China is full of surprises. One recent article Ashley sent me was regarding a bottle of PBR selling at USD 44.00 a bottle (and continued here). Equally surprising are the gems you find when you leave the cities behind and drive out into the countryside. On Saturday Werner, Rachael and their two South African friends offered me an opportunity to get out of Chengdu. We headed off to a mountain an hour and half out of Chengdu called Heming Shan (He Ming Mountain). Having never heard of the mountain and being in need of an escape from Chengdu I gratefully accepted their offer. After taking the scenic route to third ring road, and stopping for a fantastic lunch, we finally arrived at the base of the mountain.
The mountain is situated at the beginning of the Tibetan plateau which makes the “mountain” more a part of a chain than an independent mountain. Regardless, Hemingshan area has mountains, dense forest, lost of screaming birds and cicadas and clean rivers making it feel much more remote than an hour and half from Chengdu.
My guides (Werner and Rachael) informed me Hemingshan is the second most important mountain in Daoism (or Taoism) which explained the presence of the temple. The temple was in varying stages of completion with parts being repaired , refurbished and new parts being constructed. With China’s long history, in addition to more recent periods of social unrest, it is not uncommon to see temples and places of cultural significance receiving facelifts. The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, measuring 7.9 on the rector scale and lasting for two minutes, also damaged many buildings in Sichuan.
Even though were only stayed a hour (sorry Werner and Rachael, I really did not hear my phone) the lack of screaming children, horns and the constant presence of 13 million people had was sheer bliss. One thing I find living in China, and this holds true for most big cities, is that it can be very hard to escape the masses. But when I am successful I really enjoy it. Which is why I am happy we made it there before the local government completes the hotel and Daoist-Disneyland at the base of the mountain. But I’m going to leave my thoughts regarding the costs and benefits of China’s domestic tourism for another blog entry.