This temple complex – 10km/6 miles north of the village of Fufeng, which itself is some 100km/60 miles west of Xi’an – is famous for its pagoda, in which is kept one of Shakyamuni’s finger bones. The bone was brought here on the instructions of the Tang Emperor Xianzong (806-821).
The thirteen-storey brick pagoda, 28m/92ft high, was rebuilt in 1988. It towers up in front ofthe main hall ofthe monastery which houses a statue
1987 in an underground palace below the foundations of the previous pagoda. This palace, which had remained hidden for 1000 years, contained much valuable treasure from the Tang period, including numerous objects in gold, silver, semi-precious stones, jade or lacquer, many porcelain vessels and woven silks. In 1988 a museum was built here specially to house these finds.
Mount Huashan, also known as Xi Yue (West Mountain), lies some 100km/60 miles from Xi’an and dominates the east of Shaanxi province. It is one ofthe Five Holy Taoist Mountains. Steep and rocky paths wind their way up between its five peaks to the east, west, north and centre. The highest point is Lotus Peak (Lianhua Feng) to the south, which is 2100m/6892ft. Mount Huashan has been famous since time immemorial. Along the paths which lead past precipitous rock faces and yawning chasms the scenery changes at every step and seems to cast a magic spell over all who pass.
To get to Mount Huashan take the train to Huayin. The ascent of the mountain begins 8km/5 miles from there, in the Garden of the Jade Spring (Yuquan Yuan). The path winds through what are known as the Eighteen Bends, past some interesting rock formations and a stone gateway, and thence to the Gateway of Clouds (Yunmen), from where there is a magnificent view ofthe mountainous scenery. From here onwards the path gets steeper. Stone steps lead up to North Peak (Beifeng). The path which follows is dangerous and isonlyforthose with a good headforheights.The climber will pass The Place Where the Ear Scrapes the Rock (Ca’er Ya) and the Ridge ofthe Blue Dragon, where the rock faces fall away precipitously.
Those who decide to climb the South Peak must scramble up using the footholds cut in the face of an extremely steep slope, holding tightly on to an iron chain for safety. One ofthe most difficult sections is the 100ft long gorge, which is so narrow that only one person at a time can squeeze through.