Mount Huashan: Folklore and Fear
Piz Roseg in Switzerland and La Grivola in Italy are absolutely stunning and whether you’re a mountaineering enthusiast, a nature photographer or just someone who appreciates unique mountains, I would highly recommend you visit. Both of these mountains, as well as others mentioned on the blog such as Grand Cornier and Eiger in Switzerland, stand at over 3900 meters above sea level. Can you imagine the views from these heights? There’s no denying that the world-renowned mountains in Europe such as these are astonishing and intriguing natural miracles. However, there are praiseworthy mountains in all corners of the world, from the Tafelberg in South Africa, also called Table Mountain, to Mount Huashan in North Western China.
Mount Huashan is arguably one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Its beauty is acknowledged by the hundreds of people who visit annually. The greenery on the mountain, combined with the clouds that frequently rest on the mountain top is picturesque. However, anyone who appreciates mountains knows that, while beautiful, they can also be dangerous. Mount Huashan is both the site of legendary folklore and dangerous, fearful hiking paths.
The Legends of Mount Huashan
Mount Hua, also known as Mount Huashan, is located in North Western China near the city of Huayin in the Shaanxi province. It is one of the Five Great Mountains of China, also known as the Sacred Mountains of China. This mountain range holds particular religious significance for the Chinese and is an important pilgrimage destination. Huashan, which translates to “Splendid Mountain,” is the Western Great Mountain. While the Sacred Mountains of China are a popular pilgrimage destination, the summits on Mount Huashan aren’t as easily accessible as those on other mountains in the range, so those who pilgrimage there are mostly locals. Mount Huashan has a rich history that stretches back thousands of years. There are two temples that rest at the base of Mount Huashan and have existed since as far back as 2 BCE. The Yuquan Temple, also known as the Jade Spring Temple, was built during the Northern Song Dynasty to honor Chen Tuan and was named by the legendary Golden Fairy Princess. The Xinyue Temple was built to honor and communicate with the god that Daoists believed lived inside the mountain. It’s so large and beautiful that it earned the nickname “The Forbidden City of Shaanxi Province.” However, those aren’t the only temples on Mount Huashan. Taoist temples, shrines and teahouses are scattered across the mountainside, offering a cultural experience and resting spot for those brave enough to hike the mountain.
There is a mystical feel that visitors get when they’re walking along the summit and can see the clouds gently rolling in, covering the bottom of the mountain and leaving only the smaller summits at the top of the mountain visible. For several millenium, Mouth Huashan has been revered as a source of Chinese folklore. There are many myths about the mountain, which draw the attention of both local and international visitors. Located high up on Mount Huashan is the Immortal’s Palm Peak. Legend has it that Immortal’s Palm Peak is the site of deity Juling’s handprint. The story goes that the Jade Emperor sent Juling to stem a flood on earth that was as result of jade wine spilled by the Queen Mother of the West. Juling descended from the heavens on a cloud and reached for Mount Huashan with his left hand and right leg, ripping the mountain in half. Thus, it’s said that Juling’s handprint can still be seen on Immortal’s Palm Peak.
There is a different legend for each of The Five Great Mountains of China. Today, these myths are regarded as part legend and part history, as they have been around for many, many centuries. Mount Huashan’s legend is related to the folktale “The Magic Lotus Lantern.” In addition to being called Mount Huashan, the mountain also has a second name- Lotus Flower Peak. This name was given to the mountain thanks to Cuiyun Palace, a Taoist temple located on the mountain, which is home to a large rock that strongly resembles a lotus flower. Seven other rocks surround Cuiyun Palace and are said to be the location where Chenxiang, a mythical hero, rescued his mother, Heavenly Goddess San Sheng Mu, in the tale known as “The Magic Lotus Lantern.”
Mount Huashan is filled with unparalleled culture, history and legends. Today, people come from all over the world to experience the magic that is Mount Huashan. However, they come to experience the terrifying hike, as well.
The World’s Most Dangerous Hike
Those who are hiking, climbing or mountaineering enthusiasts will know that, while exhilarating, climbing mountains can also prove dangerous. The Matterhorn in Switzerland has been the site of over 500 deaths, not to mention the amount of near-death experiences hikers and rescue workers alike have faced on the Matterhorn. While mountaineering can be risky anywhere, did you know that Mount Huashan is referred to as the most dangerous hike in the world?
A surprising fact is that Mount Huashan only stands at 2154 meters tall. While it may be shorter than other dangerous mountains in Europe, don’t let its height fool you. Mount Huashan is beautiful, but climbing it is not for the faint of heart; it’s called the world’s most dangerous hike for a reason. The trails that lead up to Mount huashan are riddled with vertical paths, incredibly steep staircases and a plank trail that will make your stomach drop. The plank trail is made only of wooden platforms that are secured to the mountainside with bolts.
The routes up to Mount Huashan may be filled with uneven paths, sharp inclines and mountain-hugging trails, but there is an easier way up if you’re wary of dangerous hikes. There are two cable cars that transport hundreds of people to the summit of the mountain daily. The first cable car was installed in the 1990’s and drastically increased the amount of visitors to Mount Huashan. However, if you’re a thrill-seeker, or enjoy living vicariously through those who are, then you’ll find the adventures of those who have taken on Mount Huashan of particular interest.
It’s impossible to hike Mount Huashan and leave without any riveting stories. When climbing the mountain, it’s not uncommon to come across pathways that barely leave enough room for one person to pass through safely. And if you take after the Chinese, you may even hike the terrifying mountain at night! Many Chinese prefer to hike at this time because they believe it’s safer to climb Mount Huashan when you can’t see its dangerous tracks. Plus, it’s said that watching the sun rise from high up on Mount Huashan is a sight to see. Climbing the mountain from its base to its summit isn’t only incredibly risky, but it’s also time-consuming. However, for what some trails may lack in safety, they make up for in beauty. You can find quiet streams weaving along the mountain, trickling past the many Taoist temples. The walkways are sometimes flat, but more often than not, hikers must walk on steps carved into stone or along vertical ladders bordering steep drops, with only the guides of steel bars or chains on the sides. The most treacherous part of the journey is always the Plank Walk in the Sky. When walking across the Plank Walk in the Sky, visitors have to buy a compulsory upper body harness- it’s that risky! The only thing ensuring that you don’t fall to a painful death is a steel cable, which your harness is securely fastened onto. The adrenaline rush that a visitor gets when they’re fastened into their harness, walking tentatively across steel bars bolted into the mountainside is unparalleled. It’s terrifying. It’s breathtaking. It’s exhilarating! When the sky walk is filled with terrified hikers who cling to the mountainside, you often have to use the chains secured to the mountain to swing your body around the other visitors so you can proceed walking. It’s at that point that hikers usually recall the rumors of 100 visitors dying per year on the Plank Walk in the Sky. But they’re just rumors…right?
Assuming visitors finish the terrifying Plank Walk in the Sky, there are several other dangerous paths to try. One is the hike up to the Chess Pavilion. The hike to the Chess Pavilion, precariously perched on a peak across from the Plank Walk in the Sky, may not involve as many heights, but it is still risky. Visitors have to scale a slippery mountainside, guided again only by chains mounted into the ground. Not to mention that the only way to get there is via a terrifying steep descent from the sky walk. However, the trip is rewarding. When standing in the pavilion, visitors can take in the beautiful sights of Mount Huashan, from rivers along the base of the mountain to the higher summits above, lined with beautiful green foliage. Regardless of the paths that you take and the varying sights you may see while hiking Mount Huashan, all who have visited say that the trip was well worth it.
No matter who you are, there is an aspect of Mount Huashan that will draw you in. If you’re a history and culture fan, the rich tales of the mountain will intrigue you and make you want to see the source of the folklore for yourself. If you enjoy nature photography, capturing shots of the legendary and stunning Mount Huashan will be a dream come true. Similarly, if you love climbing mountains or are constantly seeking your next adventure, you have to visit Huayin and climb the mountain known to be the most dangerous hike in the world.