Wutaishan

Snow covered Beitai
The snow covered summit of Beitai seen from a temple in Taihuai village.

I already mentioned our trip to Wutaishan in my previous post, now I’ll give you some details about the trip to one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China. The mountain itself consists of five relatively flat summits, that’s why the area is called “Five-Terraces-Mountain” in Chinese. The highest one of the peaks is over 3000 meters in height, when we got there it was still covered with a thin layer of snow that was fallen the night before. Nonetheless, ascending the “north terrace” (Beitai 北台) became the highlight of the trip.

Monastery at Wutaishan
A Buddhist monastery off the beaten track during early evening.

Between the summits there is a small village (Taihuai), but as travelers rushed in during the May-Holiday, it was quickly crammed with tourists. In the main temples in the valley tourist groups were pushing forward, following the megaphone of their tour guide. We also stopped for the famous “Pusading”, a temple that was often visited by the Chinese emperors. The Quianlong emperor was so fascinated by it, that he allowed the temple to paint its roof in yellow – the imperial color. Once again we could see stones with inscriptions in four languages – or four writing styles: Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan. Apropos Tibet: There were quite a few Buddhist monks from Tibet practicing at one of the numerous monasteries in the area and even the Dalai Lama is considering to do a pilgrim tour to Wutaishan. One evening we had dinner at a Tibetan restaurant and had some “藏包子” – Tibet style filled steamed buns.

Nuns are doing the laundry at Wutaishan
Nuns are doing the laundry by hand at one of the more remote monasteries.

There more authentic temples and monasteries however were the ones not directly located in Taihuai. Of course they were not as in good shape as the ones that were directly hit by the stream of tourist, but the atmosphere was much more relaxing and people were practicing their believe instead of only taking pictures. Some monks told us stories about their monastery or the Wutaishan (according to the stories five dragons turned once turned the summits from peaks into terraces a long time ago). And even better, we were not ask to buy postcards, other souvenirs or incense.

A monk on his way to Beitai
A monk on the windy his way up to Baitai.

On the way to the 3058 m Beitai, we first stopped at a monastery and were offered lunch. Although you could see that the limited funds did not allow to make an exclusive lunch, it tasted very good. Later on we continued our hike trough fields where peasants were plowing fields with the help of cattle, but soon there was nobody in the range of sight except the three of us. Unfortunately the path eventually vanished as well, but our map was surprisingly well, so we made our way to the chilly and windy top. On the way back we even had some snowflackes whirring around us.

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