One of the temples of Emeishan

Mt. Emei, 160 kilometers away from Chengdu, is a very popular tourist area. Leshan, called Jiazhou in ancient times, lies at the confluence of three rivers - the Dadu, the Qingyi and the Min. High up against the cliff stands the Leshan Giant Buddha, a stone sculpture of 71 meters high, which is famous both in China and in the world. The Dragon Boat Race there and the Folklore Tour at Wutongqiao held over recent years have become quite popular among tourists.

Mt. Emei, known as Beauty under Heven, towering 3099 meters high with sheer precipices and overhanging rocks, is covered with ancient trees and unusual plants. It is famous as one of the four most famous Buddhist mountains in China. Once onto the top - the golden summit, you will enjoy a view of the Buddha’s Halo; the sea of clouds and the wonderful sunrise. Like an eerie phantasm, the ancient figure appears upon a curtain of clouds as if projected upon a movie screen. Even more startling, this vision is shrouded in the stunning aura of a colorful rainbow.

Besides Buddha’s Halo, several of the other wonders can be viewed at the peak, including the arresting Sea of Clouds and Golden Sunrise, when the very heavens seem to be flaming with an eruption of lava-like early-morning light.

Hence, despite the climb, this 3,100-meter summit has drawn pilgrims for thousands of years. One old Chinese saying maintains that life hasn’t been lived until the Middle Kingdom’s four sacred mountains have been scaled.

Another claims, “No place under heaven is as beautiful as Mount Emei.” This implies a bit of high-altitude one-upmanship, since Emei soars 1,000 meters or more above the rest of the holy mountains.

An overnight hump up and down Mount Emei might seem something of sacrilege, especially since so many monks spent their entire lives on this sacred mountain.
Of course, others do Emei even more quickly, thanks to cable cars and mini-buses that have made the ancient site of pilgrimage accessible to mass tourists. Nowadays, most opt for tours from Chengdu, about three hours to the mountain base, then another two hours to Jieyin Dien, where you already feel the air at 2,540 meters.

A Swiss-style cable car soars over pines to Jih Ding, and a final hike of about an hour, huffing and puffing in the high altitude, to the peak. Some don’t even bother to spend the night for the sunrise, completing the mountain tour in a single frantic day.

They leave Chengdu in the dark, make a quick circuit of the mountain and return via Leshan, for a fast peek at the world’s largest Buddha statue, an hour by road from Emei’s base.

This is a shortsighted way to see an UNESCO world heritage site with so many unique attractions. These include an astounding diversity of temple architecture in an region renowned as the cradle of Buddhist civilization in early China.

The largest surviving site is Baoguo Monastery, at the mountain base. Built in the 16th Century, this is the usual starting point for any serious exploration. The monastery includes a library of sutras and a huge porcelain Buddha.

Further up the mountain lies the Monastery of the Lurking Tiger (fuhu si), which features a lovely seven-meter high copper pagoda.

Visiting all the temples and shrines would take weeks. But you hardly need to be a fan of religious sites to be smitten by Emei. Indeed, the mountain abounds in a variety of riches guaranteed to wow practically any visitor, for as long as one’s itinerary allows.

Nature lovers are particularly pleased; among thousands of bird species, the mountain is home to scores endemic to Emei. The wildlife is nearly as prolific.

Unfortunately, the varieties you’re most likely to encounter are naughty, monkeys that have clearly had too much contact with visitors; they beg for food and grab your bags as you pass on the mountain trails. Many Emei visitors carry a cane to shoo them away.

Far more pleasing on any walk is the scenery: spectacular forests, flowers and waterfalls. With four climatic zones from sub-tropical at the base, to sub-alpine at the summit, Emei sports a wonderland of fauna, including the most dynamic range of pine trees you will find in China. Some strands of trees are over 1,000 years old.

Like any great hiking grounds, the routes around Mount Emei are remarkably varied, so no two trips are likely to be the same.

Advance planning pays dividends, though, as anyone who has started in shorts and T-shirt at Emei town, at the base, only to spend the night shivering in blankets at the summit, can attest. Temperature swings can be astounding; twenty degree variations from top to bottom are regularly recorded.

There are several comfortable lodges at the summit, where the views are staggering, even on overcast days. The favored lookouts are the sheer ledges below Golden Top Temple.

The name refers to the old bronze-coated roof, rather than the current orange-tiled one. Still, perched on the peak, the temple is inspiring. One can sit in rapture all day watching cascades of clouds crash into the cliffs, swallowing mountains that drift in and out of sunny views like waves in a surreal sea.

Heading back down, Emei offers one mesmerizing view after another. There are tacky attractions, too, from the constant chatter of annoying shills at the medicine stalls to the overbuilt landing areas, with the usual assortment of commercial diversions and trinket stands.

Emei is one of the 4 Buddhist famous mountains in China. It has been known as the place of Buddhist Rites. There are 30 temples in scenic area. In the center of the Wannian Temple is a huge Bronze statue of Samantabhadra mounted on a white elephant. It weighs 62 ton. The bronze statue of samantabhadra and Feilai Hall are listed in the state protection. Mt. Emei has currently 164 historical and cultural sites and 7000 relics and vestiges, among which 850 are under the state protection. Emei School of martial arts has developed in China and is still popular today.

Mt. Emei, known as “kingdom of plants”, “Geological Museum”, “Animal Paradise” and “Buddhist celestial Mountain”, particularly famous for the “No.1 Elegance of Mt.Emei under the sun”. It is the tourist attraction for sightseeing, worship, holiday, leisure and scientific research.

It has convenient communications. The Chengdu Kunming railway line and 103 Expressway run through the city. It’s 120 kilometers away from Chengdu, and 30 kilometers from Leshan Giant Buddha.