WUDANGSHAN, AT LAST
I finally made it to Wudang Mountain. Were it not for the automobile industry and Wudang Mountain, Shiyan would probably be just another small village unknown throughout China and certainly throughout the world. However, the Dong Feng car factory establishes Shiyan as an important economic city, and Wudang Mountain ensures it to be a growing tourist destination. Wudang Mountain is credited with the beginnings of Taoism and a special kind of kung fu known generically as wushu. I'm sure I don't know much about the history or anything else important dealing with Wudang; all I know is that if you live in Shiyan and don't visit Wudang Mountain, it's like living in Siem Reap and not visiting Angkor Wat or living in D.C. and not visiting the White House. As important as Wudang is to everything Shiyan, it's surprising to me how few of my students have actually visited it. This could in large part have to do with the whopping sum of money you must pay to go there. For students it costs about 90 kuai and for us older folks a grand total of 180 something. But it's a pretty sweet layout. Last Thursday I canceled class and joined Derek, Brian, Matt, Amber and Dolly for a day of hiking Wudang. It takes about an hour or less by bus to arrive at the Wudang village and after browsing a few souvenir shops at the bottom of the mountain, we began our ascent. The hike was surprisingly both beautiful and very doable. We had all quietly assumed that the hike up the mountain would simply be hours of climbing a steep staircase consisting of uneven and broken steps. We had continuously received conflicting information about how long it would take to reach the top (anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours!), but we set off anyway. We took a bus a little ways up the mountain and then began our hike up. The trail was really nice. We had significant tree cover and there was a cool stream we walked along. The scenery really was spectacular. We were bombarded by gnats which grew annoying, but it didn't ruin the hike. I'm not actually sure how long we hiked for. We reached a spot where there were a few souvenir shops and restaurants, the first sign of tourist life since we began the hike. We did a little shopping and unanimously decided not to finish the hike. It was already after four, and the remainder of the hike was supposedly like we had envisioned the entire hike to be from the beginning: a rigorous uphill climb. We all felt we had gotten our money's worth (which included a thirty minute kung fu show mid-morning which we were fortunate enough to catch) and were ready to return home. I, fortunately, have the luxury of returning and finishing the hike next year which I plan to do. Wudang was much more beautiful than I had imagined. When people talk about it, they always mention Taoism and kung fu and how important it is to China, but I've never heard anyone mention just how naturally beautiful it is. I'm glad to have visited it, and I'm especially glad to be able to answer everyone who asks from now on that yes, in fact, I have been to Wudang Mountain. I do live in Shiyan, afterall.