By Michele Ong in Beijing: Pacific Media Centre
It was in Anhui that I both truly experienced and saw China.
Anhui province, with its stunning Huangshan mountain and beautiful old towns, was what I pictured China to be based on the movies I've watched and the books I've read.
I first glimpsed Huangshan Mountain at the photo exhibition put out by respected artist Wang Wusheng at the opening ceremony of “Memorable Tourism Anhui”. I was captivated by the mountain’s beauty the moment I saw the pictures.
By the end of the day, I was burning with curiosity at what Huangshan mountain really looked like in real life.
I visited Huangshan on my first day in Anhui. Truth be told, I was completely exhausted from my seven-hour bus journey the night before from Shanghai to Anhui and would happily trade climbing up Huangshan mountain if I could lie in bed a little longer.
Alas! We were to get up at 7am and be ready for the long day ahead by 8am.
On our way up to the mountain, we were given a brief introduction by our tour guide, Jeff, on Huangshan.
The mountain got its name from an emperor from the Qing Dynasty who spent his time studying the art of becoming a fairy.
After much persistence, he eventually attained fairydom. The local villagers, out of respect for their emperor, named the mountain Huangshan. Jeff then explained that “Huang di” means “emperor” in Mandarin. Huangshan Mountain loosely translates to Yellow Mountain.
I found climbing Huangshan mountain no means an easy feat. With every step I took, I felt like there was a ball chain attached to my ankles. Yet before me lay a series of never ending steps, beckoning me to climb further up, enticing me every step of the way with its lush greenery.
I felt pretty embarrassed with myself for complaining about sore calf muscles when I saw several men, strong as ox, balancing either a ton of bricks or sacks of food on their shoulders, hiking steadfastly up the mountain. All I had on me was a small satchel containing a bottle of water, a packet of crisps and an umbrella. Yet there I am griping about my sore legs.
By the time I reached its highest peak, Lotus Peak, I wasn’t sure if my legs were still with me. The last time I did any exercise was when I was still in New Zealand—I swam once a week. But ever since I came to China, all I did was eat 24/7 a day and did minimal exercise.
Despite complaining and huffing and puffing while making my way up the mountain, I had to say I had no regrets. I would’ve regretted it more if I gave up half way and made my way back to the cable car.
The mountain with its beautiful greenery and thousands of years old pine trees, growing gracefully between majestic rocks, were breathtaking.
The mountain air was both cool and refreshing.
Praying for blessings
Low lying clouds enveloped the mountain's peaks and trees, lending a calm and serene atmosphere. I could feel my earthly worries slowly disappearing as I stood in awe of the beauty before me. Little wonder its local tour brochure boasts its mountains as "the best places to go when praying for blessings".
Along my way up the mountain, I took the chance to slowly admire flowers and trees which grew in abundance. Whenever I’d start feeling a little bit tired from the climb, I’d rest a little while by the streams and watch crystal clear water gush over smooth brown rocks. There were times I wish I could set camp there. Then I’d get to admire its scenery all day long.
I wasn’t the only one who thought Huangshan mountain a beauty. Another visitor I spoke to, Andee Flueck, a Swiss working in Germany, said he found the mountain "mystical”.
An Italian tourist, Arianna Padella, told me that unless one moved outside from the city, one would never be able to appreciate what the country is like. I couldn’t have agreed more with both of them.
I’m currently working in Beijing and as much as I love the city for its tall modern buildings and vibrant nightlife, it still wasn’t really the China I was hoping to experience.
But now I could safely say I have truly experienced the essence of China in Anhui.
Michele Ong is an AUT University graduate journalist on an AUT and Pacific Media Centre internship with the China Daily in Beijing with airfare support from the Asia New Zealand Foundation. This story was first published on the China Daily travel website.
Other Michele Ong stories:
Ancient villages in Anhui
NZ's gaokao exams
20 libraries to open in Tongan villages
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