"Seeing off Hermit Wen Back to Former Residence White Goose Peak in the Yellow Mountains"
Thousands of feet high towers the Yellow
Huang Shan, or the Yellow Mountains, is one of the most popular attractions in China. Li Bai may have been wrong about the height of the Yellow Mountains (the tallest peaks rise just above 1,800 meters), but what inspired him to write this poem has awed visitors for thousands of years.
Located in the southern part of Anhui Province, the Yellow Mountains extend across four counties - Shexian, Yixian, Taiping, and Xining. They rose above the earth surface as a result of movement of the earth's crust over a hundred million years ago. Later they underwent the erosion of Quaternary glaciation and have gradually become what they are today. Magnificent and charming, the mountains have been a famous scenic spot full of wonderful sights.
The Yellow Mountains, also known as Yishan during the Qin Dynasty (211-207 B.C.), got its present name in 747 A.D.(the 6th year of the Tianbao reign of the Tang Dynasty), when Li Bai (701-762), the great Tang poet, wrote about them in these lines:
Thousands of feet high towers the Yellow Mountains With its thirty-two magnificent peaks, Blooming like golden lotus flowers, Amidst red crags and rock columns.
The Yellow Mountains are a marvel: within an area of 154 square kilometers there is a crowd of peaks, 72 of which have names indicating the shapes they resemble. Lotus, Brightness Apex, and Celestial Capital Peaks are the three major ones, all rising above 1,800 meters. The mountains are a body of granite, often with vertical joints. Erosion and fracture contributed to the shaping of the rocks into huge columns, giving rise to lofty peaks and deep ravines. When it is cloudy the pinnacles loom in mists as if they were illusionary, and while the sun is shining they unfold all their majesty and splendor.
The Yellow Mountains change their colour and appearance with the alternation of seasons. In spring, blooming flowers decorate the slopes in a riot of colour and fill the valleys with fragrance; in summer you see verdured peaks rising one upon another and hear the springs gurgling merrily;
autumn dresses the mountains in red and purple as maples are all blazing-red; winter turns them into a world of frost and ice with silver boughs and rocks all over.
From ancient times the mountains have been frequented by tourists seeking their mystery and admiring their scenery. They come to the conclusion that the fantastic pines, the grotesque rocks, the sea of clouds, and the hot springs are the four major attractions of the Yellow Mountains. As a matter of fact, there are marvels almost everywhere, especially in the following scenic areas:
Wenquan (Hot Spring), Yupinglou (Jade Screen Tower), Xihai (West Sea), Beihai (North Sea), Yungusi (Cloud Valley Temple), and Songgu'an (Pine Valley Nunnery).
Owing to the peculiar terrain, the Yellow Mountains' climate is marked by a vertical change, and the vertical distribution of vegetation is also distinctive: plants on the summit, on the middle levels, and at the foot belong to the frigid, temperate, and subtropical zones respectively. There are more than 1500 species of plants, of which trees comprise one third. Hence the Yellow Mountains occupy an important place in China's botanical research.
Here you will find century-old pines, firs, ginkgoes, Chinese torreyas, Chinese sweet gums , nanmus, camphor woods, and the precious Magua trees, remnants of the glacial era. The Yellow Mountains also abound in flowering plants; many of them are rare ones, such as the Goddess Flower and the Yellow Mountains Azalea as well as camellia, plum, lily, crape myrtle, orchid, Spring Heralding Flower, and so on. It has a rich store of medicinal herbs; more than 300 kinds are found here, the notable ones being glossy ganoderma ginseng, Chinese gold thread rhizome, and chinese cinnamon. Maofeng tea of the Yellow Mountains is well known at both home and abroad.
The Yellow Mountains also provide the natural habitat for a wide variety of fauna. Among the animals there are monkeys, goats, and deer. There are rare birds such as the red-billed leiothrix, the silver pheasant, the octave-tone bird, and the oriole, all good singers.
The red-billed leiothrix (called "love birds" in Chinese) are so lovely that they have become favorites of foreign tourists and are exported by pairs.
The temperature in the Yellow Mountains is agreeable all the year round. It is cool in summer, averaging 20° C at the North Sea Guest-house (1,630 meters above sea level) and 25° C at Hot Springs (630 meters above sea level). As clouds often shut out the sun, hot weather never stays long, and this makes the Yellow Mountains an ideal summer resort.
Though looking fresh and young, Yellow Mountains have a long history to which ancient books, poems, and paintings as well as carved inscriptions all bear witness. Li Bai was not the only poet who sang in its praise; Tang poets Jia Dao (779-843) and Du Xunhe (846-097) also came here and wrote poems. Xu Xiake (1586-1641), the great geographer and traveller of the Ming Dynasty, devoted two of his travel notes to Yellow Mountains.
Jian Jiang and Shi Tao (1642-1718), master painters of the Xin'an School in the Qing Dynasty, left behind them many paintings of the scenic mountains. Li Siguang (J.S.Lee 1889-1971), the late celebrated geologist, summed up his persinal inspections in his book: "Quaternary Glacial phenomena in the Yellow Mountains of Anhui".
Inscriptions of the past generations meet one's eye here and there among the Yellow Mountains: "Clouds in a Myriad of Forms", "Peaks Piercing the Sky", "A Cool World", "Fantastic and Beautiful", and "Scenery of Exceptional Charm" to mention just a few. Such poetic phrases in handsome calligraphy are not only decorative; they are themselves part of the fascinating scene.