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Nanshan, a place of longevity and pilgrimage
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In the eyes of many people, the Sanya Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone is a supernatural place since it has a community of longevous people. In the eyes of Buddhists, it's a place for pilgrimage where a colossal statue of the Kwan-Yin Bodhisattva stands.

During our Sanya tour, we were granted the opportunity to take an in-depth tour of the holy land and try to find something special there.

In Chinese tradition, people celebrate birthdays of the elderly with the saying "May you live as long as the pines on Mount Nanshan".

Pine trees that remain green even in winters symbolize longevity, and Mount Nanshan in the southernmost city in China also presents eternity and longevity.

Li Zhiqiong, an employee with the Nanshan Tourism Development Co. Ltd, said there have been more than 20 residents who are over 100 years old living in the Nanshan Longevity Valley. The eldest is 120 years old, she revealed during an interview with China Radio International (CRI).

Longevity Valley, or Aoshan Longevity Valley, runs for 2,300 meters on the east hillside of Mt. Nanshan and is popular with the senior people from other parts of China.

"Healthy diet and serene temperament contribute to longevity. And the clean environment in Nanshan area also enables the people here to live longer" Li Zhiqiong said the elders have their own ways of keeping fit, but the good air quality and beautiful scenery must play a part in the miracle.

The Nanshan Longevity Cultural Festival has been organized biennially. Selected healthy senior people are awarded at the occasion.

Apart from people seeking the secret of longevity, many pious Buddhists are also attracted to Nanshan. What attracts them is the 108-meter high stone-carved Nanshan Kwan-yin statue that won't fail to awe the pilgrims.

Standing near the sea and on a blossoming-lotus shaped stone base, the statue consists of three sculptures of the Bodhisattva (with every two Buddhas being combined back to back and the triplet forming in a triangle.

One of the sculptures was designed to face the Chinese mainland to bless the country, according to our guide Chen Wenwu.

A Lotus, a Buddhism scripture scroll and a string of prayer beads are held in the hands of each of the three Bodhisattvas, standing for peace, wisdom and mercy.

The height of the statue was set at 108 meters, representing the number of hardships that a Buddhist has to endure before reaching perfection in the Buddhism doctrine, Chen explained.

Another attraction for Buddhists is a 3.8-meter tall Kwan-yin statue. It's inlaid with Sakyamuni Sarira and Buddhist relics, the precious sculpture is made of gold, jade, diamonds and other precious elements like rubies, sapphires, corals and pearls.

Sitting in the Deda Zizai Hall, the golden sculpture was recognized as the biggest of its kind in the world and was recorded in the Guinness record in 1999.

In addition, Mount Nanshan is also famous for what it provides to lead people back to nature, such as offering visitors wooden huts built on trees and vegetarian meals.

(CRI December 19, 2008)


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