Jiu Hua Shan

Nicholas Quirke was feeling his age on 11 June 2021 when Peng confirmed over breakfast that were visiting another mountain in the Huangshan range. Mount Jiuhua 九华山 was in Chizhou and an important Buddhist site. It is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China. 719 AD, Kim Qiaoque, a  prince came to Jiuhua Mountain and cultivated himself for 75 years. He died at 99 years of age, his corporeal body stayed intact. Because he was very similar in appearance to Dizang Buddhisattva, the monks there believed Dizang Boddhisattva was reincarnated in him, as a result, Jiuhua Mountain became the place to hold rites for Dizang Boddhisatva. The mountain is not only famous for its Buddhist culture but also noted for its natural landscapes featuring old pines, green bamboo forests, strange rocks, waterfalls, streams and caves.. A legend says that the great poet Li Bai of Tang Dynasty travelled here and wrote “Magic is divided to two branches, sacred mountain generates nine glories.” giving rise to its name Mount Jiuhua. He also wrote ‘Sailing down the Jiujiang River the other day, I saw the Jiuhua Peaks in the distance. Looking like a heavenly river hanging in heaven, Its green water embroidering cotton rose hibiscuses’. This information and the notion that it was mostly going to require visiting temples he was appeased and weary bones found it in them to move. After 18 months of visiting temples around Korea, japan and China he should have known it was going to require some hefty physical work and through they took the cable car up to Tiantai Temple situated on the mountains highest peak. It of course required climbing nearly 1000 steps and in the humid heat and high temperatures he made slow tortoise like and sweaty progress up to the glorious yellow shrine. Like many of the temples he had encountered it was in full working order and unusually had not suffered any ill fate during the cultural revolution. Like the parable of the tortoise and the hare to his surprise he arrived at the temple top before Peng and was delighted to discover a collection of sedan chair carriers fast asleep in their vehicles. He had as usual been the object of curiosity and happily posed for photos with strangers excited to see the ancient westerner. There was still the peak to be reached and a short climb had them looking in the distance at another peak which seemed to have a path to it. To his astonishment he found himself suggesting they walk there and take the cable car down and then get transport back to the car which they had left in a full car park in the foothills of Tiantai. There was a punishing descent before an equally painful climb the other side but the walk afforded breath taking views, another encounter with a monkey and the eventual pleasure of a mountain side path with dizzying views into the deep valley below from where he was able to conduct a live FB moment and was delighted in the UK’s early hours to be joined by his friend Phil Weaving. He was saturated with sweat by the time they got to downward slope and hardly had the energy to record the trip down. It seemed more trouble than they had thought to get back to the car and they had to wait 30 minutes for a bus which dropped them about halfway along the route they needed to take. It coincidentally was a small Buddhist enclave and was home to a temple which held the withered mummified bones of Qing Dynasty monk, Abbott Longshan in the Zhiyuan Temple. Nicholas lost sight of Peng at this pong and when he had climbed yet more steps and found himself on the road to the Small Tiantai temple he texted and discovered he had pointlessly climbed up the mountainside as the artefact was in fact near the base of the climb he had undertaken. He asked for help from some local food sellers and they directed him to a short cut and he was finally reunited with his friend. The body was on display in a glass cabinet at the back of the temple and it was impossible to see the remains. When they got to the bus stop to take them to Tiantai they discovered the last bus had just left and the only way was by taxi and they were asking a high price for the 2,5km walk. Peng decided to walk and Nicholas kept the bags and went ion search of somewhere to have tea. He found a restaurant and they made him a Huangshan mountain green tea and he not been seated long before he got a call from Peng who said he had returned as the 2,5 walk was all up hill over a thousand steps and he couldn’t face it. Nicholas finished his tea and asked to pay but they refused his money and said it was free. He must have really looked exhausted for them to have taken such pity on him. He was though overwhelmed by their kindness and hospitality and was once again deeply impressed by the generosity of spirit so many Chinese showed him. He did note though that when he sat down the restaurant was empty and by the time he left there was a thriving trade which meant that it was possibly his presence that had attracted the custom and they were grateful for that. Whatever, he rejoined Peng they negotiated a good price for the taxi and arrived to find the care park completely empty but for their car. He tried to enjoy the ride back to the hotel but exhaustion had set in and once they were in the room they ordered a take away and some delicious iced teas and a mango and coconut milk bubble tea. He was promised an easier day with a visit to an ancient village and that thought gave him the respite he needed to sleep.


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