Exploring a Taoist landscape

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, July 13, 2016
Adjust font size:

Hanxianyan offers visitors nearly 100 attractions along a 42-square-km swathe of unique landscape. Li Jianping / For China Daily

Scenic spot was home to at least one of the Eight Immortals, according to legend

Hanxianyan's stories are set in stone - in every sense of the word.

It is a place where mythology meets geology, where unusual rock formations form the backdrop for the legend of Han Zhongli becoming one of Taoism's Eight Immortals. The other seven were also said to have partied in the area.

Nearly 100 attractions are scattered along the 42-square-km swathe of undulating topography in Jiangxi province's Huichang county, each taking a zoomorphic name - Herd of Elephants Coming Out, Two Pythons Jumping out of the Water, and God of Longevity Admiring Apes Watching the Sky. (Apparently, even deities find primates fascinating - especially fascinated primates.)

Yet some appellations given to formations arguably take more than a smidgen of imagination.

Entering through Fairy Bridge leads to the Praying Hands Gate. The rocks at the gate are shaped like celestial beings clasping hands. Pilgrims do the same at the site to demonstrate piety.

The path then leads past a boulder said to be cleaved by the immortal Lyu Dongbing, who spent years refining the perfect sword and declared his mission accomplished upon slicing the stone in two with a mighty thwack.

Hikers then arrive at the San Kong Divine Spot, a cave created by mountainsides that touch overhead rather than a hole in the Earth.

Notches that pockmark the sheer rock face of a narrow gully between two vertical cliffs were chiseled to support crossbeams of a temple complex that filled the cracks between the formations.

Indeed, the place does seem to almost supernaturally produce its own rain. From here, visitors must crawl on their hands and knees through Immortal Cave, also perhaps more accurately known as Rolling-Over Cave, since that's virtually what you have to do to pass through it.

Those who clear this obstacle course are rewarded with good fortune, as it empties down steep stairs into the Immortals Are Very Happy Pavilion, where Han Zhongli is said to have achieved immortality via the Tao and partied with his peers in the immortal pantheon.

Visitors can sip hot beverages here, since the spot is furnished with tables and a counter offering tea.

Yet Hanxianyan's most pious place - despite being a party pad for deities and then for us mere mortals - is smack dab next to the site of a sacred sex scandal.

According to legend, the deity Tie Guali asked a land spirit to make love to a mountain spirit in front of Han Zhongli to test his devotion to spiritual purification. He passed.

But the stunt enraged the Jade Emperor, Taoism's supreme being, who is said to have turned the spirits to stone on the spot.

This tryst took place next to the Fairy Spring - a well Han Zhongli supposedly excavated while practicing alchemy.

He is believed to have shared the water with the other seven immortals when they gathered for celebrations at the aptly named Immortals Are Very Happy Pavilion. Visitors still swill from the spring for good luck.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter