This complex was the gateway to the summit of Wudang Shan mountain. By now the visibility was around 10 metres.
On a bit of a whim, we decided to stop off at the town/mountain of Wudang Shan, on the way to Xi'an. It proved to be a rather difficult and stressful diversion. Firstly, the convenient travel arrangements which I'd researched were scuppered by the recent earthquake in Sichuan province - the line we needed was being used as a supply route so passenger services were reduced. We thus arrived at 1 in the morning, and took the first grotty hotel which was offered to us. The following day we tried to follow Lonely Planet
's rather vague advice to reach the mountain village of Nanyan, with considerable lack of success - the only way up seemed to require a major lightening of our wallets. We had a stroke of luck, however, when we met a young man who spoke decent English. It emerged that, since his return from a spell in our dear country, he had been hard at work revamping tourism on the mountain - he was in fact the director of the project. The fee actually included transport to the top, unlimited bus travel on the mountain and the park entry fee. So not quite as extortionate as we first
Purple Cloud Temple
The lower part of this beautiful complex.
thought! Nevetheless, we were feeling pretty jaded about the whole affair, and wondered if we should ever have come.
Those feelings were quelled as soon as we stepped into the Purple Sky Temple
(or other similar translation) near Nanyan. The weathered staircases, beautiful azure-tiled roofs, numerous dark blue-robed monks roaming peacefully and beautiful mountainside location made it feel like we had walked into the set of a kung fu film.
The next day we rose relatively early to get started on the trek to the top. At first we were a little surprised to find ourselves descending, to reach a little temple containing a shrine to Zhang San Feng, the inventer of taichi. After that, however, it was an arduously steep ascent to the top - with the misnamed "hundred step stairway" providing many times that number of steps, and these constituted only a tiny fraction of the overall climb. Eventually we reached a temple complex which acted as the gateway to the summit, for which we were required to pay a small surcharge.
From this point forward the sights were simply awe-inspiring. By now the gathering mists had reduced the visibility to a few metres -
Very near the summit.
whilst this spoilt the (assumed) mountain views, it greaty enhanced the mystical atmosphere of this spiritual peak. Oddly enough, both Chris and I were reminded of the level in the videogame Unreal Tournament
which takes the form of a rather treacherous mountaintop temple. The climb to, and subsequent descent from, the summit has defininitely been one of the highlights of my trip. The gnarled trees, thick mists and ancient constructions all helped to evoke a genuine spiritual aura - if I was going to have an epiphany anywhere it would surely have been here!
Sadly we didn't have time to stay longer, and returned to Wudang Shan town for another night (we chose a much better hotel this time). The next day, my birthday, was spent wandering around town in the drizzle, before embarking on our train journey to Xi'an. The main leg of this trip was spent, for the first time, in a hard sleeper cabin which proved to be surprisingly comfortable. We played poker with a slice of banana cake as the stake, then enjoyed a comparitively good night's sleep.
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