Situated in Huayin City, 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) east from Xi’an City of Shaanxi Province, Mt. Huashan is known as ‘The Number One Precipitous Mountain under Heaven’. It is one of the five sacred mountains in China. The other four mountains are Mt. Taishan in Shandong, Mt. Hengshan in Hunan, Mt. Hengshan in Shanxi, and Mt. Songshan in Henan.
In ancient times, Mt. Huashan was called Mt. Taihuashan. From a distance the five peaks seem to form the shape of a ‘flower’ (hua in Chinese), hence the name ‘Huashan’. It is famous for its natural vistas of steep and narrow paths, precipitous crags, and a high mountain range. It is home to several influential Taoist temples where emperors of past dynasties made pilgrimages, making Mt. Huashan the holy land of Taoism.
>>Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple)
Usually tourists climb up the mountain assisted by the iron chains along the way and start their tour from Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple), one of the main Taoist temples in China located at the foot of Mt. Huashan. It has the architectural style of the classical gardens in south China. There is a pond in the center and several pavilions around it. Walking through the Wuyou Pavilion, the Long Corridor of Seventy-two Windows comes into view, and afterwards Qingke Ping where a big rock called ‘Huixin Rock’ can be seen. It is said that ‘Huixin Rock’ is a reminder for those who wish to stop their tour at this point. Beside the rock are the precipitous 370 rock steps called ‘Qianchi Zhuang’ considered to be the primary breath-taking path of Mt. Huashan. When climbing, only a gleam of sky above can be seen, making climbers feel as if they were at the bottom of a well.
>>North Peak (Cloud Terrace Peak)
Across the ‘Qianchi Zhuang’ are two similar precipitous paths-respectively called ‘Baichi Xia’ and ‘Laojun Li’ above which climbers reach Mt. Huashan’s North Peak. There are precipitous cliffs on all sides of North Peak, making it look like a flat terrace in the clouds, hence the name Cloud Terrace Peak. It is 1,614 meters (about 5,295 feet) high. Three sides are cliffs and one side is to the ‘Ca’er (the ear rubbing the cliff) Cliff’ which is the fourth precipitous path where tourists can climb up only by pressing an ear close to the cliff. In the waist of North Peak trees are luxuriantly green, creating a good rest spot.
>>Jinsuo Guan (Gold Lock Pass)
When climbing over the ‘Blue Dragon Range’, regarded as the must-pass way to the other four peaks from North Peak, travelers arrive at Gold Lock Pass. Mt. Huashan visitors know that it is customary to buy a golden lock, and then lock it in the iron chains on both sides of the Gold Lock Pass for families and friends to pray for their safety and health. It is a marvelous spectacle to see thousands of golden locks in the iron chains. Within the mountain gate of Gold Lock Pass, a huge golden lock of about 4 meters (about 4.37 yards) long and 1 .5 meters (about 1.64 yards) high stands in a big rock. It is made of pure copper and forged by 9,999 locks left by visitors. It is a popular photo site. This huge lock can only be opened by throwing coins – one coin represent the status of an ordinary person; three coins, a blessed person and nine coins a most blessed one. Gold Lock Pass is the throat to Middle Peak, East Peak, South Peak and West Peak.
>>Middle Peak (Jade Maiden Peak)
Middle Peak clings to East peak and is in the center of East, South and West Peaks. There is a Taoist temple in the peak named ‘Jade Maiden Temple’. Legend has it that the daughter of Qin Mugong (569 B.C.-621 B.C.) loved a man who was good at playing Chinese tung-hsiao (vertical flute) and she gave up the royal life to become a hermit who cultivated her spirituality here, hence the name Jade Maiden Peak. Today Jade Maiden Temple and Jade Maiden Basin for Shampooing can be found on the peak.
Other scenic spots in Middle Peak include Rootless Tree and Sacrificing Tree which have beautiful stories and add to the supernatural atmosphere of Middle Peak.
>>East Peak (Facing Sun Peak)
Tour guides may promote climbing the mountain at night to see the sunrise. Climbing to the top of East Peak requires 4 to 6 hours. East Peak has an altitude of 2,090 meters (about 6,857 feet) forming a platform for visitors to view the sunrise. An astronomical telescope is provided here. The reference time for sunrise and sunset is 5:00a.m.-6:00a.m. in spring, 4:30a.m.-5:20a.m. in summer, 5:00a.m.-5:20a.m. in autumn, 5:30a.m.-6:00a.m. in winter.
One well-known scenic spot called the ‘Immortal’s Palm Peak of Mt. Huashan which is ranked as one of the ‘Eight Scenic Wonders of the Guanzhong Area (the plain area in the middle of Shaanxi Province)’ is located on East Peak. It refers to the natural rock veins of the cliff which look like a giant palm-print. Legend has it that on March 3rd of the Lunar Calendar a torrential flood erupted, destroying the villages within the Mt. Huashan area. This disaster was caused by the Queen Mother of the West, who held her ‘Flat Peach Carnival’ celebration that year. She carelessly spilled a little jade wine down from paradise, causing a serious flood below. This news was quickly reported by Deity Shaohao to the Jade Emperor in Celestial Paradise. He gave a prompt order to Deity Juling to go down to tame the flood. When Deity Juling, full of vigor and vitality, descended from the clouds, he arrived at the precipitous cliff of East Peak. At the moment that he laid his left hand on one side and his right leg on the other, he ripped the mountain into two halves and immediately a flood rushed out. This tale adds luster to East Peak.