Wenzhou, a well-known eastern coastal city, is known as one of the country''s economic powerhouses. Shrewd Wenzhou businessmen travel the world to set up all manner of shops. Mt Yandang, with its cool spots and unusual natural scenery, makes the city distinct from more famous summer destinations in the north.
When talking about famous mountains in China, westerners think of Tibet first, and then Yunnan, Sichuan and Anhui. Mountains in east China are almost unknown, though Mt Yandang should be a noted exception.
During May''s Golden Week vacation, I went back to the mountain. Having grown up as a Wenzhou local, I assure you the city is active, growing and worth a visit.
Mt Yandang, located in Yueqing County, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, is in the top tier of nationally-ranked important scenic sites, and it is considered one of China''s ten most famous mountains.
Many mountain destinations in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces feel like the Alps, since geology and climate have chiseled the mountains into a unique scene. Yandang, however, has its own brand of majesty owing to its high, sunny, limestone cliffs.
There are two options for where to head after arriving at the foot of Mt Yandang: the lake or the mountain. I suggest you take the latter, since the entrance from Wenzhou is located in a circle of mountains topped by high cliffs.
Lingfeng Peak, the east gate of Yandang Mountain, is the first stop. Climbing up along Mingyuxi (Mingyu Stream), one can see the steep cliffs alongside precipitous peaks and zigzagging brooks. The daytime view is beautiful, but beneath the moonlight, it is even more so.
When night falls, the peaks silhouetted against a moon-lit sky form shapes like the "Husband-and-Wife Peak" and "Watching Moon Rhinoceros". There are small and discreet carnivorous plants growing on the ground in litters of pine needles. In such acidic soil, being carnivorous is the only way for a plant to survive.
At Mt Yandang, you have the chance to see a mountaineering show: a local man tied with ropes making his way down from those cliffs. Though mountaineering is popular in Europe among wealthier circles, at Yandang, the climber was dressed as a farmer and had only basic equipment. He had a bag full of orchids to be sold as medicine.
The tradition of collecting orchids from the cliff has grown rare with increasing local wealth.
In addition to Lingfeng Peak, Yandang is famous for waterfalls cascading from the top of the cliff to pools at the base. Dalong Qiu is one spot worth visiting. It is the first dried-up stream in China due to the climate.
Dalong Qiu''s falls drop nearly 200 meters, and claims to be China''s steepest falls. The scene would look even more dramatic if more than a few drops of water reache the pool below.
Most of the forest is composed of pine, and some areas are reminiscent of dense, European forests. Pathways allow you to reach the foot of the cliffs and have a clear view of the valley below.
Sitting by the falls on a rainy day is the best. Even if you live where the Huangguoshu waterfalls are, it would be a mistake to pass up Dalong Qiu. Other falls are just waterfalls, but Dalong Qiu is a dragon. The fall becomes two dragons in the air which land at the bottom in scattered patterns.
The Jinxi River is fed by Dalong Qiu and passes through Jinzhu Jian before flowing into a nearby river and out to sea.
It is said that Xie Lingyun, a poet famous for his poems about landscapes, explored Jinchu Jian but failed to climb the mountain and missed the chance to explore Dalong Qiu.
Like many other mountains in China, Mt Yandang became famous during the Southern and Northern dynasties (420-581). It was developed during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and became prosperous in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The mountain has long attracted Chinese intellectuals. Shen Kuo, a Song Dynasty geologist, and Xu Xiake, a traveler, geologist and writer, are the most famous people who haeir footprints on Yandang.
Getting there: Yandang can be a weekend trip from Shanghai with a stopover in Wenzhou. If you''re in Beijing, you can get to Wenzhou by air. It takes an hour and a half to get there. Try to avoid weekend and festivals because the place is a favorite hangout for Wenzhou natives. Mt Yandang is situated 30 kilometers north of Wenzhou city.