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The Wonders of Mt. Lushan

Mt. Lushan, in northern Jiangxi Province, is a famous mountain with a long history and rich culture. It is mentioned in Records of the Historian, written by Sima Qian over 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.). To the north is the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, and to the south, Poyang Lake. The mountain covers an area of more than 300 square kilometers between two geological faults.

Mt. Lushan combines beauty with magnificence and danger. High peaks and dangerously steep cliffs on all sides surround a relatively gentle center. Dahanyang Peak, the summit of the mountain, rises 1,474 meters above sea level. There are 171 other famous peaks, including Shangxiao (Up to the Sky), Hanpoling (Containing Poyang Lake), Shuangjian (Double Swords), Jiudieping (Nine-Layer Screen), Litoujian (Ploughshare), and Haohan (Brave Man).

Some of the peaks look like familiar objects, some stand magnificently, and some are enshrouded in mist and clouds. In the valley are streams and waterfalls, including Kaixian, Sandiequan, and Shimenjian Waterfalls.

Mt. Lushan has abundant rainfall, and the Changjiang River and Poyang Lake provide cool summer weather. On an average, the mountain is covered with mist and clouds 191 days a year. Especially, when spring turns into summer, the mist and clouds mask the true shapes of the peaks.

Because Mt. Lushan was a favorite place for diviners in ancient times, it is also known as the Paradise of Lushan. After the rise of Taoism and, later, the introduction of Buddhism from India, many Taoist priests and Buddhist monks came here to disseminate their doctrines and draw followers. In the 800 years from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) through the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Mt. Lushan was an important religious shrine, and temples and monasteries were scattered around the mountain. A celebrated monk named Hui Yuan (334-416) established the Donglin Temple on the mountain to paraphrase Buddhist canons. He also created a Buddhist philosophical school integrating Chinese culture and widely disseminated it around China.

Many noted poets and literary men of the past, including Tao Yuanming, Li Bai, Bai Juyi, Su Shi, and Lu You, visited Mt. Lushan and composed more than 4,000 works of poetry and prose in its honor. Some scholars withdrew from society and lived in solitude on the mountain. The Bailudong (White Deer Cave) Academy, well preserved today, was the place where Li Bo (773-831), a famous scholar of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), studied and lived. The academy was developed by Zhu Xi (1130-1200), a scholar of Neo-Confucianism during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and enjoyed fame as an important educational center for feudal Chinese culture for several hundred years.

In 1885, the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), priests and businessmen from over 20 foreign countries, including Russia, Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan along with Chinese high officials and noble lords began building private mansions and villas on Mt. Lushan. Within less than half a century, more than 1,000 houses and villas, in different styles, rose one after another.

Besides the villas, there are also Roman and Gothic churches, Byzantine and Japanese structures, and Islamic mosques, all contributing to the majestic landscapes.

The beautiful natural scenery and rich culture give Mt. Lushan a distinctive charm. In 1996, the World Heritage Commission of the United Nations Educational, scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the mountain to be of high cultural value because the historical relics on Mt. Lushan integrate themselves into the natural scenery in a unique way and form landscapes of great beauty, embodying the spirit and culture of China.

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