FUN AMID FOLK­LORE

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TRAVEL -

Ma­jes­tic moun­tains, links with an­cient Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tion and a huge hy­draulic pro­ject give Jiyuan a spe­cial charm. The city, which is lo­cated in the north­west of cen­tral China’s He­nan prov­ince is also rel­a­tively less fre­quented by trav­el­ers.

Yet, Jiyuan has a link to folk­lore that is fa­mil­iar to prac­ti­cally every house­hold across the coun­try.

“The city got its name for be­ing the ori­gin of the an­cient Jishui River,” Chang Shiyu, a lo­cal guide tells us.

The river used to be on a par with the Yangtze, Yel­low and Huaihe rivers, although it has mostly been over­shad­owed by the Yel­low River.

In ad­di­tion to its name, the city is steeped in the spirit of Yu­gong, whose story has been told to every Chi­nese for gen­er­a­tions.

Yu­gong was de­ter­mined to move the tow­er­ing moun­tains stand­ing in his way, stone by stone, and be­lieved that the job would be done if his prog­eny con­tin­ued to do the job. His dili­gence and per­se­ver­ance ended up mov­ing the gods, who later granted his wish.

Wangwu is one of the two moun­tains.

An­cient lore has it that the Yel­low Em­peror, who is re­garded as the com­mon an­ces­tor of all Chi­nese, wor­shipped the god here af­ter he united an­cient China.

The moun­tain cov­ers an area of 270 square kilo­me­ters, with the peak at 1,715 me­ters.

Many Taoist tem­ples dot the moun­tain, which also boasts ge­o­log­i­cal mar­vels. It be­came a world ge­o­log­i­cal park in 2006.

A grand plaza with its im­pos­ing stone gate and pil­lars greets us when we reach the foot of the moun­tain af­ter trav­el­ing 90 min­utes from the down­town area.

Its sculp­tures show­case an an­cient wor­ship cer­e­mony by the Yel­low Em­peror.

As we as­cend the steps, the Yang­tai Palace presents it­self. But sev­eral gi­ant cy­press trees with lux­u­ri­ant fo­liage block the full view of the palace. The trees are all more than 1,000 years old, we are told.

The palace has three halls. The an­te­rior hall is be­lieved to be the big­gest tim­ber struc­ture of the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644) in He­nan.

The re­liefs on the stones in the hall fea­ture dragons, birds, flow­ers and fairy fig­ures.

Many vis­i­tors are seen of­fer­ing in­cense and pray­ing at the hall.

Leav­ing the palace, we opt for the fu­nic­u­lar car that take us to the top of the moun­tain. Hik­ing up the peak takes roughly two hours.

Ev­ery­thing on the peak is clad with white mist, giv­ing the area a mys­ti­cal at­mos­phere.

The cliffs and view down be­low are mag­nif­i­cent, es­pe­cially when wind dis­pels the mist for a brief mo­ment.

A plump mon­key then ca­su­ally swag­gers into the tem­ple there. It doesn’t seem to be both­ered by our pres­ence at all.

“Mon­keys here are used to hu­mans, and they are here to find food,” Chang tells us.

Af­ter spend­ing a day on the holy moun­tain, the next day we visit the Xiaolangdi hy­dro-junc­tion, the largest wa­ter-con­trol pro­ject on the Yel­low River.

The scenic spot is roughly 40 min­utes from the city cen­ter. The gi­ant wa­ter gate and red stone-laid levee keeps the once un­ruly Yel­low River in check.

The river used to wreak havoc across the coun­try dur­ing the flood sea­son. But now, birds can be seen fly­ing past the serene wa­ter. Cherry trees have been planted around the reser­voir.

Tourists usu­ally flood the area in June and July when the dam is opened for wa­ter and sed­i­ment reg­u­la­tion.

One can get a de­tailed his­tory of the dam by watch­ing a video at the lo­cal au­di­to­rium.

Later, we take a ship at Xiaolangdi and sail to the Yel­low River’s Three Gorges.

Most have heard of the Yangtze’s Three Gorges, but not many might know there are Three Gorges in Jiyuan.

Seen from above, the gorges re­sem­bles Qian­dao Lake in Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

We see moun­tains with yel­low rocks and green grass dur­ing the cruise.

Each of the gorges has its own unique char­ac­ter­is­tics. Gushan Gorge looks like a grotesque art work; Longfeng Gorge fea­tures twists and turns and Bali Gorge has sharp cliffs.

We jump into a rub­ber boat and go raft­ing at Yezhulin once we are ashore. It turns out to be a nice change of pace.

The course runs 6 km, with a 158me­ter fall, and many sec­tions of­fer gal­lop­ing rapids. In some buf­fer­ing zones, we pad­dle. Ev­ery­one is ex­hausted af­ter the ad­ven­ture.

De­spite its rich tourism re­sources, Jiyuan has gone all out to up­grade its in­fra­struc­ture.

Liu Hui­hua, an of­fi­cial with the Jiyuan tourism de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sion, says: “The moun­tain area takes up more than 80 per­cent of Jiyuan, which gives the city huge po­ten­tial to de­velop tourism.”

So, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment has ear­marked more than 300 mil­lion yuan ($45.13 mil­lion) to build fa­cil­i­ties.

High­ways con­nect­ing it to sur­round­ing cities in­clud­ing Luoyang and Yangcheng are un­der­way, and the Ho­hhot-Nan­ning high-speed rail line will have a stop at Jiyuan. An air­port will also be built.

In re­cent years, a to­tal of 40 mil­lion yuan has been spent an­nu­ally for tourism pro­mo­tion, sub­si­dies and tourism busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

Mean­while, work on a Taoist park at Wangwu Moun­tain is now un­der way, and Taoist mu­sic and ru­ral tourism fes­ti­vals are also staged.

A cy­cling green­way and pedes­trian lane is also be­ing de­vel­oped for tourists, and dozens of agri­cul­ture parks and farms are be­ing built for those who de­sire ru­ral leisure.

PHO­TOS BY YANG FEIYUE / CHINA DAILY

Jiyuan,

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