Up and Down Beijing’s Mountains
Come to climb mountains in Beijing-tianjin- Hebei region along a zigzagging path and learn about legends of the Central Plains.
Beijing-tianjin-hebei region is located at where the Northern China Plain and Taihang Mountains meet the mountainous areas in northern Hebei Province. This region boasts mountains and scenic spots which integrate natural scenery and culture. Luxuriant green vegetation turns them into green parks. Come and climb these mountains along a zigzagging path and learn the legends of the Central Plains.
East Lingshan Mountain, Summit of Beijing
Beijing is surrounded by mountains in the west, north and northeast, with the East Lingshan Mountain as its summit. The mountain is located in northwestern Mentougou District, whose main peak is 2,303 metres above sea level. The mountain adjoins to Huailai, Zhuolu and Laishui counties in Hebei Province.
Vegetation on the mountain isvertically distributed. With a rising altitude, there are man-made forests, deciduous shrubbery, evergreen needle-leaved forest, broadleaved deciduous forest, and the subalpine meadow belt. The mountain, abundant in plants, has reached more than 800. There are larches, aspens, shrubs, and herbaceous plants such as wintergreen and twoleaf beadruby. The mountain has become known as the “gene bank of
vegetation in northern China.” The subalpine meadow belt, with an altitude above 1,900 metres, is the only natural habitat in Beijing for fine-fleece sheep from Xinjiang, horses from Yili, Xijiang, and yaks from Tibet.
In summer, the mountain is a sea of colourful flowers and it is also the best time to tour. Varieties of flowers and grasses vary as the altitude rising. They include commonly-seen flowers such as bright yellow trollflowers, wild poppies, bristlegrass, larkspur and wild roses. They are easy to find out and recognise. However, some varieties in Beijing but not in large quantity can only be found on East Lingshan Mountain. They include pedicularis plants with bright yellow petals; the Mertensia davurica with blue tubular-shaped flowers, Pyrola incarnata Fisch grasses with little pink flowers on straight stalks, and lomatogonium flowers with five-petalled flowers. Although not eye- catching, they make East Lingshan Mountain different. In autumn, as the flowers fade away, different scenery takes over the mountain.
The mountain's vegetation resources offer a livable condition and make the mountain an ideal habitat for more than 700 varieties. When hiking the mountain, one can see them in pinewoods, on meadows, in bushes, or among rocks. Creatures perching here include squirrels, foxes, hares, pheasants, wild goats, deer, and Qinghai boars and yaks. Brown- eared pheasants, a rare national bird, can also be seen here. A primitive ecological system has taken shape on the mountain.
High altitude also gives rise to the capricious climate on the mountain. A Chinese saying goes that “it is hard to see a sunny day on the East Lingshan Mountain.” As the constant changing of humidity and air pressure, the mountain still looms because of the thick mist. In eras with underdeveloped science, people considered that the mountain was covered by a sacred aura (ling qi) and called it “Ling Shan.”
East Lingshan Mountain is honoured as “Mount Everest” in west Beijing and its main peak was the best location for viewing scenery. Hikers can walk along the stony path, pass by different gardens to reach the top. One will have the pride of “viewing all mountains in a single glance.” To the north is the Guanting Reservoir and to the south is Baihua Mountain; the west is the little Wutai Mountain and to the east is the Great Wall zigzagging on Huangcaoliang, a scenic zone in Mentougou. The mountain, with its highland landscape, has become an ideal hiking destination.
Baxian Mountain in Tianjin
Baxian Mountain (Eight Immortals' Mountain) National Nature Reserve lies in the northeast of Tianjin Municipality, 30 kilometres from Jizhou County. It neighbours the Eastern Royal Qing Tombs in the east, the majestic Huangyaguan Great Wall in the west, the rippling Cuiping Lake in the south and the towering Wuling Mountain in the north. The reserve boasts diverse ancient geological remains and is rich in Chinese dates and kiki fruits. It is also a paradise for wild animals.
There are 19 peaks in total in the area, all of which stand at over 900 metres above sea level. Juxian (Immortals Gathering) Peak, 1,052 metres above sea level, is the main peak of Baxian Mountain and the second peak in Tianjin Municipality. Geological remains in the reserve were formed from quartzite about 1.8 billion years ago. After years of geological formations, forests and valleys have taken shape.
The reserve abounds in rare vegetative varieties based on its geological location. Plants from tropical, subtropical, warmtemperated and cold zones grow there. Chinese red pine forests, deciduous broadleaved hardwood forests, Mongolian oaks, white beeches, and cloves are also planted here. It has formed a high- density landscape composing of tall trees, low bushes, and a large vines intertwined. The distinctive landscape of deciduous broad-leaved hardwood forests is rare in North China, even in regions of the same latitude worldwide.
The mountain is connected with “Baxian,” meaning eight immortals in Chinese mythology. The mountain was originally called “Baxian zhuozi” (Eight Immortals' Table). Legend has it that the
eight immortals passed by this mountain on their way to the east sea. Unusual peaks, clear waters and green forest attracted them to descend and rest beside a huge rock in the shape of a table. The rock was called “Baxian zhuo” (Eight Immortals' Table) and the mountain was named “Baxian Shan.” The mountain was favoured not only by fairies, but emperors.
According to historical books, Emperor Chongzhen (reign: 1627–1644) of Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) did not find out an ideal place for constructing imperial tombs or mausoleums in Tianshou Mountain. Therefore, the emperor ordered a fortune teller to seek out a proper place. The fortune teller came to Fengtailing after a long journey (known as Changrui Tountain in Qing). He finally decided to build tombs in this area.
In 1651, Emperor Shunzhi (reign: 1643–1661) of Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) again chose the area for constructing tombs. Qing shi gao (“manuscripts of Qing Dynasty) recorded that “On October 19, 1951, 14-year- old Shunzhi left Beijing and spent seven days in Tangquan. One day, he went hunting on Changrui Mountain and drawn by its charming scenery. He stopped, looked around, then said, “It is luxuriantly green and can be used as a place for my coffin.” In 1662, the construction of Xiaoling, the first Eastern Qing Tombs mausoleum, was launched. A year later, Shunzhi was buried there.
For 200 years, forests such as Baxian Mountain, Limutai, Taipinggou, and Heishuihe were designated as the “forbidden places.” A board which read “forbidding cutting woods and hunting” was erected on Baxian Mountain. The imperial court assigned guards to patrol and inspect, but no one was allowed to enter. Those who violated these rules were punished.
In 1910, Qing court couldn't afford paying the guards inspecting the Eastern Royal Qing Tombs and announced to abolish the former forbidden rules. Businessmen from all over flocked to the mountain to log information. The forest's ecology was destroyed and pines trees and cypresses were cut down.
The mountain suffered more damage during the Chinese People's War of Resistance against the Japanese ( 1931– 1945). After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the protection of the forest was at the top of the agenda. In 1955, Jixian County State- owned Forest Farm was founded to protect the mountain. After 40 years, the ecology of Baxian Mountain recovered and the area was certified as the Baxian Mountain National Nature Reserve by China's State Council in 1995. The reserve is also a national geopark of forests and valleys, known as the “Xishuangbanna” in North China.
Nowadays, Baxian Mountain is characterised by green forests, high peaks, rippling waters, flower beds, and birds. Visitors can appreciate scenery in four zones: Shenshuixia (Shenshui Gorge), Baxian Mountain, Shidonggou, and Taipinggou, and enjoy the harmony of nature.
Yesanpo Scenic Spot in Hebei
Yesanpo scenic spot is situated in Laishui County, Hebei Province, at the junction of the Taihang Mountains and Yanshan Mountains. Eighty kilometres from Beijing, it has distinctive natural scenery and good ecological area. It is noted for its grand, perilous and serene canyons.
The scenic spot covers an area of 520 square kilometres and has six tourism resorts: “Bailixia (50-kilometre-long
canyon),” Juma River, Yugudong Weird Springs and Caves, Longmen Tianguan Great Wall Conversation Zone, Baicaopan Forest Area, and Jinhua Mountain. It embraces all kinds of natural beauty as well as cultural relics.
The Bailixia extends for 50 kilometres. It contains the Haitangyu (Crab- apple Flowers Canyon), Shixuanxia
( Ten- Cliff Canyon), and Xiezigou ( Ditch of Nilgiri Nettle Grass) and is the rare sakanaya karst landform system. With its distinctive geology and topography, animal and plants constitute a natural corridor characterized for being grand, serene and perilous. Because of its unique landscape, “Bailixia” has become a filming base with many TV series and films shot here, including Romance of Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, and Journey to the West. Hu Sheng, former vice chairman of the CPPCC and former president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, once visited Yesanpo and wrote the inscription “Tianxia diyi xia”
(“the first canyon under heaven”).
The Xiezigou ditch measures about 12.5 kilometres in length. It is covered by xizie cao, a kind of scorpion (xiezi)- shaped grass and named “xiezigou.” The skin may ache if touching the leaves, but the pain soon disappears. Wonderful views in the ditch, such as “Yixiantian” (thin strip of sky), “Longtan yingyue” (moon over Longtan) and “Mo’erya,” are amazing.
In the Crab-apple Flowers Canyon, there are streams, springs, and waterfalls. A stone was sculpted into the image of Bodhisattva by nature and multiple-layered rocks look like the side face of a Buddha. In summer, wild crabapple flowers bloom in the canyon, emitting fragrance.
The 22.5- kilometre- long Shixuanxia was named after the 10 cliffs in various shapes in the canyon. Inside is a cylinder- shaped valley which appears like a huge urn. Clear springs flow down, forming a pool at the bottom, which is the “Chenniu Lake” waterfall. There is the Water Curtain Cave at the Lingzhi Mountain and the sight of the “Invisible Sky” among the arch- shaped cliffs, and incomprehensible peaks.
On the northeast part of Yesanpo lies the Baicaopan, known as the “green pearl in Taihang Mountains.” Its main peak is about 1,983 metres above the sea level, the highest mountain in the Yesanpo Scenic Spot. Baicaopan and Baihua Mountain are called “twins.” It has a cool climate and the temperature differs sharply in day and night. It is 22 degrees Celsius in summer and the distribution of vegetation varies as the altitude rising. With each passing day there is a different climate, with flowers blooming at different times. The evergreen and robust pine forests are distributed in an area less than 1,000 metres above sea level, and larch trees can be seen in areas above. Based on surveys, the mountain has about 1,000 varieties of seed-bearing plants in 92 families and 100 varieties of fern plants in 15 families. There are 159 types of vertebrates, 15 of which are under national protection. It has become a paradise for wild animals.
Yesanpo Scenic Spot boasts not only the majestic canyon scenery, but the zigzagging Juma River. Along the riverbanks are rolling mountains. Going downstream, tourists can view “the eight sights” such as “shamang lanlu,” the deep canyon known as the “little Gobi Desert”; and “shimen dunkai,” the cliff of displacement; and “shihou xishui,” rocks erecting in water in great number which look like the heads of monkeys. In summer, it is ideal for drifting, bungee jumping, rafting, riding a horse, and sandboarding. In the evening, tourists can light a bonfire, shoot fireworks, and enjoy a barbecue to spend the evening.
At the Yesanpo Theatre, tourists can appreciate the dance show Vision Yesanpo to understand the culture and history of the scenic spot and Laishui County. With the application of advanced acoustic and photoelectric technology and performance of actors, the show illustrates Yesanpo's glorious history and even the Yellow River, from ancient personages to modern martyrs.
Baxian Mountain, in Jizhou County, Tianjin Municipality
Julingxia Scenic Spot in East Lingshan Mountain
Yesanpo Scenic Spot in Laishui County, Hebei Province