Exploring Shizhu Mountain in Fujian province, 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 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.
“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.
View from the top
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