Mount Emei: Sacred Places in Sichuan

By Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse

There I was in Emei Shan (Mount Emei), yet another sacred place, following Yubeng and Lugu hu, two visually dissimilar places that had a similar significance as a sacred place for Buddhism in southern China.

Emei shan is one of four sacred Buddhist mountains in Sichuan province. Located a few hours’ bus ride away from the big city of Chengdu, it’s a small town with a big meaning for those of the Buddhist faith, as well as a UNESCO Word Heritage Site. For me, it was another mountain to climb.

Due to its significance and popularity, the Emei shan hike has been paved with stairs, as is common with many big Chinese attractions. One can even skip the hike altogether and take a bus all the way to the top and a combination of cable cars and busses back down to the bottom. That seemed silly to me, so I elected to use my feet, having heard that the lower portion of the hike is even more beautiful than what can be seen at the top.

I don’t agree with that statement, though. Not even a little bit. Not at all.

I’m sure the layered mountains and beautiful trees are a stunning sight, if that is, you can actually see them. Sadly, the pollution, I assume from Chengdu, is so bad that I could barely make out what I was seeing:

(Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)
(Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)

I started at Wainian temple which is a 20-minute bus ride from Baoguo. It’s a good place to start as it cuts out the lower first 20 or so kilometers and still leaves you with a steep 30 kilometer hike to the summit, which makes it doable in one day.

The trail is pretty easy to figure out, passing through several temples along the way up the seemingly never-ending stairs

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had so many hikes since then, or if that hike truly was one of the most brutal, grueling hikes possible, but at fewer than 20 kilometers I still feel that Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo is the toughest hike I’ve done, and it took me even longer than Emei shan which was a full 10 km longer.

A couple of enthusiastic snack vendors towards the top invited me to sit and have a rest while telling me all about how great the weather was that day. Really? Even with all this smog?

Given, I had read previous accounts of getting to the top and being unable to see a thing due to too much fog, made worse by the annoying monkeys, neither of which I encountered.

Which is good, because I don’t like fog and I really don’t like monkeys!

I guess I got lucky, because after climbing the last few icy stairs (losing my footing more than once, grateful there was a railing to cling onto), I finally ascended above the smog line and was rewarded with this at the 3099 meters (10,167 feet) high summit:

(Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)
(Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)

I was lucky and ended up meeting a fellow American (and a Californian at that!) along the way who I was able to share a room with that night, given the hotels at the top charge a minimum of 300 RMB (USD $50) per room! I wanted to see the famed sunrise, though, and it seemed there was no choice but to pay it.

In the end I was glad I did, because although the monasteries 10 kilometers lower charged much less, I would have never seen this:

Golden Buddha with faces pointed in every direction (Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)
Golden Buddha with faces pointed in every direction (Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)

A pagoda on a distant mountain (Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)
A pagoda on a distant mountain (Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse)

Copyright © 2014 by Be My Travel Muse. This article was written by Kristin Addis and originally published at Be My Travel Muse

RECOMMENDED