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Mount Tianzhu Scenic Area

Tianzhu Mountain
The Scene of Tianzhu Mountain

Speaking of Tianzhu Mountain of Anqing, Anhui province, many travelers who are acquainted with Chinese ancient history and culture may surprisedly say it used to have an honorary name---Southern Holy Mountain of ancient China(Nan Yue, 南岳), imperially bestowed by Emperor Wudi of Han Dynasty for it seemingly had the sign of immortality and the sites of residences of immortal figures of god-like Taoists. Therefore in theoretical system of Taoism, it is ranked the fourteenth Dongtian(洞天, the cave-style auspicious world for individual's cultivation to be a Taoist immortals ) and the 57th Fudi(福地, The blessed land for Taoists' cultivation). By the way, this mountain also closely links to the history of Anhui province. Originally named Mountain of Qian, Wansui Mountain and Mountain of Wan(皖山), and among three old names, the most influential one is Mountain of Wan, which later becomes the abbreviation of Anhui Province. Today, Anhui Province is still widely called Wan for short. Wan is Tianzhu Mountain naturally belongs to one of Chinese famous cultural mountains nationwide. Bai Juyi(白居易), one of the three most famous poets of Tang Dynasty, also had the excellent verse to highly praise the beauty of Tianzhu Mountain: Withstanding the sky is Tianzhu Peak, and the shockingly high gate of Dongtian locks the thunders and clouds(天柱一峰擎日月,洞门千仞锁云雷). It is probably the most famous portrayal of the magnificent landscape of Tianzhu Mountain. Furthermore, Li Po, boasting Chinese Poem God, also specially wrote lots of poems highly commenting this cultural mountain. So, naturally it was written into the first batch of List of National Key Places of Interest and Scenic Areas, List of National Four-A Tourist Area, List of National Popular Forest Park and List of China Top Ten Most Famous Mountains. In 2005, it was approved to be the National Geopark with a total area of 135.12 square kilometers.

History of Tianzhu Mountain

Tainzhu Mountain is located on the north side of Yangtze River and in the region of Qianshan, hence it used to be called Mountain of Qian as well. The main peak of Tainzhu Mountain is 1489.8 meters high and looks like a giant column touching the heaven and earth. This peak is also quite famous as Peak of Tianzhu(天柱峰).

Emperor Hanwudi
The Portrait of Emperor Wudi
in Han Dynasty

In 106, Emperor Liu Che (Emperor Wudi) of Han Dynasty climbed up to Tianzhu Mountain and marveled at the heavenly scenery of Mount Tianzhu, and then exclusively called it Nan Yue(Southern Holy Mountain. He held the large-scale ritual and show sacrifice to this mountain. Moreover, during the sacrifice and ceremony, the people following Emperor Wudi called out” Long Live! Long Live!” which in Chinese was Wan Sui(万岁), so Tianzhu Mountain was named Wansui Mountain too. This Mountain since then also highly titled The First Mountain of Jiangnan Region. Also, in the period of Spring and Autumn, it belonged to the enfeoffment of Wan Kingdom, hence it was called Mountain of Wan as well, and the surrounding water was called Water of Wan. This is the origin of abbreviation of Anhui province. In this way, Tianzhu Mountain is also the Origin of Anhui Province.Since Han Dynasty, it was sacrificed by emperors in different dynasties till it was renamed Mountain Hengshan(衡山) byEmperor Wendi of Sui Dynasty. From then on, Tianzhu Mountain was ranked to be one of Five Zhenshan of Ancient China.

Tianzhu Mountain was highly respected by people around the country. In Tang and Song Dynasties, Taoists and Buddhists both considered to be the blessing land and built up lots of temples on it. Seng Can(僧璨), Sanzu of Zen branch of Buddhism, cultivated to be an immortal over here. Today’s building complex of Sanzu Temple is also magnificent and becomes the National Key Temples. Tianzhu Mountain surely links to Buddhism and Taoism. It was the 14th Dongtian and the 57th Fudi. The second and third Masters of Zen Branch after Master Dharma. During Southern and Northern Dynasties, Tianzhu Mountain was authoritatively famous nationwide. Up to Tang and Song Dynasties, Tianzhu Mountain was also quite famous. Many famous poets like Li Po, Bai Juyi, Su Dongpo, Wang Anshi and Huang Tingjian used to visit here and left approximately 400 cliff and stele inscriptions. They are all the exercising model for calligraphic training.

Scenic Spots of Tianzhu Mountain

The whole scenic area of Tianzhu Mountain is 333 square kilometers and belongs to be the first batch of national key scenic areas and national forest parks. The whole scenic area is comprised of 45 peaks, 17 ranges, 18 cliffs, 14 rocks, 25 grottoes, 86 unique stones, 18 waterfalls, 17 springs, 7 villages, 2 temple building complexes and more than 100 types and 1000 kinds of plants. Tianzhu Mountain is the perfect show of ancient culture of Anhui province. It is the solemn land of Taoism and Buddhism as well as the original sites of Foguang Temple and Shangu Temple in Tang Dynasty. There are also the quintessential cliff inscriptions for calligraphic exercise; especially the cliff inscriptions of Shiniu Grotto are ranked the first both in quality and quantity of calligraphic works. The ancient cultural relic of Xuejiagang reappear the primitive look of Neolithic age Many people comment the beauty of Tianzhu Mountain is featured with the magnificence of Huangshan Mountain and the serenity of Lushan Mountain. It is full of the strange pine trees and odd stones, flying waterfalls and flowing springs, deep canyons and grottoes as well as the ancient cottages. There are also many rare treasured plant species as well as the seldom-seen animals like raccoon dogs, lyrebirds and giant salamanders. These are also the attractive part of Tianzhu Mountain Scenic Area.

There are 42 famous peaks of Tianzhu Mountain. The most famous one is its main peak, Tianzhu Peak(天柱峰), which is also named Chaoyang Peak, Siming Peak, Hejia Peak, Wanbo Peak and Sunzi Peak. Today, the Poetic Cliff of Tianzhu Mountain is well preserved, but the poems of Wang Anshi were stolen, and the original sites of these poems are the square carved pits at present. Tianzhu Peak looks like a huge column standing between heaven and earth. It is extraordinarily splendid and magnificent. The main cliff of Tianzhu Peak is horizontally carved with eight Chinese characters”孤立擎霄,中天一柱”(Touching Sky Alone and One Column at the Centre of Sky), and also four Chinese characters”顶天立地”(Standing between Heaven and Earth) are written below. There is also a Mystery Valleyunder the Feilai Peak of Tianzhu Mountain, and the travelers name it One Excellence of Tianzhu Peak(天柱一绝). The Mystery Valleyis roughly 2,500 meters or 3,000 meters long. The whole valley is comprised of 54 diverse grottoes, and these grottoes are interconnected closely and naturally. The grottoes have windows, backyards, doors, stone ladders and stone fences. Tianzhu Mountain is quite beautiful and marvelous. In 1982, it was approved to be the first batch of national-level tourist attractions.

Feilai Peak located on the westernmost point of Longyinhuxiao Cliff(龙吟虎啸崖, The Cliff of Shouting Dragon and Tiger) is the third highest peak. It has an altitude of 1424 meters. The whole peak is a huge rock, there is a huge stone on the top of the peak seemingly flying from afar, so this stone is also named Fei Lai Shi(Stone Flying From Afar,飞来石). This stone looks like a crown wearing on the top of the peak, and many a visitor arriving at Feilai Peak is quite marveled at this stone and also worried how to do if the stone falls down from the top.

Tianzhu Mountain has been approved to be the national geo-park and it is close to Dabieshan Mountain(大别山) and Yangtze River. Due to its unique geographic landform and geological structure, Tianzhu Mountain becomes one of the centers of geology research and exploration as well as the rare geologic tourist destination. It is a mysterious land in the realm of geology, and a lot of unexplored and unknown attractions are under investigation. Tianzhu Peak with a height of 1488.4 meters is extremely unique and special, and over the past thousands of years, it has been the splendid theme of painters, poets and literary masters in their works.

Sanzu Temple and Cultural Park of Shan Gu Liu Quan

Sanzu Temple
Sanzu Temple of Mount Tianzhu

Sanzu Temple(三祖庙) is the most famous cultural site of Tianzhu Mountain. The temple was said to be built in Southern Dynasty, but currently, the original building is ruined except the sutra library, some rooms and Jueji Pagoda. On the west side of Sanzhu Temple, there is a valley surrounded by huge stones. The side of valley is narrow and steep, the flowing water in valley is quite cool and fresh, and surrounding bamboos and pine trees shelter the valley. This site is a famous spot named Shan Gu Liu Quan(山谷流泉). In the valley, there is a cave. In front of the cave mouth, it is a huge stone shaped a lying ox. This is a site named Shi Niu Gu Dong(石牛古洞, Ancient Grotto of Stone Ox) extending for roughly 1500 meters long, which belongs to the famous attraction under the national protection for its more than 300 cliff inscriptions gradually collected in the past more than 1000 years. It is also the most famous site of calligraphic inscription with the most various styles of calligraphic arts and the longest time span in Anhui province. There are also dozens of engraved paintings on the stone. They both belong to the Cultural Park of Shan Gu Liu Yuan, and this site is the most valuable and treasured site in cultural park. According to the local residents, these stone inscriptions were written from the left to the right, which is opposite to the habit of ancient people who used to write characters from the right to the left. This is an obvious distinction of this site. These inscriptions are available from Tang Dynasty to Qing Dynasty; the authors and creators include Li Ao, Li Dexiu, Wang Anshi, Su Dongpo, Huang Tingjian, Zhang Tongzhi, Hu Cuanzong and Zhang Kai etc. Besides, the themes of these articles are made up of classic poems, verses, prose, lyrics and rhythms. Also, the handwritings of these works include five most famous and traditional styles of calligraphy and the contents are themed with culture, politics, economy, warfare, geography and astronomy. They are highly valued as a historic materials collection for taking research of natural science and literae humaniores. Among these works, the relatively famous is a painting themed with Huang Tingjian reading on the stone shaped like an ox.

Huang Tingjian
The Portrait of Huang Tingjian

Huang Tingjian(黄庭坚, 1045-1105), one of the most talented and famous scholars and literary masters of Song Dynasty next to Su Dongpo in the aspect of calligraphy, painting, poem and Buddhist sutra meditation, was said to live here for a certain period and sit on this stone to read. So he called himself Shan Gu Dao Ren(山谷道人, A Taoism Cultivator named Shan Gu), and the subsequent people usually call Huang Tingjian Huang Shang(黄山谷) for showing respect. On this stone, there are the carved poems of Huang Tingjian as well as the engraved painting of Li Gongling(李公麟, a quite famous and influential painter living at the same period as Huang Tingjian) themed with Huang Tingjian on the stone ox-back. This stone-carved painting with poems is partially damaged but still vivid and eye-catching. But why is there a huge stone set in front of the valley? And why is the most historically famous engraved painting themed with Shangu Reading on the Yiniu Stone lost unfortunately? These are the unanswered questions adding some mystery to this attraction.

As we all know, Huang Tingjian was an unreserved poet and calligraphist of Song Dynasty, and he believed deeply the Taoism and Buddhism. Naturally, he loved the nature very much, and preferred to travel in different natural and cultural sites. He even called himself Shan Gu Dao Ren, which has been mentioned above. Li Gongling was a famous painter of Song Dynasty, and his paper painting is highly valued, let alone his stone-carved painting themed with Huang Tingjian. In accordance with the historical records, Li Gongling’s painting of Shan Gu Qi Niu Tu Shu Tu(山谷骑牛读书图) was later carved onto the stone, but the original version was lost. There are three hearsays about the reason why this painting lost. The first is that in 1938, a drunken Japanese soldier climbed into the pagoda of Sanzu Temple but fell to death, and Japanese invaders on the pretext of this accident largely destroyed the cultural relics of Shi Niu Gu Dong close to Sanzu Temple and stole this stone-carved painting, also the poems of Li Po on Tianzhu Mountain was also lost, perhaps it was also stolen by Japanese intruders. The second is that this painting has been moved to Taiwan. And the last one is that during the 1970s, this painting was burst by local peasants for farming land extension and infrastructure. But the ruined ox-shaped stone still located there witnesses the all that happened in the past.

Stories Connected with Tianzhu Mountain

Hometown of the Seventh Daughter of Jade Emperor in Human World

Dong Yong and Qi Xian Nv
Dong Yong and Zi Er married
before an old locust tree

The seventh young daughter of Jade Emperor was named Zi Er(紫儿). She was quite talented, skillful, smart and kind. One day, she heard of a young man named Dong Yong(董永) who lived in Danyang, today’s Xiaogan of Hubei province. Dong Yong was quite obedient to his parents. Unluckily, he parents died, but he was too poor to bury his parents. He had no other choice but to sell himself to bury his parents. Zi Er was quite moved and secretly went to the earthly world to marry Dong Yong. They got married under an old locust tree, who served as the marriage celebrant to bless their marriage last for hundreds of years, but the old locus tree spoke the blessing words wrongly to be a hundreds of days, which made finally their marriage just several hundred days. Zi Er weaved 10 batches of brocades with her magic shuttle to buy back Dong Yong and prepared to begin their happy life. Unexpectedly, Jade Emperor got known the story of Zi Er and got rather angry and summoned Zi Er back at once. Zi Er had no choice but to leave her beloved husband. However, before her departure, she left her magic shuttle, and this shuttle later became the Stone of Flying Shuttle, and the weaving machine was also left in human world. Since then, people always heard the sound of weaving cloths. Annually, on 15th night of first month in lunar calendar, the well-dressed girls would gather nearby the Stone of Flying Shuttle and hold the workbox to pray Zi Er for being as smart and specialized as her to do the needlework and weaving jobs. They also sing the related songs. After completing the singing, they also inquire the situation of this New Year; exactly ask the question whether it is suitable for marriage or not this year. The grandfather of Zi Er was Pan Gu(盘古), who was the oldest and most powerful god creating the world, heaven and earth. And her mother was Ma Zu(妈祖), who was the god of the sea. Today, Tianzhu Mountain is crowned to be the hometown of Zi Er when she lived in human world.

Feilai Peak Story

The history of Feilai Peak is truly mysterious and hardly known. But a story about the Feilai Peak should be added here. It was said that there was a vast western sea in front of Tianzhu Mountain roughly 2,600,000,000 years ago. There were also many demons and sprites in western sea, and these demons did a lot of harms to local people. Later, Tai Shang Lao Jun(太上老君, who was said to be Lao Zi and the most important and leading god in Taoist god system), for helping the local people, borrowed a magic stone from Dragon King of East Sea and set it on the top of Feilai Peak to crack down the demons. It was also said that Emperor Qianlong came to Tianzhu Mountain and never believed this stone flied here from another world at all. And he recited a poem that:”飞来未必是飞来,定是世人胡乱猜。既然飞来又飞去,何必当初要飞来”, which means the Feilai Stone may not be flying from afar, and it must be an unreliable guess of the ordinary people. Now that it comes and goes anytime, and why did it come here originally! On finishing the reciting, the thundering and lightning began suddenly. The dark clouds above Feilai Peak covered the sun. And the Feilai Stone is making loud sound and is apt to flying away... It scared Emperor Qianlong too much, and he quickly changed the poem to be”飞来一定是飞来,不是世人胡乱猜。既然飞来又飞去,何必现在要飞走”, which means the Feilai Stone must be flying from afar, and it does not be an unreliable guess of the ordinary people. Now that it comes and goes anytime, and why are you going away here now! Immediately, the whole world changed absolutely to be sunny, the Feilai Stone resettled itself on the top of Feilai Peak.

Famous Cuisines, Specialty and Snacks of Tianzhu Mountain

The local cuisines are unique and distinctive indeed, and majority of the cooks are the individuals. The cuisines welcomed include Shi Er Dun Lao Bie(石耳炖老鳖), Shi Er Dun Ji(石耳炖鸡), Yu Tu Shan Yu(玉兔鳝鱼, Eel and Jaded Rabbit), Xue Shan Lian Zi Tang(雪山莲子汤, Snow Mountain Lotus Soup), Xiang Su Ji(香酥鸡, Aromatic Crisp Chicken) and so on. The famous snacks include: Zhan Er Gao(盏儿糕), Ya Dan Gao(鸭蛋糕), Nuo Mi Huan Xi Tuan(糯米欢喜团), Zhi Ma Mian Ci Ba(芝麻面糍粑), Zhi Ma Tang Cha(芝麻糖茶) and so on. The specialty is Lotus Root as Tribute of Snow Lake(Xue Hu Gong Ou, 雪湖贡藕). This is the popular specialty here. Tianzhu Mountain is also the base of producing many rare and treasured herbs. Additionally, Tianzhu Mountain is also the production base of Qing Xue Xiang Cha(晴雪香茶, Sunny Snow Fragrant Tea), a famous tea in China and the output is ranked the second place all over the country. It traditionally is considered to be one of the first-rank teas of China.

Transportation of Tianzhu Mountain

Tianzhu Mountain is 56 kilomters away from Anqing, 170 kilometers away from Jiujiang, 192 kilometers away from Hefei, 303 kilometers away from Huangshan Mountain, 200 kilometers away from Jiuhua Mountain, 397 kilometers away from Wuhan, 345 kilometers away from Nanjing, 354 kilometers away from Nanchang, 570 kilometers away from Hangzhou. It is convenient for travelers to arrive in Tianzhu Mountain by air, train, ship and bus

Fundamental Extension of China Mountain Culture---What is Zhenshan(镇山)?

Zhenshan, literally means guarding Mountain, is the dominating and leading mountain among mountains with different sizes in a certain area or region. In ancient culture of China, there used to five Zhenshan, which respectively were Kuaiqi Mountain(会稽山) in today’s Shaoxing city of Zhejiang province, Qi Mountain(沂山) in today’s Shandong province, Yiwulv Mountain(医巫闾山) in today’s Liaoning province and Wu Mountain(吴山) in today’s Shaanxi province and Tianzhu Mountain(天柱山) in Anhui province. These five solemn mountains used to be as famous as Wuyue(Five Sacred Mountains, 五岳). In Zhou Li(周礼, Rites of Zhou), a classic of Confucianism, Zhenshan sacrificing ceremonies or rites were one of the most important national affairs(Traditionally, in ancient China, two things were the most important: one was sacrificing rites, and the other was war). It was for praying for stability and peace of the whole country.

Writer: David from Seeraa International
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