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Taizhou, an ideal mountain getaway

By Sun Yuanqing (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated : 2016-08-16

Taizhou, in the southern province of Zhejiang, is an ideal mountain getaway for anyone looking to escape the modern world.

Known as a key manufacturing base, Taizhou is also home to beautiful mountains and Buddhist destinations, some of which are expected to be declared top scenic spots by the National Tourism Administration in the near future.

Guoqing temple, tucked away in Tiantai Mountain, about two hours' drive from Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang, is home to China's first indigenous branch of Buddhism: The Tiantai school of Buddhism.

Tiantai Mountain

Changyu Cave

First built in 598 during the Sui Dynasty (581-605 AD), the temple was renovated as a royal temple during the reign of the Emperor Yongzheng in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The gate of the temple, which can accommodate only two people at a time, opens up to some 23,000 square meters inside that include 14 grand halls of different sizes.

Guoqing Temple

Linhai Great Wall

This is the place where Ji Gong, a famous philanthropic Buddhist monk of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), first converted to Buddhism.

It is the first destination recorded in the epic travel diaries by Xu Xiake, a Chinese travel writer and geographer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Li Bai, the genius poet of Tang Dynasty (618-907), also mentions the temple in one of his poems.

The Tiantai school of Buddhism, which was mainly founded by the fourth patriarch Zhiyi (538-597 AD), spread to Korea and Japan during the Tang Dynasty and has been a major branch of Buddhism in those countries.

Huading Mountain (Huading Forest Park)

Taozhu Town

When Japan's then prime minister Kakuei Tanaka visited China in 1972, he asked to visit the Guoqing Temple. Tanaka was a sincere follower of the Tiantai school of Buddhism, which is also known as Tendai in Japan.

However, the temple was poorly maintained during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai ordered a revamp of the temple, renovating it with cultural relics transported all the way from the Palace Museum in Beijing.

A pair of stone lions from the Palace Museum has since guarded the entrance of Guoqing temple, and it remains a hot spot for Buddhists from Japan and Korea.

Monks at the temple farm as part of their duty, and local farmers are hired to help during the harvest season.

Also in Tiantai county are the Qiongtai Xiangu valley, the Hanshan reservoir and the Houan village, where you can spend around 100 yuan ($16.34) per day to live in the home of a local.

As you drive south, mountains pass by and you will arrive at Xianju county, which is famous for Shenxianju (home of the fairies) Mountain.

The mountains, which form various silhouettes, are named after their shapes, such as the Marshal rock and Sleeping Beauty peak.

A 10-minute cable-car ride will get you halfway up the mountain, and the climbing starts from there.

Dalu Island

Dachen Island

The pathways, which were painstakingly constructed over years, stretch for more than 2,000 meters along the cliffs.

For thrill seekers, there are glass platforms that hang off the stone-paved roads, allowing you to see the deep valleys below.

After the two-hour hike on the mountain, nothing could be more comforting than a table full of local delicacies: The Eight Bowls banquet includes chicken soup, braised fish, homemade tofu and lotus nut soup, accompanied by fresh yangmei berry juice.

After the fulfilling meal, you can take a stroll in the ancient town of Popan.

A trade center from the Tang Dynasty, the buildings in Popan are built in authentic Hui style Chinese architecture.

You can learn how local craftsmen used needles and paper to make a festival lantern or appreciate local opera staged at the site of an ancient brothel.

Nearby, you can take a bamboo raft and drift down the Yongan River, the mother river of Taizhou, or rent a bike and go cycling along the water.