Exploring Shizhu Mountain

Exploring Shizhu Mountain in Fujian province, China

I am one of those people that needs to be active.  I can only “Netflix and chill” for so long, and the gloomy, rainy weather in Fuzhou as of late was starting to give me cabin fever.  I was sharing my seasonally induced malady with my TA/Therapist Cici, when she told me about Shizhushan, a mountain just outside of Fuzhou.
 
Shizhu mountain is located near the city of Fuqing; about a 20-minute train ride from Fuzhou.  Shizhushan is a beautiful mountain, covered in lush greenery, dotted with temples, and permeated with the pleasant sounds of birds chirping. It’s nestled up against a large reservoir which affords a cool, refreshing breeze while hiking and makes for some very scenic views as you ascend.  Shizhushan is also the home of a large Taoist temple built into a cliff face about 3/4 of the way up the to the summit.  When Cici told me there was a Taoist temple on the mountain, my interest was immediately peaked. I’ve seen many Buddhist and Hindu Temples throughout Southeast Asia, but never a Taoist temple.  When Cici told me that there was a hall in the temple where you can “have a dream” and it will come true, I was sold.  Now if only the sun would emerge from the perpetual grey goop hanging over Fuzhou…
 
For two weeks I checked the weather forecast every day until finally, there it was.  My glittering jewel of opportunity: the weather on Monday was going to be 75F (24C) and sunny.  This was it, our chance to get outside and explore the mountain!
 
Getting to Shizhushan on the day of went smoothly.  We took taxis to the Fuzhou train station and bought tickets for the next train to Fuqing.  Seeing as almost every southbound train stops in Fuqing, we only had to wait about 45 minutes for the next train.  Fuqing is the second stop from Fuzhou station, so it wasn’t more than 20 minutes before we had arrived.  The next leg of the journey was to get on an 806 bus that would take us from the train station into the city itself.  The Fuqing train station is quite small and there was an 806 conveniently parked in a line of buses waiting for us when we got off the train.
 
I’m guessing that 6 foreigners hopping on a local bus is a bit of an unusual sight in Fuqing, because we were met with many more intensely curious stares than even what I had grown accustomed to in Fuzhou.  (One lady asked to take a picture of me; not even with me, just of me by myself which I found unusual). Gawking aside, the people in Fuqing were incredibly friendly.  We were met with smiles everywhere we went, and people were more than willing to do whatever they could to help us despite the significant language barrier (I speak very little Chinese).  When it was time to switch buses the driver kindly gestured to us that it was time to hop off.  After about 5 minutes the 801 bus arrived, which took us the rest of the way to the mountain.
view overlooking lake at shizhu mountain china

View overlooking the lake at the base of Shizhu mountain

My first impression when stepping off the bus was how clean the air smelled and felt.  It’s amazing the effect being just a short way out of the city has on air quality.  The sun was out, the weather was warm and all signs pointed towards a beautiful day enjoying the beginning of spring.  Then came my second impression: HOLY STAIRS!

The hike up is steep.  In typical Chinese fashion, it requires climbing a seemingly infinite succession of stairs.  Thankfully there are numerous temples, pagodas and scenic areas to stop, catch your breath, and take in magnificent views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains.  We meandered our way up the trail; stopping frequently to rest, take pictures, and give some general “oohs” and “ahhs” at the beauty of everything around us.  After about an hour and a half of sauntering our way up, we made it to the main attraction of the hike: Mt. Shizhu Daoist Temple.  The temple is literally built into the side of the cliff with the cliff face making up the back wall of the temple.  This immediately struck me as impressive seeing as I had no idea how people managed to build stairs all the way up here, much less a massive multi-story temple.  We entered the temple complex on the left side and first came upon the “Immortal Bridge”; a short, narrow bridge connecting two large rock towers.  According to the sign next to the bridge, this is where brides would go to “pray for children and happiness”.  It must also bring good fortune to leave a lock on the chain links around the bridge because every available inch was covered in locks.  We spent some time here admiring the view and taking pictures.  Sean Winchell and I even got casually photo-bombed by this cute old Chinese couple, which I found highly amusing. From there we walked up a set of stairs (surprise, surprise) and came to what I had been looking forward to most on our hike; the dream room!

ornate gateway at shizhu mountain china

Ornate entrance to the mountain

When my TA told me that there was a room where you “have a dream”, I thought that she meant if you meditate or make a wish in this room it will come true.  Much to my surprise upon arriving, there were two large halls lined with mats and blankets where you could literally sleep and have a dream!  I found myself an open mat and laid down for a little temple dream session.  I didn’t stay long enough to fall asleep and have an actual dream, but I laid with my eyes closed for about 10 minutes and visualized what I wanted.  Only time will tell if my dream comes true, but I did leave the temple feeling very peaceful and relaxed!

After leaving the dream room we spent a little while longer looking at the other rooms and shrines before exiting on the far-right side of the temple.  We walked up the trail for a few minutes before coming up to a massive platform with an enormous yin and yang symbol painted in the middle.  The platform provides the best views of the entire hike.  You have an unobstructed view of the main temple and the lake below.  It makes for a great place to take pictures, eat a snack and bathe in the sunshine before making the final climb to the top of the mountain. 

dream room shizhu montain china

“Meditating” aka napping

The push to the top involves some serious huffing and puffing as you go up about 3,000 steep stairs.  The payoff isn’t really worth the effort; the view of the lake is obstructed and the “summit” area is small and looks out over the city.  The better view is definitely to be had at the yin yang platform next to the temple.  Nonetheless, we felt very accomplished for making it to the top, and very ready to make the journey down and head home.

On the way down, we decided we had our fill of stairs for the day and took the less direct route back to the parking lot.  This involves taking the path to the right as you descend from the summit and walking down a long winding road that takes you back to the main entrance.  The walk was a nice, flat stroll along the reservoir.  The sun was languishing on the horizon and the sunlight danced on the water like little specks of gold.  While our walk back was serene; it did get us to the base of the mountain a little later than we had anticipated.  We got to the parking lot at 5:24 and the bus schedule said the last bus of the day was at 5:30. We ended up waiting until 5:45 when a different bus (not the 801) happened to arrive. Thankfully after some top-notch TPR’ing, we were able to convince the bus driver to take us to town.

Shizhushan 4

View from the top

If you come to Shizhushan and your mountain gallivanting does cause you to miss the bus, don’t despair.  There are lots of people on scooters that you can hitch a ride with, and people in cars will give you a ride to town for about 50rmb.
 
After getting back to Fuqing, we hopped on a 901 Bus that took us to the train station, grabbed the next train back to Fuzhou and were on our way home. Mission Shizhushan accomplished!

Getting There

-Train from Fuzhou Station to Fuqing: 15rmb
-806 bus for 5 stops: 1rmb
 (you can ride it longer if you want, just make sure the stop you get off at says 801 on it)
-801 bus to Shi Zhu Shan: 1rmb
 
Park entry fee: 25rmb
Dream Hall: 5rmb
 
Total cost (not including food): 64rmb
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