Yunhua Cave, and Sky Reaching (Datian) Pavilion, all of the delicate sculptures and fine craftsmanship. The images of some deities are sculpted in the wall, all with vivid postures and carved from the rocky cliffs by hand. Standing on Dragon Gate and looking at the vast water of Dianchi Lake, you cannot but feel calm and inspired by the harmony in nature and the reverence for nature and the people who built the constructions here.
Dragon Gate is famous for its grottoes. The most impressive grotto is a stone room located on a sharp cliff. The grotto is called the Datiange and also named the New Stone House. Datiange is a Taoist Grotto in which are statues of Taoist historic figures, such as Guan Yu God, Kui Star God, Wen Chang God and the Eight Taoist Immortal people. All of the figures are made by the hands of the workmen using natural stone.
Kui Star God in the middle is popular to students who have to participate in the college entrance examination nowadays and people who would take part in the imperial exams in old times. For the figure is supposed to stand for the scholarship. On the left is the statue of Guan Yu. He was a brave general in the Three States Period. Guan Yu was good at fighting against the opponents and protecting his Sate. He stands for the God of martial arts. On the right stands the figure of Wen Chang and he is supposed to be the promotion.
Go down to the Phoenix Rock visitors can see a Stone Phoenix is carved on a big rock. Walk close to the Phoenix Rock, visitors can see there is a seal on its mouth. The Phoenix Rock is also named the Old Stone House made in the Ming Dynasty, there are several stone tablets inside recording some historical information of the Dragon Gate.
Filial Cattle Spring
From the filial cattle spring, visitors can see the Yin and Yang sign on the Zhenwu Hall, which stands for the two poles of the Taoist Thought. Zhenwu Hall is a temple built to worship Zhenwu God. The most important feature is the Snake and the Tortoise at the entrance of the hall. The two sacred characteristics are also carved from a natural stone.
The Snake is twining on the back of the Tortoise. In Chinese, it is called Guichanshe(龟缠蛇), which could be referred to as Changshou(Longevity).
Sanqing Pavilion was first built in the Yuan Dynasty as a Summer Palace for Lingwang King and Sanqing Temple is another name called Liangwangge. Taoism sees Sanqing Pavilion as the utmost fairyland where three top immortals live. They are God of the Sacred Jewel, God of the Prime Origin and God of the Way of Power. Nowadays, it has been used as a tea house for visitors to take a break.
Lingguan Hall is another small sacred temple located on the Dragon Gate scenic spot. Wang Lingguan was the guardian at the entrance to protect the Taoist Monasteries. Companied with two assistants called God of Fire and God of Water, Wa Lingguan looks quite ferocious like an evil.
They have special equipment with them such as a mirror, or a third eye on the forehead to check out if the “visitors” were monsters in the legend. The equipment can be seen as the X rays when passing through the security door in the airport.