Mountain of the Eyebrows
Emei, meaning “Delicate Eyebrows” in Chinese, got its name from two peaks facing each other and looking like the delicate eyebrows of a Chinese classic beauty.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve known that Mount Emei was reputed as one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China, which have been important destinations for pilgrimage. In fact, at 3,099 meters, Mount Emei is the highest of the four.
In 1996, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it breathtaking scenery, mysterious natural wonders, and historical Buddhist sites. The truth is, I was not aware of this until I was on the mountain – one of the benefits of following a tour.
After a dinner at the little town adjacent to the mountain, we checked into Hongzhushan Hotel, which is located right at the foot of Mount Emei. Surrounded by nature, it was hard to refrain from checking out the night market and snack food streets within walking distance of the hotel. But, we knew very well that we had “homework” to do before the group meets again the next day.
Option is Not a Good Thing
We had two alternative ways to spend the next day - either half a day visiting Wannian Temple (with the rest of the day at leisure), or a whole day at the summit of the mountain. Not knowing either option well enough, picking one seems to turn down the other great opportunity.
Well, for those that know me from my first post, I’m a visual person. Undoubtedly, I resorted to the photo books in the hotel room. After all, it’s the history and the visual appeal that I seek wherever I travel to.
The Decision Time
After a 15-minute bus ride and a cable cart ride, the group would part in two directions. The ones that stayed would visit the Wannian Temple and the rest of the group would go on to take more cable-cart and bus rides to the top of the mountain.
So what did we decide? After consulting the tour guide, we took the Wannian Temple route.
It was drizzling in the morning, everything would be covered in cloud at the summit and we would not expect to experience the spectacular view at the top. Additionally, Wannian Temple is one of the most ancient temples on Mount Emei, while the temple to be visited at the top was just finished in 2006. So speaking of history, Wannian Temple was an obvious winner. That, coupled with leisure, makes a happy tourist like me.
The Wannian Temple – Temple of Ten Thousand Years Old
Built in Jin Dynasty (317-420), the Wannian Temple sits on the 1,020-meter elevation. It was called "Samantabhadra Temple" originally. After a few name changes ("the White Water Temple" in Tang Dynasty and "the White Water Samantabhadra Temple" in Song Dynasty), its current name of "the Wannian Temple" was adopted in Ming Dynasty.
The original construction scale of this temple was the grandest on the Emei Mountain with the longest history. Unfortunately, a big fire in 1946 completely burnt down the beautiful wood temple halls and only the brick palace built in Ming Dynasty left.
Emperor Wanli of Ming Dynasty donated to build such a brick palace without beam of roof, known as "Beamless Hall". Its walls, window lattices and arcs were all built with bricks and stones. Wanli also inscribed Wannian Temple to celebrate his mother’s seventieth year birthday. Remember, Wannian, in Chinese, means ten thousand years?
Later in 1953, two wood temples were rebuilt.
Who’s Making Decision Here?
As we were heading back en route to the hotel, we couldn’t help but asking the tour guide about one thing, the Qingyin Pavilion that we saw in the photo book the night before.
The great news is that instead of the cable cart, we could take the so-called “Tian Ti” (“Steps Leading to the Sky” in Chinese) to descend to the ground level, passing “Qingyin Pavilion” immediately before. Once at the ground level, we could take the same bus to go back out the mountain. Not wanting to miss the natural scenery, we and a few other inspired group mates took the Tian Ti.
The Perfect Dessert
The Qingyin Pavilion (Qingyin, in Chinese, means “clear music”) was built against the mountain-side at the foot of the Niuxin Ridge (Niuxin, in Chinese, means “bull’s heart”). It is an ensemble of pavilions, towers, and platforms, the earliest of which dating from the early 6th century. Its location and the streams that run through it have earned it the name “The Garden of the Mountain”.
As we were walking down the steps, we kept on being stopped by the wonderful nature surrounding us. We passed through the beautiful Qingyin Pavilion, spend (god knows how much) time at the shallow stream bed and the water-side, taking pictures, checking out the emerald colored water, laughing, walking by the suspension bridge, proud of finding the secret heaven on earth.
By the time we arrived at the bus stop, we were all exhausted, and yet with a grin on our face, cameras loaded with precious memory. Best of all, we all came back with a few more friends on this earth.
We are Coming Back for More
Feeling that my soul had a good massage, I’m coming back to Mount Emei for more. Didn’t they say there are 30 Buddhist temples there? Well, I guess I have 28 to go… Mount Emei, hold the change and wait for my next visit!