San-tsing Shan NP, China

In July of 2011, I had to opportunity, to explore one of the most beautiful locations in the World with a small . Mount San-tsing shan National Park, a 22,950 ha property located in the west of the Huyaiyu mountain range in the northeast of Jiangxi Province (in the east of central China).

Huang Shan, China Area Map

San-tsing Shan National Park has been inscribed for its exceptional scenic quality, marked by the concentration of fantastically shaped pillars and peaks: 48 granite peaks and 89 granite pillars, many of which resemble human or animal silhouettes.

Early morning fog on the trail of San-tsing Shan, China.

A sea of clouds is one of those natural highlights at the Park. Since most of the scenic spots are located 1,600 m above sea level, the deep gorges, together with the luxuriant forests, shorten the length of time for sunlight to penetrate down to the ground. This makes it hard for water to evaporate and creates high humidity levels and moisture in the air. This leads to the park being covered with mist and clouds almost 250 days of the year.

A pillar in the fog, found at the San-tsuing Shan National Park, China

Pictured above and below, the natural beauty of Mount San-shing Shan also derives from the juxtaposition of its granite features with the mountain’s vegetation enhanced by meteorological conditions which create an ever-changing and arresting landscape.

Additional pillars found on the Sanqing Shan Trail, China

The mountain’s meteorological effects are notable: light refraction can produce bright halos on clouds and white rainbows in foggy air. Seen from above, the cloud seas and falls over ridge crests are striking. Mists are common and the strange shapes of the towering fingers of rock when wreathed in mist make this an unusually fantastic landscape. It gives you a mystical feeling of walking in heaven.

A view point from the trail of San-tsing Shan National Park

The access afforded by suspended walking trails in the park permited my trekking buddies and myself to appreciate the park’s stunning scenery and enjoy its serene atmosphere, (pictured below).

Part of the walking trail in San-sting Shan National Park 2011

Mount San-tsing Shan is at the western end of the Huaiyu Range. It is a massive uplifted pluton of deeply faulted and dissected granite, which forms an island of temperate forest above the subtropical countryside.

The central massif of Yujing (1817m), doubly uplifted in the late Cenozoic within a bordering triangle of faults, dominates a fragmented network of joints in the batholith resulting from past expansion of the crust.

An Ostrich-looking rock found along the trail at the San-tsing Shan National Park.

The eroded blocks were further split horizontally into cliffs and clusters of sharp-edged, rounded and sculpted pillars which were never later glaciated, resulting in a forest of pinnacles, (pictured below).

Stages in the evolution of the granite landforms of San-tsing Shan (Yin Guosheng, 2006) Image taken from:

Pictured below, the “Oriental Goddess” Peak is dignified, graceful and remarkably life like, it is unsurpassed in presenting the romantic charm of an oriental woman. The full height of the goddess is 86 m, 1300 m above sea level. In the past hundreds of millions of years, she has been seated dignifiedly on the top of the mountain, looking kindly at all the mortal beings in silence. The story goes that her name is Yao Ji, the 23rd daughter of the Heaven Empress. Yao Ji is in charge of the vitality of everything on earth and also the beauty of spring in the world.

The Oriental Goddess in the fog on the San-tsing Shan trail.

As the day got warmer, the fog started to slowly dissipate. Pictured below, the “Gigantic Boa” is a slender pillar rising up from the peak forest by as high as 128m, like a “boa” holding its head up against sky, full of life tension and noble spirit, and they are deemed to be superlative scenes under heaven. This symbolic picturesque peak, 1200 m above sea level, is a huge granite stone column cause by the combination force of weathering and gravity. The top of it is flat, the neck is a bit thin and the thinnest part is only 7 m in diameter. The towering crag looks rather perilous.

The Boa Pillar in the San-tsing Shan National Park. Notice the trail at the foot of Boa Rock.

Mount San-tsing Shan is a masterpiece created by the nature, and a product resulting from the endogenous and exdogenous processes of the Earth. The Mount San-tsing, noted for the loft peaks and natural landscape, are the product of the combination of geological evolution and erosion by wind and rain for as long as 14 hundred million years. The granite landforms with forest-like mountain peaks are un-comparable in the world. In the scenery area, all the mountains are not only compact but precipitous; and their motley surfaces seem to have witnessed the great changes in the long term of history. The scenery area is rich in water resource. The beautiful souring waterfalls are in harmony with the magnificent mountains, marked with old trees, exotic flowers and primeval forests of large areas. All these spread out into a mountains-and-waters painting with unique Chinese flavor.

I’m standing on a amazing cliff hanging trail at the San-tsing Shan NP 2011

The occurrence of the marvelous micro-landforms of Mt San-tsing Shan is due to a multipicity of factors. These include the existence of ultra-acidic, high silicic, high potassium and low calcium granites as a material basis.

Joint fracturing found in the granite rock.

The crustal extension that produced deep vertical joints lying on a fan-shaped fracture pattern of the mountain which cuts the granite  into blocks, thick plates and prisms.

Walking along the San-tsing Shan Trail. Notice pine tree growing horizontally from the side of the cliff.

In addition, the area receives substantial precipitation causing leaching and scouring of the mountainside to create an outstanding and unusual sculptural landscape. Further development of the landscape is attributable gravity collapse and biological activity.

Picture of the many pine trees found with San-tsing Shan National Park

Pine trees found in the San-tsing Shan National Park are mostly covered with an umbrella-like top. Their bizarre and diversified shapes perfectly match the park’s unique stones.

There is nothing like feeling the spray from the rain drizzle and cool breeze on a hot summer day while hearing the swaying of pine trees blowing gently in the breeze, surrounded by mountains on all sides.

Note the trail across the ridge on the right, within the San-tsing Shan

The mountain’s name, Mount (Shan) San-tsing is associated with Taoist belief. Since the three main peaks in the park, Yujing, Yuxu, and Yuhua look like the highest spirits honored in Taoism (Yuqing, Shan-tsing, and Taiqing) all sitting in a row, the mountain range was called “The Three Puity Mountain” or Mount San-tsing. Shan means mount in China.

I’m posing with my traveling buddy and interpreter, Cui Lee, on a glass platform at the crest of the San-tsing Shan National Park.

The wonderland described in the Taoist theory are jewelled palaces. All the celestial beings worshiped by Taoism believers are those who can mount the clouds and tide the mist, float between earth and heaven without any difficulty. So the mountains in the floating clouds are naturally considered as the wonderland in the world. The Mount San-tsing is just such a wonderland. The peaks appear distinctly in the cloud and mist.

A look at the glass platform that Lee and I stood on.

San-tsing Shan has been a Taoist shrine since a priest, Ge Hong, came to the mountain 400 years ago. At 1,530m high in the heart of the mountain stands the large San-tsing Shan temple, the Dragon and Tiger temple, named for its carvings and the Ming period Wind and Storm pagoda.

A Public Map for the San-tsing Shan temples and trails.

The looming, intricate rock formations intermixed with delicate forest cover and combined with ever-shifting weather patterns create a landscape of arresting beauty.

A strange formation near the trail.

All this together, is why I would classify this location as one of the most beautiful places on earth. I personally, classify it as the “Kubla Kahn’s” Xanadu. It is like Heaven-on-earth. Literally walking in the clouds.

A good look at the cliff-hanging trail. An amazing engineering design.

Pictured above, I was heading back of the mountain. The cliff-walkways were amazing engineering accomplishments. A plank road is one built along the face of a cliff. The plank road here is in the in the west of the scenic spot. The total length is 3600 m. It is built on the cliff high up in the sky. When walking along it, one feels as if he/she were strolling on the top of the cloud. Along it, one can see the running cloud sea, colorful sunset glow, continual mountains and deep valleys.

Some fun with resonance on a rope bridge, within the San-tsing Shan National Park 2011, (notice how nobody wants to walk with me on a rope bridge).

The true character of Taoism is to be detached from the worldly common practice and to seek after longevity. The Mount San-tsing is also permeated with a kind of character–to be free from the world. Here, one can see the vestiges of the great changes of the world in the past 14 hundred million years; Here one also can see how the Chinese people have pursed a wonderland beyond the worldliness in the past 1,600 years.

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