Visit to Tiantai Mountain

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On the last day of March, I started from the west gate of Ninghai City. The sky is clear, clouds dispersed with the wind. I was pleased to see the scenery of mountains. After 15 kilometers, I arrived at Lianghuang Mountain. I was told that tigers often made their appearance here, hurting dozens of people in a month. Therefore, I stopped for the night.

On the morning of April first, there was rain. After riding my horse for 7-8 kilometers, I came to a crossroads. I chose the road westwards towards Tiantai Mountain. The rain gradually stopped. After another 5 kilometers, I arrived at the Pine Range. The mountain looked tall and the road was slippery. I got off the horse and started to walk. Ever since I started from Fenghua, I have climbed over several mountains, all along the sides of mountains; here I was making a turn, walking along the ridges.

After the rain, the sky was clear and the sun was just out. I can hear the sound of springs among the scenes of the mountain. There were many changes back and forth. Among the green plants, flowers were blooming. It made me forget the hardship of climbing. After another 7-8 kilometers, I got something to eat at a bamboo nunnery. At the top of the mountain, wheat was planted everywhere. Walking southwards from the bamboo range, I reached a main road at Guoqing. At Guoqing Temple, I had a meal together with a monk called Yunfeng. The monk told me that from here to Shiliang – the Huge Stone Bridge, it was a long way of dangerous mountains. He suggested I leave my heavy luggage behind at Guoqing Temple and only travel with light weight.

I agreed with his idea and asked the porter to carry my luggage to Guoqing, together with Yunfeng. I traveled with a superior monk called Lianzhou towards Shiliang. After two and a half kilometers, we passed the Bamboo Range. At the range, there were many short pine trees, their trunks looked twisted and their leaves were nice looking, very good for my miniature landscape at home in my town. After another 15 kilometers, we arrived at Amitaba Nunnery. Up and down, I saw high ridges; the mountains were deep and remote. Much of the grass and woods had been burnt, for fear of the appearance of tigers. I heard the stormy sound of springs with the wind; travelers were hard to find.

The nunnery was at the lower land among the many mountains. The road was remote and far reaching. Half way there, it was a place for meals or sleep at night.

On the second day, rain stopped after meal. I walked past the swamp to climb the mountain. The place looked remote with the little rocky brook. After 10 kilometers, it was almost dawn when I arrived at Tianfeng Temple. When I lay in bed I recalled the climb to the mountain top in the morning. I was glad it has been a fine day. For a few days, it was fine in the evening while rain in the morning. When it was deep night, I could see the stars in the sky which made me happy and sleepless.

On the third day, when I got up, the sun was already up burning. I decided to walk towards the mountain top. After several kilometers, I arrived at Huading Nunnery. Another a mile or two, I reached almost the top where the Taibai Temple Hall stood. But there was nothing good to see here.

I was told that there was a Huangjing Cave under at the left; so I started onto a narrow route.

After a mile or so, I lifted my head to see an outstanding rock which looked just outstanding. I walked closer to see a small cave temple built by a monk. It was a regret that the monk had obstructed the cave with a huge stone to keep the winds away from the cave. I walked back to the Taibai Temple Hall, from which I climbed to the mountain top. The wild grass was dense and the wind was strong. I could see thick frost on the grass. I looked around the mountains in four directions, flowers and trees looked frosted, like crystal. At the corners, I saw blooming flowers, but without fresh colors on top of the mountain. The cold had restricted their growth.

I started my way down towards Huading Nunnery. After a pool and a small bridge, I walked over three ridges. Brooks made their turns around the ridges; trees and rocks were plenty, some strange looking and some making changes. I was fully content.

After 10 kilometers, I passed Shangfangguang and arrived at Shiliang. There I paid my respect to Buddha at Tanhua Tower, without much time to enjoy the water falls there.

After I walked down to Shangfangguang, I looked up to watch the waterfalls again and they looked high up in the sky. I was told that the waterfall at Broken Bridge was even more remarkable. A monk told me that I had enough time to go and come back after meal; so I started from Xianfa Bridge and turned to the back of the mountain.

After a ridge, I walked along a brook for 4-5 miles when I saw a huge waterfall running down from the Stone Gate, making three turns. The upper level was the Broken Bridge where two stones came close towards each other; water sprayed onto the stone and run down into a pool. The middle level was two stones facing each other into a gate, with water running down fiercely through the gate. The lower level was a pool, quite large, with water running down from the threshold stones. These three levels looked dozens of meters high, with magical views at each level. The water run step by step down in twists covered by forests; I could not see the whole of everything. Another mile or so, I saw the water fall into a wider place, slowly but always running. I took off my shoes and stepped into the wet grass. I got a wooden stick and caught the tree branches to climb up the rocks. This was no place for cannoning. At dawn, I started backwards. I stopped for a while at Xianfa Bridge, watching a rainbow at Shiliang, and the snowflake like waterfalls. That night I was almost sleepless.

On the fourth day, both the sky and mountains looked dark green.

I had little breakfast but started towards Taihua Tower along Xianfa Bridge, the Huge Stone Bridge or Shiliang was just outside the tower. The Huge Stone Bridge was about one foot in width and dozens of meters long, setting onto two mountain sides. Two waterfalls came onto the stone bridge leftwards from the tower and dropped when they met. There was a stormy sound like collapse of river water, running far into the distance. I walked onto the stone bridge and was very frightened looking down at the pool. At the end of the bridge, there was a huge rock stopping the way forward and I had to turn back.

After Taihua Tower, I entered Shangfangguang Temple.

Along the little brook in front of the temple, I walked onto a huge rock opposite the temple. I sat there to watch the Huge Stone Bridge. A monk came to tell me for meal, so I went.

After meal, I walked for 7-8 kilometers to arrive at Wannian Temple, where I entered the Buddhist Sutra Tower. The tower had two levels, each with storage of Chinese and foreign Buddhist books. In the front or at the back of the temple, there were many old pines; so large that three persons might not be able to hold them in roundabouts. On tree tops, birds in their nests were singing clear and loud, making the sound deep and remote among the mountains.

This day, I wanted to go for Tongbai Pagoda with its remarkable pavilions and watchtowers. I almost lost my way; so I planned to go back to Guoqing. From Wannian Temple to Guoqing Temple, I needed to walk for 20 kilometers, passing the Hall of Dragon King on my way. When I went down one range, I thought I was close to the ground. But actually even after another and another, I was still inside the mountains. And I knew that Huading was truly high up in the sky.

At dawn, I arrived at Guoqing Temple. I met Yunfeng there as old friends when he asked me about the wonders of my travel. Yunfeng said to me, “No place is better than the Double Rocks. Although far away, you can ride the horse. After the Double Rocks, continue to Taoyuan, Tongbai, Cui Town and Chi Town. You can see everything then.”

On the fifth day, it looked to be rainy. But I continued with my travel towards the Double Rocks. I went to the west gate for my horse. When I had my horse, the rain began to drop. After 25 kilometers, I arrived at Butou. The rain stopped and I gave up the horse. I walked for a miles or so into the mountains. Amid the ranges and waters, the green woods and magical rocks, I gained all the pleasure. A brook run from Dongyang, with quick currents. I wished I had a boat; so I stepped into the water. The water was just above my knee and I spent about an hour walking in the water. After a mile and a half, I reached the first rock -the Bright Rock. The Bright Rock was where the famous scholars Hanshan and Shide made their remote residence. When I recalled their songs, I came across Eight Inch Pass.

Passing through the Eight Inch Pass, cliffs on four sides were like city walls.

At the end I saw a cave with depth of dozens of meters. It could hold several hundred people. Outside the cave, on the left were two rocks, both in the middle of the cliffs. On the right, the stalagmites were outstanding, the upper part as tall as the cliffs. On the cliffs, there were green pines and grass, facing the rock on the left, which was magical. After the Eight Inch Pass, I walked onto another rock, on the left. When I first looked from under, it looked like a narrow line; but when I reached the top, it was a terrace that could hold several hundred people. At the rocks, there was a Fairy Will, shallow but always with spring.

Outside the rocks, there was a huge and unique stone, dozens of meters high, upright as if two persons were standing there. The monk told me that they resembled the famous scholars Hanshan and Shide. I went back to the temple. After meal, the clouds were dispersed, the moon up in the sky. When I stood on the top of the rock, I could see the moonlight on the cliffs.

On the sixth day, I walked out of the temple very early and walked for 3-4 kilometers to another rock-the Cold Rock. The rock was upright, tall like cut-cliff. I looked upwards and saw many caves. In the middle, there was a cave, eighty steps wide or about a hundred steps deep, plat and clear bright. I climbed upwards along the rocks. At one side, there were two rocks facing each other, standing still. They were separated at the bottom but connected at the top, like the Lovers’ Bridge, just as remarkable as the Huge Stone Bridge at Shangfangguang. But there was no waterfall here.

I returned to the temple for meal, after which I looked for a boat to travel along the brook downwards. On both sides were deep cliffs, with greenery over them, cherry-apple trees or Chinese cercis, making the scenery along the brook very beautiful. With the wind I could smell the fragrance of the flowers and grass all over the place. When I reached the end of a mountain, the stone cliff looked deep from the pool; there was no place for walking.

On the side of the cliffs, holes were made for walking. The holes were so small that they could only hold the toe each. I had to attach my body to the rock to walk past the place, so frightening that even the souls could be taken away. From the Cold Rock to Butou, I walked 7-8 miles along a narrow road. My destination was Taiyuan, by the side of Huguo Temple. The temple was deserted with nobody in. I followed Yunfeng along the narrow and winding roads. When darkness came, we were not able to find a place for rest. We walked backwards to Pingtou Pool. Pingtou was only 10 kilometers from Butou. As we were taking the narrow road, forwards and backwards we had to walk 15 kilometers. We rested at Pingtou; and our trip to Taiyuan was not so funny.

On the seventh day, we started from Pingtou Pool on narrow routes for over 15 kilometers before crossing a small brook into the mountains. After another 2-3 miles, we reached the mountain entrance which was getting narrower. There was a rest tower there called Peach Blossom Pavilion. We walked along a big pool, with clean and clear water, springs coming from far above, called the Jade Sound Pool. The pool extended with the mountains and we walked along the edge. On both sides, the rocks were outstanding, with greens all over, making the scenery more beautiful than the Two Rocks. When the pool ended, the road also ended. We saw a waterfall coming from above the rocks, in an extraordinary way. Coming out of a place for meal, we continued our walk southeast; over two ridges, we looked for the Jade Pavilion and Double Watchtowers, but no one seemed to hear about them. We walked for another several kilometers and finally learned that the two places were on the top of the mountain.

I walked with Yunfeng to the top after hard climbing of the upward routes.

When I looked down, the place was full of high cliffs and rocks with greenery, similar to Taoyuan or maybe better than that. The highest mountain top was separated into two halves, hence the name “Double Watchtowers”. Surrounded by the watchtowers, there was the Jade Pavilion there. On three sides of the pavilion were deep cliffs, only one side at the back connecting to the watchtowers. I rested at the opposite watchtower until dawn. The day of plenty scenery was coming to an end. Thus we walked down the mountain, passed the back of Chi Town and returned to Guoqing Temple. Totally we talked for 15 kilometers.

On the eighth day, I left Guoqing. I walked from the back mountain for two and a half kilometers to reach Chi Town. Chi Town was on the mountain top, round-shaped. It looked like a town from afar and the color of the rocks was red.

A rock cave was made into a monk residence which covered all the beauty of nature.

There were the Jade Cave, Coin Pool, and Wash Will there; but none of these places had any special features to mention here.

By Xu Xiake

Translation by staff editor

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