Huashan (Hua means brilliant, Chinese, or flowery; shan means mountain) is one of the five sacred Taoist mountains in China. Huashan boasts a lot of religious sites: Taoist temples, pavilions, and engraved scriptures are scattered over the mountain.
Hua Mountain is well-known for its sheer cliffs and plunging ravines. It is known as “the most precipitous mountain under heaven” and is probably the most dangerous mountain in the world frequented by hikers.
Hua Mountain is located 120 kilometers east of Xi'an, about 3 hours from the city centre. There are five peaks that make up the mountain: Cloud Terrace Peak (North Peak, 1613m), Jade Maiden Peak (Middle Peak, 2042m), Sunrise Peak (East Peak, 2100m), Lotus Peak (West Peak, 2038m) and Landing Wild Goose Peak (South Peak, 2160m). North Peak, the lowest of the five, is the starting point. It has three ways up it: the six kilometer winding track from Huashan village, the cable car or the path beneath it.
Next on the route is Jade Maiden Peak. Legend has it that a jade maiden was once seen riding a white horse among the mountains, hence the name. The hikers can choose to take a left to Sunrise Peak, a fine place to enjoy the view of the sunrise in early morning (which would involve climbing the mountain in the dark as there is nowhere to stay on the mountain).
Alternatively visitors could take a right to Lotus Peak. Huashan means Flower Mountain, and it got the name from Lotus Peak, which resembles a beautifully blooming lotus flower. Finally there is a gondola which takes visitors across a steep valley to Landing Wild Goose Peak, the highest among the five summits. The path to the summit is characterized by steep rock faces, with obstacles including a foot-wide plank walkway fixed to a sheer rock face with only a chain along the rock for support. The route continues with footholds in the rock and a chain for holding. This is followed by a vertical ladder in a cleft in the rock. Finally there are steep stone steps. The South Peak is not for the faint of heart and is particularly dangerous in winter weather. However, the views are breathtaking. The climb to its summit makes it clear how the impenetrable mountain repelled attackers over the centuries.