THE majestic mountain range of Mount Sanqing National Park is located in the city of Shangrao, Jiangxi Province (east China). The natural geographic layout of the region is rich with geological treasures which include Mesozoic granite and Proterozoic-Paleozoic stratum. This makes the area not only a natural heritage site of China’s natural history but also an important natural heritage asset of the world in general. At the 32nd World Heritage Convention in July 2008, Mount Sanqing was added to the List of World Heritage Sites. Later in September of 2012, it was added to the Global Geopark List by UNESCO.
The junctional boundary belt of the Yangtze and Cathaysia plates located in Mount Sanqing record in detail the evolutionary history of the earth’s development over the last 800 million years, having a rather complete collection of granite micro-geomorphologic phenomena. The natural beauty displayed here represents a typical granite mountain peak forest landscape.
The Design of the Park
The small mountainous region of Mount Sanqing has a wide variety of special granite pillars and peaks, as well as rich flora, changing landscape, and spectacular climatic peculiarities, creating an aesthetic wonder filled with enchanting natural beauty that is unique in the world.
A picture of the enchanting mist-enshrouded cliffs at Mount Sanqing, Shangrao City, Jiangxi Province, taken on November 22, 2018.
The park is divided into 10 scenic areas: South Purity Garden Scenic Area, Western Coastline Scenic Area, Three Purity Temple Scenic Area, Longevity Scenic Area, the Yujing Peak Scenic Area, Coastal Scenic Area, Jade Essence Scenic Area, Three Cave Entrance Scenic Area, Ice Jade Cave Scenic Area, and Stone Drum Scenic Area. In addition to historical and cultural attractions located in the Three Purity Temple Scenic Area, the other areas are all completely natural scenic areas. The rather well-known areas are the Yujing Peak, Western Coastline, and South Purity Garden.
In the region of the Yujing Peak, which is also the highest area in the park, visitors can see three major high peaks, namely Yujing, Yuxu, and Yuhua, and other natural wonders including the Penglai peaks, Feixian Valley which is over 1,000 meters deep, and the Queen Mother Valley that stretches as far as the eye can see. In addition to this, there are other spectacular natural vistas to see such as cloud formations sweeping around the mountains, and spectacular sunrises, among other sights.
The South Purity Garden sits in the central area of Mount Sanqing, and with its average elevation above the sea level of 1,577 meters, it has some of the rarest natural phenomena to experience in the park. It has granite peak forests that demonstrate the geomorphic features formed over 1.4 billion years of geologic evolution. Some of the landmark scenic points of the park are also in this area. The stunning rock formations, high peaks, vast seas of clouds, and patches of rare flowers adorn the area. Visitors who desire to take in all the sights in this area must be prepared to do a lot of walking, especially if they want to see the top of the mountain known as the “skyline” which has 299 steps leading to the top. In short, there is more to see than the eye can take in.
Stunning Formations of Granite Landforms
Visitors will never get tired of looking at one kind of granite, for the region is home to multiple micro-geomorphic types of granite. There are peaks, peak walls, peak clusters, stone forests, columns, gorges, cliffs, and pillars of various forms. This kind of micro-geomorphologic cluster has been called the “Mount Sanqing formation” of granite geomorphic assemblage. The park has 48 superb granite peaks, 89 granite pillars of different shapes and forms, and more than 384 scenic points, making it a world class granite micro-geomorphology natural museum.
The Three Purity Temple.
On the west side of the park is the Western Coastline Scenic Area. Having the largest open area in the park, it also has many stunning sites. According to geological surveys, the region of Mount Sanqing was submersed under ocean waters three times in the past. Consequently, it is speculated that the Western Coastline scenic area was once the coastline in times past. The scenic area stretches for nearly 4,000 meters, 3,600 of which have no walking steps and is made up of a high suspended pathway along the mountain peak. On the one side is a cliff that stretches as far as the eye can see and a deep canyon on the other side. Off in the distance you can see an endless line of mountains submerged in a sea of clouds. From here visitors can often see various unforgettable cloud formations, such as ring clouds and waterfall cloud formations.
Beautiful Scenery to Enjoy during Each Season
It does not matter which season visitors travel to the Mount Sanqing National Park, there is always unique natural beauty to see. During spring time, the fragrance from blooming flowers and trees sprouting leaves can be smelled everywhere. During summer, visitors can enjoy scenes of pine trees casting their shadows across the land under bright sunshine, and feel the cool spray coming from waterfalls and springs. Then in autumn, they can take in the view of trees covered with all the colors of a painter’s palette. Last but not least, in the winter there are enchanting exhibits of natural ice formations that look like jade carvings covered with a coat of silver. In short, each season provides visitors with an unforgettable visual feast of nature on display.
The name of Mount Sanqing clearly denotes its close cultural ties with Taoism.
In addition to the natural scenery that is characteristic of seasonal changes, the stunning views of peaks and rock formations, ancient trees and delicate flowers, springs and waterfalls, and seas of cloud formations have become the signature attractions of the park.
A sea of clouds is one of those natural highlights. Since most of the scenic spots are located 1,600 meters above sea level, the deep gorges, together with the luxuriant forests, shorten the length of time for sunlight to penetrate down to the ground. This makes it hard for water to evaporate and creates high humidity levels and moisture in the air. This leads to the park being covered with mist and clouds almost 250 days of the year. The cloud formations in the valley are formed by the combination of a low cloud cover and mist coming up from the ground level. As a result of the flowing mist traveling up and down the mountain gorges and valleys, the clouds rise, fall, circulate around or expand, creating stunning dynamic cloud formations.
Magical displays of lighting are another attraction of the park. From the Yujing Peak and other areas with similar surroundings, you can often see colorful auras as sunlight shines through fluffy clouds on a foggy day causing shadows in the clouds. If one stands on a high peak overlooking the mist and clouds with their back to the sun, as the sunlight shines on small water droplets through the clouds and mist, it creates a halo of glowing colors that circulate around the person’s shadow. Since the created image resembles the image of Buddha, this light phenomenon has been called the “Light of Buddha.” This light display usually appears when the sun comes out after rainfall at around 9 o’clock in the morning, or in the afternoon after 5 o’clock after rain or snow stops falling on an overcast day. According to an official meteorological assessment, this natural visual effect usually occurs around two to five times every month.
Sunrise at Mount Sanqing.
For those who love flowers, the park is home to an enormous variety of flowers, of which the most notable flower is the rhododendron. It is said that the Mount Sanqing Park has one of the largest collections of rhododendrons in the world. The peak blooming time every year is between the middle of May and late June. During that time, over a dozen types of rhododendrons are all in full bloom, filling the valley floors, covering the hillsides, and decorating the mountain peaks. The highest concentration of rhododendrons is found in the South Purity Scenic Area, where they grow everywhere the eye can see. During the transition months between spring and summer, the vast array of rhododendrons make the vast expanses of budding green flora very colorful.
In addition to magnificent cloud formations, magical displays of lighting, and vast natural flower gardens, there are also many natural springs and waterfalls in the park. As the more than 100 meters tall Ice Jade Cave Waterfall spills down the mountain, it resembles a dragon emerging out of a cave and plunging down into a deep pool of water at the bottom. There are also the Stone Drum Peak Waterfall flowing off a high cliff, Tiyunpu Connected Waterfalls flowing down from different heights, and the Eight Immortals Cave Waterfall which surges out through two large boulders, splashing in all directions. Pine trees found in the park are mostly covered with an umbrella-like top. Their bizarre and diversified shapes perfectly match the park’s unique stones. There is nothing like feeling the spray from a waterfall and cool breeze on a hot summer day while hearing the swaying of pine trees blowing gently in the breeze, surrounded by mountains on all sides.
Three Purity Temple: Rich Taoist Cultural Heritage
The wax and wane of Mount Sanqing in Chinese history was directly connected with the rise and decline of Taoism’s influence on Chinese society. The mountain’s name, Mount Sanqing is also associated with Taoist belief. Since the three main peaks in the park, Yujing, Yuxu, and Yuhua look like the highest spirits honored in Taoism (Yuqing, Shangqing, and Taiqing) all sitting in a row, the mountain range was called “The Three Purity Mountain” or Mount San-qing. The Taoist culture of Mount Sanqing extends back to a man named Ge Hong (284-364), a Taoist scholar who lived during the Jin Dynasty. According to historical records, Ge Hong was a traditional Chinese alchemist and therapist who lived and practiced medicine on Mount Sanqing, and wrote several books about Taoist doctrine. As a result of his work and influence, people began to respect Ge Hong as the “father” of Mount Sanqing and Mount Sanqing Taoist teaching.
Later during the Tang Dynasty, with the acceptance of Taoism by the emperor as the national religion, Mount Sanqing became a major destination for Taoist pilgrims. As a result, around the place where Ge Hong once lived the first Taoist architecture on the mountain called Laozi Taoist Temple was built. Later the place has seen the gathering of many Taoist buildings in the mountain. Today the area is called the Three Purity Temple Scenic Area in the park.
The main cluster of architecture in the Three Purity Temple Scenic Area was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). There are more than 230 different kinds of ancient structures from temples, halls, residential housing, springs, bridges, tombs, etc., all built around the central structure of the Three Purity Temple. When seen from an aerial view, the arrangement of all the buildings looks like the complex circle of interconnected circles of the Bagua (eight trigrams) used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality. The area is surrounded by high mountain peaks, and the main entrance of the temple faces the north.
The design of the temple is also unique. The main hall of the temple has three divisions and two entrances. In the first main hall, visitors can see the three figures of Taoist worship known as the Three Purities. Behind the main hall, there is a Guanyin Temple with the famous Buddhist Guanyin image and 18 Arhats (or 18 disciples of Buddha). This rare layout which combines both Taoism and Buddhism is a beautiful picture of multi-cultural integration.
From the alpine basin of the Three Purity Temple Scenic Area, there is a road that leads directly to the top of the Yujing Peak about two kilometers away, where visitors can enjoy views of seas of clouds at sunrise from the Fenglei Tower.