Huang (Yellow) Shan is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in China, offering true landscape views just as stunning as those depicted in traditional Chinese paintings. PHOTO BY JOAN LEBOLD COHEN.
Located in southern Anhui Province, Huang Shan is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in China. For thousands of years, Huang Shan has inspired literati, artists, pilgrims, and travelers. With seventy-seven peaks over one thousand meters, Huang Shan features qisong (“astonishing pines”), guaishi (“peculiar rocks”), yunhai (“sea of clouds”), and wenquan (“hot springs”).
Huang Shan (literally meaning “Yellow Mountain”) is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in China, offering landscape views as stunning as those depicted in traditional Chinese paintings. Located in southern Anhui Province in east central China, Huang Shan contains seventy-seven peaks over one thousand meters, twenty-four streams, two lakes, and three waterfalls. The range covers a core area of 154 square kilometers with a buffer zone of 142 square kilometers.
Though not listed among the famous Wuyue, or “Five Great Mountains” (Mount Tai in the east of the country, Mount Heng in the north, Mount Hua in the west, Mount Song in the center, and Mount Heng in the south), the stature of Huang Shan’s beauty is not to be denied. The renowned geographer and traveler Xu Xiake (1587–1641) once praised the magnificence of Huang Shan: “Not a mountain in the world is like Huang Shan of Anhui. There would be no mountains to climb after ascending Huang Shan. Sightseeing stops here.” A popular saying has thus followed: Wuyue guilai bu kan shan, Huang Shan guilai bu kan yue (“Upon returning from Wuyue, one does not want to visit any mountains; upon returning from Huang Shan, one does not even wish to see Wuyue”).
Huang Shan features qisong (“astonishing pines”), guaishi (“peculiar rocks”), yunhai (“sea of clouds”), and wenquan (“hot springs”). Pine trees are scattered amid steep slopes and precipitous cliffs, many of which are millennia old. Yingkesong (“Guest-Greeting Pine”), stretching its branches predominantly on one side of its trunk, is unique of all pine trees found in Huang Shan. The tree, an 800-year-old specimen of the species Pinus Hwangahanensis growing out of granite, is China’s most famous tree. The 10-meter high tree has been guarded around the clock against manmade and natural disasters by a series of bodyguards since 1983.
The mountains are rife with peculiar granite rocks of many shapes, some named after plants or animals, some after legends. Lianhua Feng (“Lotus Flower Peak”) is the highest among the three major peaks; the others are Tiandu Feng (“Celestial Capital Peak”) and Guangming Ding (“Bright Summit Peak”). More than 1,800 meters high, these peaks are often above the clouds.
The mountains are known for their unusual natural features. The phenomenon known as “sea of clouds,” where waves of clouds and fog surge among the hills and peaks, may appear during all four seasons in Huang Shan. At sunrise or sunset the splendid sea sometimes refracts sunlight, forming a colorful aureole known as baoguang (“treasure light”) or foguang (“Buddhist halo”). Hot springs register an annual average temperature of 42° C (107.6° F), luring visitors to drink and bathe in their waters. In addition, Huang Shan provides a natural habitat for wildlife and vegetation, with 1,450 species of plants, 170 species of birds, and 300 species of vertebrates calling the mountains home.
Humans have also left their mark. Over two hundred engravings have been preserved in the rock faces, together with ancient paths, bridges, and pavilions of historical cultural value. Under the administration of Huang Shan City, the villages of Xidi and Hongcun are renowned for their Anhui/Huizhou architecture dating from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, featuring white walls, green roofs, horse head-shaped gables, ornamental bricks, and both wood and stone carvings.
Due to its natural beauty, cultural heritage, and significance as a treasure house of rare and endangered species, Huang Shan was listed as a World Historical Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1990.
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Source: Rioux, Yu Luo. (2009). Huang Shan. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1089–1091. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.
The western slope of Huang Shan, much steeper than the eastern side of the mountain. PHOTO BY PAUL AND BERNICE NOLL.
Sentinel Rocks at Huang Shan, view of the Peak of Heaven. The renowned geographer and traveler Xu Xiake (1587–1641) once praised the magnificence of Huang Shan with the pithy phrase: “Sightseeing stops here.” PHOTO BY JOAN LEBOLD COHEN.
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