Saturday, 24 October 2015

Sichuan Day 3: Mount Emei - Golden Summit


Mount Emei and Its Place in the World of Fictional Wuxia
If you have no interests in the Chinese cinema, you can simply skip this section, and go straight to the travel tale in next heading / section.

For a Chinese movie buff who lived outside China, when I heard the name Emei (峨嵋), female martial artists in wuxia or swordplay flicks immediately comes to mind. In other words, the word "Emei" conjures up Emei School of Martial Arts or Emei Sect (峨嵋派), rather than what EmeiShan or Mount Emei (峨嵋山) is most associated, which is Buddhism (if you live in Sichuan).

Especially as a big fan of the popular wuxia works by Louis Cha (pen name Jin Yong 金庸) in his Condor Trilogy (射鵰三部曲), which were made into numerous TV and movie adaptions in the predominant Chinese speaking communities of HK, Taiwan, Singapore in the 1980's and 90's and in the last 2 decades, in Mainland China (and a Japanese animation adaptation).


The very 1st film adaptation of The Return of the Condor  Heroes was in 1960 by a HK film company named, coincidentally, Emei Film Company (峨嵋影片公司). The story of The Return of the Condor Heroes was published in HK's Ming Pao (明報) newspaper in 1957. He also founded the Ming Pao newspaper where he published bulk of his wuxia works in serial form of daily installments.

The young Patrick Tse Yin (謝賢) played the lead role in this movie. I haven't watched this. I don't think it's available today. It's a piece of Chinese wuxia flick history by being the 1st adaptation of the many past and an endless future adaptations of this film.

Return of Legend of the Condor (1960)
1960 poster

In this background, it becomes logical that Patrick Tse also played an important role of the father of the lead role in the 1982 adaptation of Legend of the Condo Heroes (射鵰英雄傳).

Patrick Tse
Patrick Tse
I suspect majority of local Chinese tourists know far less about this aspect of Emei than the overseas tourists, who know about the traditional China and culture through various wuxia flicks.

It should therefore come no surprise that Mount Emei is well known to Chinese, and overseas tourists who well versed in wuxia, but totally unknown to other foreign tourists, even if it's an UNESCO heritage site. At least, the words haven't got out about the ethereal beauty of Mount Emei.

While movie makes a place popular, but Emei only appears in Chinese language cinema, and so only known to audience of Chinese cinema.

So to me, this trip to Mount Emei is something of a pilgrimage, to come face to face with the real mountain where a fictional world of wuxia was built on.



My Artistic Pilgrimage of Mt. Emei
Ok, I'll come down to earth from the fictional world of Emei Sect in wuxia, and ready to climb heavenwards onto the real Mount Emei.

Tourist map of Mt. Emei
Tourist Map of Mt Emei
(click to enlarge)

Our trip to Golden Summit started with a bus ride from Emei city centre. This bus drove us deep into the Emeishan National Park, and stopped at LeiDongPing (雷洞坪 or Thunder Cave Terrace) Station near the top of Mount Emei. This is a station for cable car or rope-way that would take tourists to the Golden Summit from there.


Ticket office, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan China
Emeishan National Park ticket office

We stopped temporary at the National Park entrance where we all got off to purchase ticket before continued onto LeiDongPing. Not that I minded stopping here for a leg-stretching break. The park entry ticket should be available at the bus terminal where we got on the bus. After all, this bus only stopped at LeiDongPing. I guess this will happen one day. The tourism hasn't developed to that degree of efficiency yet.

Entry gateway, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Gateway or paifeng to Emeishan National Park.
Appears on the bottom left corner of the map. Do they look similar?

While the highlights of Mt. Emei is the Golden Summit, there's plenty of memorable scenes along the way. As the landscape was shrouded in mists, creating what Chinese called the heavenscape (仙景). The type of landscapes that inspired the many wuxia flicks by Shaw Bros Studios (may or may not have Emei Sect in it).

Here are some photos of heavenscapes I managed to capture. The scenery is like the Johnnie Walker TV commercial made in HK said, "Mysterious, lost in time..." (you only know what I'm talking about if you grew up in Australia in the 1980s).

Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China


Of course, if you're super-fit, you can walk all the way up here, instead of relying on a bus like us. On the other hand, if your health is at the other extreme, you can make use of the sherpas. With my below average health, and fitness level, I had considered using their services. I resisted. Not because I felt bad that they carried me (I shouldn't, I give them business), but I guess I'm still unable to ignore other people's looks. Thick skin is hard to grow.


Shepherds, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Shepas waiting for fares

Shepherds, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
If you think your job is tough, these workers carry people and goods
up and down the mountains

Shepherds carrying tourist, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
A couple of sherpas who carried a tourist. Travel in VIP style.
That could be me, lying on a stretcher like a hospital patient. Nice and comfy. Just dandy!

Most important of all, I didn't want Ada and our tour guide to lift their heads while talking to me if I sit high up on the shoulders of the sherpas. I don't want to give them sore necks while I saved my sore legs. That's me. I care too much. That's it. I stick with that explanation. It sounds the best.

If I can see further (or is it farther?) than others, it's only because I lie on the shoulders of sherpas.

There are also sherpas who carry stuff for temples and restaurants up the top of Emeishan (maybe that's their moonlighting). They make me feel bad for whining about the pain in my legs.

Coat for rent, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Coat for hire

While they may not be the most efficient tourist site, but capitalism is thriving in China. Duh!!! There's nothing that they don't cater for the tourists. You're not bringing enough clothes? No worry, there's coat for hire. Forgot to bring your walking stick or simply think it's a hassles to bring it all the way from home? No prob, they sell bamboo sticks here as walking aids. You're too tired, or not fit enough to walk, say no more, sherpas will be your legs. Any more problem? Have no fear, somebody will be here to hear your ears ("need" doesn't rhyme as well).

Butterfly sample, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Live butterfly samples for sale. You didn't know that, did you now?
and walking bamboo sticks for sale (on the back wall)

Foggy landscape, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Backs of Ada and our tour guide (from China Travel Guide)

After some 2+ hours (or is it 3 hours? It seemed 3 hours) of walk, we finally reached the Golden Summit. Don't you always want to say that? "Reaching the Golden Summit"?

Oh yeah!

If I can see further (or is it farther?) than others, it's only because I stand on top of Emeishan.

Even before reaching the Golden Summit temple, at its foot before climbing the temple's stairs, you can see one of the several well-known sight of Emeishan, the sea of clouds (雲海).

sea of clouds, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Cloud sea (yun hai)

sea of clouds, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
A mountain peak emerges from the sea of clouds

Tibetan monks pilgrimage, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Unlike the Tibetan monks who come here for their religious pilgrimage, I come for artistic pilgrimage.
Mt. Emei is considered 1 of the 4 Buddhist sacred mountains.

It's believed that Mt. Emei is one of the earliest mountain where Indian Buddhist missionaries have ascended. This should be reasonable given the fact that if they arrived in China, they would likely to come through the Himalayas Plateau, and arrived at Mt. Emei. Buddhist temples were erected soon after that, and not long after, the Giant Buddha in Leshan (not far from Mt. Emei) was built.

The Tibetan monks aren't necessary come from Tibet as there're a sizable population of Tibetan living in the western part of Sichuan where it's part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (better known outside China as The Himalayan Plateau) where dominant ethnic group is Tibetan. Mt Emei lies just a little east of the Plateau, or the western rim of the Sichuan Basin, which is formed from the Plateau.


Tibetan monks pilgrimage, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
The Tibetan monks touring Golden Summit 


Six tusked white elephants, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
6-tusked white elephant carrying the Wheel of Life on its back

This 6-tusked white elephant is a symbol of Mt. Emei Buddhism. Even before you entering the park, you would see them frank its main road of Emei city just as this ascending staircase.

Six tusked white elephants, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
The imposing Golden Summit staircase, franked by 2 columns of 6-tusked white elephants

Even at the bottom of the stairs, the Golden Buddha statue rises up like a tall tree or pagoda.

puxian pusa (samantabhadra bodhisattva), Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China puxian pusa (samantabhadra bodhisattva), Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China puxian pusa (samantabhadra bodhisattva), Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China


Chinese has an idiom  (a 4-word figure of speech) of "3 heads and 6 arms" to describe people with extraordinary ability. Well, this Puxian Pusa (普贤菩萨 or Samantabhadra Bodhisattva) has 8 heads (and only 2 arms). And then there's one version of Guanyin (or Avalokiteśvara) who has thousand arms (usually carved with 20 arms or so, but only one head).

This Puxian Pusa has 8 heads facing in 10 directions (the 8 compass directions plus up and down). He's sitting on a lotus that's carrying by 4 6-tusked white elephants. Lots of numbers. Numerology is always an integral part of any religious iconography (or astrology for that matter).

Since it's sitting atop Mt. Emei that rises more than 3000m, it's therefore the highest (not tallest) Buddha in the world (the tallest is the Giant Buddha in LeShan , only 60km from here).

Golden Summit temple, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Golden Summit Temple

Golden Summit temple, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Golden Summit temple, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Roof, Golden Summit temple, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Golden Summit temple and puxian pusa (samantabhadra bodhisattva), Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Golden Summit temple, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Roof, Golden Summit temple, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China


Golden Mouth, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Golden Mouth lookout

According to my guide, this spot that was called Golden Mouth used to be called the Holy Light of Mt. Emei. From here, you can see the image of Puxian Pusa that's surrounded by a circle of rainbow appears in the clouds. In the right angle and lighting, you can also see yourself reflected in the clouds.

Golden Mouth explanation, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
It mentions casually about Saints' Light with no explanation what it is.
(click to enlarge)

They changed the name because some foolish superstitious people jumped into the cliff after witnessing what they believed to be supernatural, and religious calling after seeing their own reflection in the clouds.

I wonder if the most well-known of wuxia flick Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) where the heroine leaps off the cliff at a temple into the fog-filled abyss below at the end of the movie was inspired by this cliff at Golden Mouth? Just another coincidence? Or is it the other way round where suicide lovers inspired by the movie? Art imitating  Life, or Life imitating Art?



I didn't see any reflection from the fog/clouds that day, but I had, by almost a creepy coincidence, that I saw this phenomena outside my plane's window as I flew to JiuZhaGou the next day. This is creepy coincidence because I had never seen - in fact never heard - of such phenomenon my whole life (and I'm a very keen in physics), and I just happened to witness this phenomenon the 1st time after many many flights (numbered in the hundreds).

Reflection of a plane on clouds with ring of seven coloured rainbow
The Golden Lights of Beoing 727

In this case, there was a great distance between the clouds and my plane. If the clouds are close by, as in the Golden Mouth, you could see your own shadow with a ring of colour circling around it.

While I had seen shadow of jumbo jets in the clouds before in some of the hundreds of flights, but this was the 1st time I saw a ring of rainbow around the shadow. What I found weird isn't the physical phenomenon because rainbow isn't something that's unheard of or unusual, it's the timing of my discovery of this phenomenon. One day, I heard about it, the next day, I saw it.

2 logical explanations come to mind.

1. Maybe I had seen it before, I just didn't notice the rainbow ring around it until I heard about the Golden Lights of Mt. Emei. I think not.

2. There's something about the clouds over Sichuan. That may be different depending on the time of year, etc. This phenomenon may be rare.

I have no idea which is the better explanation. Maybe this isn't the 1st time I saw the rainbow ring, but the 1st time I NOTICED the rainbow ring. What? This implies I'm not observant. Me, not observant? Get outta here! (no, don't do that. Stay and read the rest of the article).

Love locks, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
These love-locks tradition is spreading everywhere.
No place is being spared.

Another highlight or special sight of the Golden Summit is the morning sunrise, which is said to be purple and spectacular. Well, to do that, we had to stay in the temple. The guide told us that there're accommodation for tourists up here. Like I said, this is China, whatever your heart desires, it will be fulfilled.

Toilets, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Public toilets

After the Golden Summit, we went to LeiDongPing Station for the rope-way ride.

LeiDongPing, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China

LeiDongPing, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
View from LeiDongPing  station

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think the views from LeiDongPing Station is the best. It's like a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

LeiDongPing Ropeway, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
View from the cable car.

LeiDongPing station entrance, Mt. Emei, Sichuan, China


After the cable car ride, and as we continued to descend the mountain, and retracing the steps we took this morning, the famous Tibetan macaques monkeys came out for food handouts. If you don't have food, there're stalls where you can buy monkey food. Of course. Like I said, anything you need, you can get it here. The only thing you need to bring along is money.

While tourist operators warn that they could be aggressive. It seemed they were timid when I was there. But then again, if you're a monkey surrounded by a throng of people, I think you would be somewhat nervous too. Safety in numbers. But if you're alone or only few of you, I think you'd better keep a respectable distance from them monkeys.


Tibetan macaque monkey, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Tibetan macaque monkey, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Tibetan macaque monkey, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China
Tibetan macaque monkey, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China Tibetan macaque monkey, Emeishan or Mount Emei, Sichuan, China



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