I have always been fascinated by Jing Yong’s novel, “The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre” and it was through this novel that I came to know about Wudang Mountain and Emei Mountain. Hence, when the opportunity to travel to Wudang Mountain came, I took the plunge and embarked on this epic journey that lasted 7 days.
Prior to this trip, I tried to do some research and get as much information as I could about the places that I will be visiting but it seems that most of the information available are written by Westerners who went there to learn martial arts. Hence, I decided to pen down my experience so that the information can be useful for those who are planning a trip to Wudang Mountain.
There isn’t any direct flight from Singapore to Wudangshan. For this journey, I took a 4-hour Cathay Pacific flight from Singapore to Hong Kong and then another 3-hour Cathay Dragon flight from Hong Kong to Xi’An. The flights would typically cost about SGD$746 for a return trip.
The Cathay Pacific flight CX 714 and CX 715 (B777) were rather uncomfortable as the seats were pretty cramped and the non-touchscreen in-flight entertainment was rather old-fashioned with the old-school joystick control. On the contrary, the Cathay Dragon flight KA 943 and KA 946 (A330) were more comfortable and the in-flight entertainment system was way better and more modern than the Cathay Pacific flight.
I put up at West Capital International Hotel for 2 Nights and Wudangshan Xian Guan (武当仙馆) for 4 Nights. Accommodation at Xi’An will cost about SGD$160 and accommodation at Wudangshan will cost about SGD$282.
Jinjiang West Capital International Hotel is located at the City Centre and I would personally recommend the hotel because of its location. There are multiple places of interests/attractions such as the Drum Tower, Muslim Quarter, City God Temple of Xi’An and etc, and they are all within walking distance from the hotel. Service was exceptional and the room was decent. The buffet breakfast spread is fabulous and I enjoyed it very much.
Wudang Xian Guan (武当仙馆)
I really enjoyed my stay at Wudang Xian Guan. Although I couldn’t find the property listing on Agoda, I found it on Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency. If you visit the English version of Ctrip i.e. Trip.com, Wudang Xian Guan is translated as “Taihe Health Care Home in Wudang Mountains”. Don’t be taken aback by the English translation though. I personally feel that the more appropriate English name for the property should be, “Wudang Immortals Inn”. The room has an oriental vibe and I look forward to waking up every morning because of the amazing forest view. The food served is mainly vegetarian and there is a large space just outside the hotel where one can practise Taichi in the morning. As the property is located next to the Cable Car Station, access to Tianzhu Peak/Golden Hall is really convenient. If you are looking for a place where you can do some introspection, this is definitely it.
China uses the Renminbi and the typical exchange rate for 1 Singapore Dollar was about 5 Renminbi (RMB). As my flight transited at Hong Kong, I changed some Hong Kong Dollars as well and the exchange rate for 1 Singapore was about 5.8 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD).
What to Buy in Wudangshan
At Wudangshan, there are numerous martial art academies and temples; and at the various attractions/places of interest on the mountain, there are plenty of shops that sell local produce, swords, tea leaves, beads and etc. If you would like to buy some souvenirs for yourself or your family members and friends, I would suggest that you do that at the foot of the mountain where there are more varieties and it would also be cheaper.
Some items that I would also recommend getting would be tea leaves (from 20 RMB) rice wine (from 80 RMB), chrysanthemum flower tea, and zodiac sword souvenir (from 88 RMB). If you are into amulets (from 68 RMB), crystals, wooden beads, and the likes; it is widely available too. However, do exercise caution as some goods could be imitations/fake products.
What to Buy in Xi’An
Xi’An is very well known for its jujube dates, walnuts, almonds and sour plum powder. While you can’t tabao/pack back the freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice, you should really try it! There are also souvenir shops selling keychains, terracotta warrior figurines, and memorabilia for about 10 RMB per piece.
Places of Interest & Activities
To get to Wudang Mountain from Xi’An, I took a bus and the journey was about 5-6 hours long. A bus ride from Xi’An bus station (opposite Xi’An Railway Station) to Wudangshan Town will cost 120 RMB per person. The bus will depart from Xi’An at 09:30 am and should arrive in Wudangshan Town by 05:30 pm (information correct as of April 2019). Once you arrive at the visitor centre of Wudangshan, you will then have to purchase an entrance ticket to the entire scenic area (excluding Purple Heaven Palace and Golden Summit) for 243 RMB. The price includes unlimited bus rides to different venues at Wudangshan and insurance.
Wudang-Style 9-Form Taiji Quan & Ba Duan Jing
There are numerous martial arts academies at Wudangshan and it can be very challenging to decide on one that will be suitable for your learning needs. I was very privileged that we had a dedicated Teacher who taught us the Wudang Style 9-Form Taiji Quan & Ba Duan Jing.
Purple Heaven Palace
Purple Heaven Palace is a historical site designated for state protection and the coloured paintings on the timber of Purple Heaven Palace make the palace look beautiful and imposing. The Purple Heaven Palace is also where the emperors in the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties often issued orders to construct altars to bless their ancestors in heaven, request the assistance of the deities to ensure prosperity and good weather for the crops to have a bumper grain harvest. Entrance to the Purple Heaven Palace cost 15 RMB per person.
Golden Hall /金顶
Located on the top of the Tianzhu Peak, the main peak of Wudang Mountain, Hubei Province; the Golden Hall was built in the 14th year of Yongle reign (1416) of Ming Dynasty. The Hall is the biggest gilded copper temple in China, and is 5.54 meters high, 4.40 meters wide and 3.15 meters deep.
All statues and tools are made of bronze. The most valuable statue is the bronze statue of Zhen Wu, another name for the Northern Emperor, Beidi, a popular Daoist deity. Between them, the statues and hall represent the best of Ming Dynasty copper work. Visitors can also revel in the natural surroundings, taking in magical sunrises and sultry dusks.
Entrance ticket to the Golden Hall cost 27 RMB per person.
Taihe Cable Car Ropeway
If you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountain ranges, you can get on the Cable Car from Qiong Tai to Tian Zhu Peak. A round trip ticket will cost 150 RMB per person.
Nanyan or “South Cliff’ temple is one of the most breathtaking sites of the Wudang Mountains. Devotees would view the cliff as a gateway to heaven, and it’s easy to imagine the cliff as the edge of the natural world. Situated on the cliff around the temple are over 500 iron statues of ancient figures and officials, blending traditional art and culture with the stunning natural surroundings.
Taizipo is one of the main scenic areas of Wudangshan and the ancient buildings of Taizipo were designed according to the legendary story of Zhenwu Practising Taoism. It was first built in 1412 during the Ming Dynasty and has been refurbished during the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century. The main scenic spots include Huilongguan Monastery, Chunyang Monastery, Laojuntang, and Baxianguan, and etc.
About 10 minutes down the road from Taizipo, the Carefree Valley is an extremely scenic area that will provide you with numerous hiking trails to keep you busy for a full day. There are ample spots for photo opportunities and there are various kinds of animals in the valley; especially the monkeys. It’s a holy and beautiful place for visitors to escape from the noise and enjoy the natural landscape.
If you cross the river and head to the plain-looking stage area, you can enjoy Kung-fu shows at 10 am and 4 pm. To the left of the stage is a small lake with a tea house.
I spent two days in Xi’An and I am really grateful for this opportunity to visit this beautiful city that has such a vibrant culture and rich history!
Xi’an is more than 3,000 years old and was known as Chang’an (长安) in ancient times. For 1,000 years, the city was the capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi’an is the undisputed root of Chinese civilization having served as the capital city for the Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui and Tang dynasties. It has often been said that “if you have not been to Xi’an, you have not been to China!”
Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses
The Terracotta Army (Terracotta Warriors and Horses) are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.
Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his afterlife. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archaeologists immediately. They came to Xi’An in droves to study and to extend the digs. They had established beyond doubt that these artefacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).
Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigour.
The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters, divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China’s National Day – Oct. 1st, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back.
No. 2 Pit, found in 1976, is 20 meters northeast of No. 1 Pit. It contained over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. It was unveiled to the public in 1994. Archaeologists came upon No. 3 Pit also in 1976, 25 meters northwest of No. 1 Pit. It looked like to be the command centre of the armed forces. It went on display in 1989, with 68 warriors, a war chariot and four horses.
Altogether, over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons have been unearthed from these pits. Most of them have been restored to their former grandeur.
Since 1 October 2010, the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses and the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum have been combined into one large attraction area, Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, which also includes three other small sites opened in 2011. The Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum and the nearby three unopened sites (namely the Museum of Terracotta Acrobatics, the Museum of Terracotta Civil Officials and the Museum of Stone Armor) constitute the so-called Lishan Garden.
Entrance ticket costs 120 RMB per person.
Bell Tower and Drum Tower
Dating back to the 1380s, the very beginning of the Ming Dynasty, Xi’an’s majestic Bell Tower and Drum Tower are symbols of the city’s rich past and are some of the largest and best-preserved of their kind in China.
Every Ming-era city in China had a bell tower and a drum tower to help signal the time and mark important events. The Bell Tower in Xi’an, located at the very centre of the old city, is an imposing 27.4 meters high and located in a busy traffic circle. Visitors need to take an underground walkway beneath the traffic circle to reach the tower.
Visitors can climb up to the Bell Tower’s terrace where the wooden tower sits to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. However, the view is not very impressive since the tower is surrounded by busy roads in all directions. Please note that getting up to the terrace requires climbing many stairs. Inside the tower, there is a small museum that houses a huge bell, as well as some handwritten memos about the relocation and renovation of the tower. There are also bell and chime performances at various times throughout the day.
As an iconic landmark of Xi’An, the Bell Tower receives many tourists and there may be long lines at certain times. While people can pay a small fee to go upstairs and visit the interior of the tower, most visitors find the exterior of the Bell Tower more impressive, especially in the evening when it is illuminated with colourful lights. Since the tower is quite tall and prominent, you can easily appreciate it for free from across the road.
Xi’An Drum Tower
The Drum Tower, located at the south end of Beiyuanmen pedestrian street and about 200 meters to the northwest of the Bell Tower, was built in 1380, even earlier than the Bell Tower. The Drum Tower houses many large drums and some antique furniture, as well as short musical performances featuring drums and other traditional instruments at various times.
Great Muslim Mosque
Bigger than many temples in China, the Great Mosque is a gorgeous blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture and one of the most fascinating sacred sites. The present buildings are mostly Ming and Qing, though the mosque was founded in the 8th century. Arab influences extend from the central minaret (cleverly disguised as a stumpy pagoda) to the enormous turquoise-roofed Prayer Hall (not open to visitors) at the back of the complex, dating to the Ming dynasty.
Facing west (towards Mecca) instead of the customary south, the mosque features classic Chinese temple features and memorial arches, not to mention the glazed-tile Chinese-style roofing.
It’s a beautiful place to visit in spring, as the white and pink magnolias burst into bloom; in the slow season, the mosque can also be a haven of solitude and an oasis of tranquillity in a very busy area of the city.
Entrance ticket costs 25 RMB per person.
Just as its name implies, the Muslim Quarter, also known as Huimin Jie in Pingyin, is the hub of the Muslim community in Xi’An. Located to the north of West Street in the city centre, the quarter covers several blocks inhabited by over 20,000 Muslims. There are about ten mosques in the area; among which the Great Mosque in the Huajue Lane is the most famous and popular.
Beiyuanmen Muslim Street has a long history. It is said that in olden days, foreign diplomatic envoys and merchants lived here and then they married and had children, so gradually, the population increased. Today, most of the inhabitants here are the descendants of those immigrants. All the Muslims here are the pious and devout followers of Islam so they form a tight-knit community, which maintains its own culture and traditions to this day even in such a modern society.
Xi’An City Wall and Yong Ning Gate
When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), captured Huizhou; a hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him that he should ‘built high walls, store abundant food supplies and take time to be an Emperor,’ so that he could fortify the city and unify the other states. After the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang followed his advice and began to enlarge the wall built during the old Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), forming today’s scale of Xi’An City Wall.
The wall includes four gates and they are respectively named as Changle (meaning eternal joy) in the east, Anding (harmony peace) in the west, Yongning (eternal peace) in the south and Anyuan (forever harmony) in the north.
The South Gate (Yongning Gate) is the most time-honoured and magnificent one among all the city gates. There are bicycles for rental up to the South Gate so it is popular for visitors to ascend here. If you stay near the Bell Tower, it is recommended that you take a 10 minutes’ walk along South Street to get to the South Gate.
Xi’An City God Temple
Located on West Avenue in downtown Xi’an, the Xi’an City God Temple is the largest city god temple in Shaanxi Province. As one of the only two remaining Taoist temples in downtown Xi’an, it has been listed as a key historical and cultural site under state protection. With a history of more than 600 years, the temple is still a magnificent site today.
First built in the twentieth year (1387) of the reign of Emperor Hongwu in the Ming Dynasty on the Jiuyao Street within the East Gate of the City Wall, the temple was rebuilt at its current location in the eighth year (1432) during the reign of the Ming Emperor Xuande. Being one of the three largest capital town god temples in China at that time, the Xi’an City God Temple, also known as Capital City God Temple, exercised control over all town god temples in China’s northwest provinces.
Originally, the temple was very grand and included a main hall, a sleeping hall, subordinate halls, the Music and Dance Building, and a memorial archway. As time went on, only the hall which was rebuilt in the first year (1723) of the reign of Emperor Yongzheng in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) remains.
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda located in southern Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China. It was built in 652 during the Tang dynasty and originally had five stories. The structure was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian, and its exterior brick facade was renovated during the Ming dynasty. One of the pagoda’s many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveller, Xuanzang. Today, the interior walls of the pagoda feature engraved statues of Buddha by the renowned artist Yan Liben.
I’ve been to China twice; the first was to Harbin and the second was to Beijing and that was more than 10 years ago! I am really glad to have been on this trip to witness the many rapid developments that are happening in China and being a history and culture buff myself, my trip to Xi’An was really an eye-opener.
Having said that, I enjoyed my visit to the Wudang Mountains the most and I really want to be back. The air there is really fresh and the next time I visit, I will probably be staying there for 6 months.