Don’t you just love it when an unexpected change turns into a holiday highlight?
Originally, and actually since the planning stages of this trip, I wanted to hike up a mountain named Emei Shan, where you can stay overnight in a Buddhist temple. I loved that idea, loved the thought of trekking up to our lodgings, welcoming in the next day by watching the sunrise. Then taking the 2nd day to meander back down the mountain. It all sounded quite romantic and was high on the hit list. (BTW have I told you how much I LOVE trekking?)
Well … as it sometimes happens, and as plans tend to do … things changed and our trek up Emei Shan didn’t happen. The days were whizzing past and all the time we seemed to have was fast disappearing.
Not one to give up so quickly, I did my usual pre-bedtime reading (to others known as travel research) and found another option, which could possibly fit into our time frame. It was a mountain called ‘Qingcheng Shan’. It was only half the distance of Emei Shan, and looked to be not quite as popular so not as many tourists – bonus!
AND … the line that totally sold me … it’s the mountain that was portrayed in ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ – SOLD!
I love traveling with kids, I actually had to look up what this mountain is called when I started writing this post because it is only known as the ‘Kung Fu Panda mountain!’ in our little camp.
So … a ride on the Metro, a bullet train, a bus and a mini bus later we arrived at the base of the mountain. It was cold, bloody cold in fact, it was drizzling with light rain, it was wet, the sky was heavy with a misty and dense fog … and it was absolutely beautiful! And I mean incredibly, breathtakingly beautiful!
From that first few minutes I knew that this day was going to be fabulous, I just knew it!
Maybe our joy at being in among this magnificent natural landscape was influenced by the fact that we’d just spent a busy few days wandering around a very big city, maybe it was because we were all really missing a bit of greenery, but maybe it was the fact that we really had no expectations at all? Whatever the reason, it didn’t really matter, we were all mesmerized by the beauty of this beautiful, and magical place – and we were still at the base!
Mt Qingcheng Shan is the place where Taoism originated in China, and has been a Taoist retreat for more than 2000 years so it’s no wonder we felt so relaxed and at ease! The mountain is literally covered in stunning pavilions and temples of high spiritual importance in both the Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. Some temples date as far back as 700AD! The history on this mountain is palpable, it’s a spiritual experience just being there. Even the most headstrong non-believer would easily take to their knees in prayer here. It just, sort of, happens.
Jed and Deni aren’t foreign to prayer, spending 2 years in Bali gave them a good understanding of prayer and ‘the Gods’. We would often partake in our own practice of offerings while we lived there, but it still took my breath away when I noticed Jed kneeing down in front of a huge God-like statue, his little head bowing 3 times, his hands at his chest. Deni was soon to follow. My heart exploded! I desperately wanted to ask them both what they were praying for, but times like that need no words, or explanations, so I stayed with the beautiful vision of my two children praying to their Gods, for whatever they deemed important.
The trails at Mt Qingcheng Shan are in perfect condition making ‘trekking’ a non-event. Walking is a better explanation for our days activities, although I must say that even though the trails were incredibly well made and maintained, it is a mountain, so the majority of the trails are stairs – good stairs, but stairs all the same! After a few days off our Tai Chi training schedule it was nice to work those muscles again.
As we climbed we were surrounded in the most beautiful lush and dense forest. I’d forgotten just how much I’d missed the soft colors of autumn. We’ve been living an endless summer for the best part of 5 years, which is pretty fantastic, but – I do miss the autumn. It was just another little aspect of the day that made it so lovely. The trees are plentiful and dense all the way up the mountain, and they certainly gave us a gorgeous display of all shades of this lovely season – browns and reds, yellows and oranges – and an abundance of enormous Autumn leaves everywhere – just stunning!
The highest peak of the mountain is Laoxiao Ding Peak, where the glorious and majestic pavilion of Lajun stands proudly. It has an elevation of over 1,260 meters, and that’s where we were headed. That was until our littlest, and usually our toughest team member decided enough was enough! It was freezing, her feet were wet and were fast turning that painful shade of blue. Her tiny little legs just couldn’t go one step further. We took shelter from the rain in a little teahouse and I stayed with her to warm her little body and defrost her feet while Liam and Jed went ahead. As luck has it, we were actually only 50 meters or so from the peak and the sheer excitement on Jed’s return, as he told us about what lay ahead, was enough to get our littlest trooper to kick off the sarong-come-blanket, pull on her cold and grubby shoes (lined with plastic bags!) and start heading for the top. I’m so SO glad that she did … the view that welcomed us as we climbed those last few stairs was something right out of a movie! Yes, there in front of us, all shrouded in mist and mystery, was the Peacocks Temple – the exact pavilion from Kung Fu Panda – I heard Deni gasp and turned to see her standing there, mouth agape, looking up towards the heavens
‘Look Jed, it’s the peacocks temple!’
Oh, what a sight it was, proudly sitting up there on the mountain top, layer upon layer of magical Chinese architecture. We were all awestruck!
The view from the top was not one of endless mountains and countryside, but was one of a blanket of white. The cloud cover was so dense that nothing could penetrate it to be seen. Some may say that visiting the mountain in this weather was unlucky, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, this just added to the mystery and magical feeling that we all felt while standing at the Laojun Pavilion. We all took to our knees in prayer, then received a red ribbon, stamped with gold characters. We wrote our own messages, separately and together as a family, and tied them onto a tree. The whole experience was deeply touching and once again, I felt such an enormous wave of gratitude for these profound moments that this journey is giving us.