Huangshan Scenic Area

Huangshan Mountain

Huangshan Mountain by Marco Varisco. Sourced via Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Yellow Mountains or Huangshan, in Anhui province, is one of the most famous mountains in China. Situated a few hours train ride from Shanghai city, these mountains are popular today, as they were also in ancient times. The views and scenes of the Yellow mountains echo throughout Chinese culture in paintings as well as poetry, writing and music. The Yellow mountains are the inspiration behind the Chinese Classical Garden that has gone on to also influence Japanese gardens. The Yellow mountains scenery consists of spectacularly and peculiarly shaped granite peaks topped by knurled and stunted pine trees, sunsets and views of mountains above clouds. Legend says that the mythical Yellow Emperor ascended to heaven form Huangshan after discovering the secret of immortality.

Huangshan is more than just a single mountain, but rather a mountain range. Many of the peaks are over 1,000 metres high. The three tallest peaks are Lianhuafeng (1,864m), Guangmingding (1,840m) and Tiandufeng (1,829m). The mountains are protected as a  "site of scenic beauty and historic interest" designated by the State Council of the People's Republic of China. In addition the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an area of over 154 square kilometres. The area is rich in plant and tree. The lower slops are covered in moist evergreen forests and are ideal for the growing of tea, for which the area is renowned. The middle levels are covered in deciduous forests and the upper levels in pine. A peculiar species of pine is found here and named after the mountains a Huangshan Pine. This tree grows in among the rocks of the mountain where other plants would be unable to find a footing. They are particularly twisted by the wind and weather but grow to great ages. Some are thought to be over 1,500 years old. These trees have given inspiration to Chinese and Japanese gardeners who, in attempting to recreate the mountain pines, developed Chinese Penjing and Japanese Bonsai.

The views from Huangshan, looking out over the surrounding country, is particularly special. The area is famous for it's spectacular sunrise. To view this you will need to be up on the top of the mountain very early in the morning; before 4:30 in summer and before 5:30 in winter. During sunrise, the rocks of the mountain seem to glow with an internal fire. The other, must see, view of Huangshan is the sea of clouds. Much of the year, clouds cover the land around Huangshan but the mountain tops rise above the normal cloud level. Climbing up, through the mountain, above the clouds, gives the visitor a spectacular view. For the best cloud views, tourists should plan to visit during the cooler months of autumn, winter or early spring. Good clouds are rare in the summer heat. After climbing the mountain, visitors can relax in one of the many hot spring spas that are found around the foot of Huangshan. These springs are naturally 42°C all year round. The water contains a high concentration of carbonates which are said to be generally good for your health, in particular you skin, joints and nerves.

Huangshan was originally named Yishan (Mount Yi) until 747 AD. An imperial decree changed the name to Huangshan or Yellow Mountain. The name is thought to be in honour of the fabled Yellow Emperor or Huang Di of Chinese mythology. On legend tells that the Yellow Emperor lived on the Yellow Mountains and here produces magical pills of immortality. It is also from here that he is believed to have ascended into heaven. Prior to the name change, Huangshan was a remote and little traveled part of China. However, with the new name came fame. More visitors began to travel into the area and several temples were built there.

Much of the routes up the mountain have been enhanced by man through the cutting of stone steps into the hill side. There are over 60,000 such steps throughout the are. The carving of these steps is undocumented by rumour and myth gives them an age of over 1,500 years. Many of the views have been given names over the years. There are often legends behind these names.

Map showing location of Huangshan Scenic Area

Above: Location of Huangshan Scenic Area in Huangshan, Anhui, China