Mount Emei (Emei Shan)
Emei Shan is the highest of China's four holy Buddhist Mountains. About 170 km from Chengdu, it rises 3,099m above sea level with Buddhists believing that the mountain is home to Samantabhadra, a patron of the Lotus Sutra and Bodhisattva of Pervading Goodness.
Emei Golden Summit
The route to the summit runs through a lush and diverse piece of landscape with enchanting rock formations, waterfalls and narrow gorges. When climbing the mountain you'll encounter countless temples and pavilions. Thousands of pilgrims walk to the top with many of them being elderly and sporting canes, with their pockets filled with incense and ghostdom paper money to be burned.
The first temple erected on the mountain was built during the Han dynasty and during the Ming and Qing dynasties, Emei Shan became one of China's most important centres for Buddhism. Many of its 100 temples fell into disrepair after the fall of the Qing dynasty, but since 1976, a lot has been done in attempting to restore the mountain’s past glory.
By far the most beautiful path to the top follows the southern route, which is also the longest. However, you'll be rewarded with marvellous landscapes and pass by colonies of monkeys. A word of warning, don't ’monkey’ around with the monkeys as they can be aggressive and they'll explore the contents of your bag if you happen to open it in front of them. But if you act humble and show them your empty hands, they're also smart enough to go look for wealthier prey. Either that or buy a strong walking stick for self-defense.
Emei Sea of Clouds
At 550m high is the Baoguo Temple with a 25-ton bronze bell dating from 1564. The Qingyin Pavilion offers some of the best views on the mountain. The Wannian Temple, built in the Jin dynasty houses a 7m high bronze figure of Samantabhadra sitting on a six-tusked white elephant weighing 62-tons. Between Hongchunping, at 1,120m, and the Xianfeng Temple, you pass by the 99 Curves and the thousands of steps you’ve taken will start to make themselves felt in your muscles, but the splendid views here should reinvigorate even the exhausted. At the Leidongping Temple there is a cable car going to the top of the mountain. Continuing on foot from here takes another 2 hours. If the weather cooperates, the vista is simply divine at the 3077m high Golden Peak. This is an ideal place to relax, meditate and enjoy the sunset. The sunrise is also one of China's legendary experiences, but enjoying this means hiking up at night to be at the peak by sunrise. On Golden Peak, the Golden Peak Temple is a very active place of worship so transcendence might be lost amongst the noise of pilgrims. The highest point of Emei Shan is the Ten Thousand Buddha Summit and at 3,099m, a monorail can take you there from Golden Peak.