The little town of Dengfeng sits at the foot of 1494m high Taishi Shan and is an excellent base for exploratory treks into the hills of Songshan Mountain, one of the five sacred Taoist mountains in China. Rising to 1512m, Songshan is considered the central mountain in Taoism, symbolising earth among the five elements. The entire mountain complex of Songshan covers an area of around 20 square miles and includes 36 peaks. The landscape is impressive as slopes rise steeply from the valley, thickly clad with trees and plants. An area of Songshan has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Geopark.
Occupying the axis directly beneath heaven, Taoist Songshan is also famed as the sacred home of the Buddhist Shaolin Temple, traditionally considered the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and Kung Fu. The temple also boasts an impressive collection of stupas and the celebrated frescoes of fighting Shaolin monks. In the Pilu Pavilion you’ll find the famous depressions in the floor, a result of generations of monks practising their stance work.
The historic monuments of Dengfeng are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as ‘The Centre of Heaven and Earth’. Constructed over the course of nine dynasties, the ancient buildings are reflections of different ways of perceiving the centre of heaven and earth and the power of the mountain as a centre for religious devotion. The colossal Zhongyue Temple is one such building and exudes a palpable air of reverence. The complex originally dates back to the 2nd century BC and is today an active Taoist monastery.
SEE ALSO: Nearby site of interest - Shaolin Temple
About 100km northwest of Lijiang in Yunnan province is where the Yangtze River’s upper reaches, the Jingsha Jiang, channel with ...