In 2004 on my second visit to China I’d intended to visit Emie Mountain, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism, but after failing to get off the train, travelled on to Chengdu and instead went to Juizhaigou, a far more interesting place. So last week, being in Chengdu again I decided that this time it would be Emie Mountain.
I have written before about the noise issue in China and how for many Chinese there seems to be a psychological need for noise and noisy places. Tour groups with flag carrying guides with miniature PA systems are prime examples of this phenomenon. The tourists need a group, the group needs a leader, the leader needs to shout, the tourists ignore the leader and shout at each other.
At 9am we set off from the main gate by the Baoguo Temple and climbed steadily through dense mist and occasional rain past the FuHu Temple and within an hour we had reached the Luofeng Nunnery where a small group of tourist were sitting in silence listening to one of the nuns. No screaming and shouting, no waving of arms, no standing on chairs, no violent gesticulations, no running around, no mobile phones,hawking and spitting, just quiet attentiveness. Upstairs stuck to the wall was the poster in the photograph above.
Out from the nunnery and we continued to climb, first to the LeiyinTemple, then the Chunyang Palace, the Shenshui Pavilion, the Zhongfeng Temple, our highest point of the climb, the Guangfu Temple, and ending at the Niuxin and Qingyin Pavilions and their two bridges, just before 1pm. Here for the first time we met crowds of people who had arrived in their thousands on carefully timetabled coaches, boarded the cable car in the coach park to be whisked up to the Wangnian Temple from where they would walk down hundreds of flights of stone steps to the two bridges and then on down a similar distance to a second coach park. After some searching we found a tiny signpost to the Heilohgjiang plank walk and the Joking Monkey Zone where there was only one joke. You could only feed the monkeys with special food you needed to buy at the entrance to the zone and you needed to carry a stout bamboo pole to fend off attacking monkeys who’d steal everything from your hat to your shoe laces. The two of us, without sticks, were a rarity and attracted stares from tourists and pursuits from local touts eager to sell us one. We declined these offers and that of the monkey food. And the joke? Despite an hour in the zone, we saw no monkeys. I dare say several tourists a day end up in hospital after tripping on their own or someone else’s bamboo pole.
Back from the Monkey Zone we were walking against an increasing flow of tour guide led tour groups and slogged our way up in the increasingly humid atmosphere up to the Wangnian Temple, from where we intended to retrace our steps and then onto the coach park. Half way up we stopped at our penultimate temple, for some reason called the Bailong Cave. By this time it was just past 3pm and there were four group leaders each addressing their groups through their PA systems. I found the photo of the “shushing nun”, walked up to the first group leader and held the camera in front of his eyes, held my other finger to my lips and smiled. For just a moment there was stunned silence. At the coach park at 5pm, we’d covered the best part of 16k.