Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China



Recommended Posts

Chinese are very obsessed with mountains.

When poems are composed with regard to scenery, most of them revolve around mountains and hardly any are related to the ocean.

Some of the most famous mountains in China are:

(1) Hua Shan:

The most treacherous of all mountains that many hikers got wounded or killed. But that is the cradle of Han Chinese Civilization. The character “Hua” in “Zhong Hua Min Zu” (Chinese race) is derived from Hua Shan.

(2) Tai Shan:

Qin Shihuang went to the peak of Tai Shan to worship the God.

(3) Huang Shan:

How many poems are there about Huang Shan?

(4) Wudan Shan:

Origin of martial art and Taoism. The movie “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” was filmed there.

(5) Wutai Shan:

Famous Buddhist enclave.

(6) Lushan:

Both Chiang and Mao spent their leisure time there (so were important political decisions made over there).

(7) Tian Shan

Switzerland-like landscape with the Tian Chi (Heaven’s Lake) lying at the foot of snow-capped mountain. (All the above mountains are without surrounding lakes.) Tian Shan is also not only known in China as Tian Shan, in neighboring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan at which this huge mountain range straddles across five countries in Central Asia, it is also known as Tian Shan (Celestial Mountain).

(8 ) Chang Bai Shan:

The most sacred place for Koreans (known in Korean as Paektu Shan). Every summer thousands of South Koreans hiked up to the top to pay homage on the Chinese side since they cannot climb on the Korean side. Interesting there is another “Tian Chi” over here. But this Tian Chi is located close to the peak of the mountain.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

When westerners go to these mountains at peak season, I think they often come away thinking, great mountain but what a terrible experience! The heaving crowds! Next time I want to go to a lesser known Chinese mountain!

There are a lot of mountains to see. Don't Chinese people ever feel like that?

Link to post
Share on other sites
There are a lot of mountains to see. Don't Chinese people ever feel like that?

woodcutter, you are not alone. The famous Song Dynasty writer Wang Anshi would say 英雄所见略同 to you if he were still alive. After a tour to Hua Shan, aka Bao Chan Shan (褒禅山), he wrote a prose "游褒禅山记" which may answer your question:


Please check the fulltext at here.

(3) Huang Shan:

How many poems are there about Huang Shan?

Don't know, but I can remember at least one, probably the latest one, written by a 'famous' modern poet:






Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't there are saying that if you have been to Huangshan, there is no need to visit another mountain. Save yourself the trouble and go to Huangshan first off!

(Make sure you have very sensible walking shoes, the descent down the western steps is a killer...)

Link to post
Share on other sites


No need to worry about the sneaker. Huang Shan was the first one to construct the cable car (I think it was back in the early '80s).

Another problem is that it is always very very crowded.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I had caught the cable car!

My body ached for days...

My husband thinks there's no point

going to the mountains to ride a cable

car.... so we walked, all the way up.... and

all the way down - and the way down

was the long way.... much worse

than the way up..

Link to post
Share on other sites

I did "double hike" when I was young -- Wudan and ZhangJiaJei -- in 14 days on a row.

By that time, there was no cable car in both mountains. So I couldn't quit. But after I came back, I heard that there were still Southern Chinese tigers wandering in ZhangJiaJei.

Only then did I know what was scary and exhausting.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Here was an article published last year, July 17, in the LA Times about porters making a living by hauling supplies up Tai Shan. You need to pay in order to access this article from the archives. So here is the full text:

Toiling on the Road to Heaven - July 17, 2004

"They are hardy but humble men who perform an ancient job in a modern time. Using only rope and wooden poles for leverage, they haul sacks of cement, cases of beer, bales of cabbage and even refrigerators up a two-mile stairway to the top of one of China's most sacred mountains.

They're known as tiaofu, or mountain porters. But they like to call themselves "old oxen." Be it in the harsh July heat or biting January cold, they plod Tai Shan's thousands of wide and steep stone steps, their bodies bent in exertion, the long poles digging furrows into their callused, sunburned shoulders.

Working in teams or alone, 200 porters deliver goods to the more than three dozen temples, hotels, restaurants and shops along the mountaintop thoroughfare known as Heaven Street. For each three- hour round trip, they earn 15 yuan, less than $2. On a good day, when they are feeling strong, they can make three ascents.

For 2,000 years, the porters have shouldered such loads to the mountain pinnacle where emperors gave offerings, philosophers drew inspiration and true believers made pilgrimages to what was considered the highest altar in the Middle Kingdom, a place of lonely beauty where the stars are near.

One of the five holiest peaks of Taoism, Tai Shan, or Big Mountain, is among China's most popular tourist destinations -- its summit offering commanding views of the North China Plain. Each day, tens of thousands of tourists tread its forested slopes, past carved stone tablets and landmarks with such poetic names as the Spring Where the Dragon Meditates, Ridge Where the Horses Falter and Bridge Where One Greets the Fairies.

The porters are considered central to the Tai Shan culture, revered for their strength and stamina, the inspiration for songs and stories. But for these small, sinewy men, this holy mountain is a decidedly mundane scene of muscle-numbing labor.

At night, after another grueling day, the men return to mid- mountain hovels made of rock, dirt and discarded wood to cook meager meals over an open fire. The oldest, in their 60s, say their bodies often ache so much they cannot sleep.

"This job is too hard, too meaningless, for any man to do," said Han Shitai, who has been shouldering loads that often exceed his own weight for 20 years.

The porters are among the most exploited laborers in a country notorious for harsh working conditions. Even as China enters a new age of technology, jobs such as these hark back to its brute-force past, when men's muscles were the cheapest form of labor and transport.

Labor activists worldwide insist that China's modern-day manufacturing muscle has come at the cost of such worker exploitation as ignoring minimum wage laws, banning strikes and jailing organizers. U.S. labor unions claim that widespread human rights violations enable China to lower production costs and undercut American companies, a trend partly responsible for the loss of 760,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs, they say.

The AFL-CIO filed an unfair trade complaint with the Bush administration in March, calling for a series of punitive tariffs to halt what it called China's continued violation of internationally recognized workers' rights. Chinese officials consider independent unions a threat and advocate only weak, party-run labor organizations while allowing many companies to operate without any standards for wages, hours or workplace safety, the complaint said.

Bush administration officials rejected the complaint, saying tariffs would only erect a steeper trade barrier and jeopardize growing U.S. exports to China.

On Tai Shan, the porters consider themselves the weakest of all when it comes to workers' rights. Although not manufacturing based, their labors supply the Taoist temples and tourist industry that draw as many as 30,000 visitors each day.

The porters want to unionize, but they know such aims often bring swift and harsh government response.

"The government doesn't benefit from making our lives more human, so they don't care," said Zhao Pingjiang, 54, a former countryside doctor and accountant who manages the mountain porter team. "Our concerns fall on deaf ears."

Zhao could face trouble for discussing his cause with a foreigner. But his concern over conditions that are unfit for many animals, he said, compels him to speak up.

"What can they take from us?" he asked. "We have nothing left to lose."

Han Shitai knows how the Great Wall and other ancient edifices were built: by an army of men who strained to move crushing objects to incredible heights.

The 45-year-old porter has climbed Tai Shan's so-called Road to Heaven countless times, carrying bronze statues, hotel beds, live chickens, cases of soft drink, plastic jugs of oil. He once helped a team of 100 porters lug a 2-ton iron kettle to the top, a trip that took an entire day.

Like other porters, Han is a peasant farmer who answered an ad to join this government-sanctioned enterprise. The goal of the porter program, officials say, is not to make a profit, but to help solve the problem of surplus labor in the nearby city of Taian and small local sustenance farms, which do not provide year-round work.

Zhao's group solicits work and agrees on fees with business owners and temple leaders at the summit. When there are loads to be carried -- in the summer months the need for the porters is constant -- the men leave their farms for weeks at a time to live and work on the mountain.

The earnings are divided at the end of each day. Han and others say that although their salaries are low and the living conditions poor, they can earn as much making two trips to the mountaintop as they could during a whole day working at a local construction site.

Although they have failed to persuade merchants to pay more for their labors or government officials to improve their housing, the porters know they are uneducated men lucky to have such work. If they refuse, there are many others eager to take their place.

Many porters say their fathers did this same work, yet none want their own sons to follow in their footsteps. For four years, Han has spent all of his 10,000-yuan, or $1,200, annual salary from his porter job to pay for his son's university studies in engineering. The rest of the family have lived off the harvests of wheat and sweet potato from their nearby farm and the profits from selling off a few pigs.

Said Han, a reedy, soft-spoken man: "At least my son lives in a modern world."

On a recent day, Han worked with a team of five other men to carry a loaded oil drum from the mountain's Middle Gate to Heaven Street. The 2,000-foot climb was normally a job for eight, but the porters know they can earn more by using fewer men.

Scores of freelance porters not part of Zhao's team hoist lighter loads along the entire five-mile path from downtown Taian clear to the 5,000-foot peak. But Zhao's group handles most of the bulkiest and heaviest loads, working the steepest two-mile, 4,000-step section from the Middle Gate to the top. The cargo is delivered to the mountain's midsection -- where the road ends -- by truck.

On their ascent, the first of two that day, they passed healthy young men and women using canes to aid their climb. They grunted at the slow-movers, camera-toting tourists who often glared as if the porters' jostling had ruined a good snapshot.

The porters silently endure such disrespect. Chao Jing Sun, 48, who has been a porter since the late 1970s, said tourists ignore requests not to take his picture without permission. He's also weary of the same question asked time and again: "How much do you make? I wouldn't do your job for a thousand yuan."

But some show their admiration for these porters, whose ancestors for centuries hauled both people and possessions on what many call the oldest road in China. As an old saying goes, the men's bodies are "as firm as Mt. Tai," the Chinese equivalent to the Western phrase "solid as the Rock of Gibraltar."

Many generations ago, when they were known as "mountain climbing tigers," the porters did the heavy lifting as various emperors, enthroned in canopied sedan chairs, led their armored horsemen and silk-robed mandarins up the mountain to the clamor of drums and gongs.

Porters accompanied Confucius -- who was born not far away -- when he climbed Tai Shan and proclaimed that the world was small, historians say. They were also here centuries later when Mao Tse- tung scaled the stairs. Mao, however, walked to the top, and the Communists later banned sedan-chair travel as degrading to the bearers.

These days, there are stories in grade-school textbooks about the porters and a TV miniseries. One newspaper reporter recently wrote of how the porters' endurance "made me feel the sublime of labor."

As she led a group down the mountain steps recently, tour guide Liu Yan said the porters could remind an increasingly sedentary Chinese culture of the value of hard work. "They show you how to be a real strong man," she said. "While carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, they move swiftly, in union. Even faster than the tourists who carry nothing."

Nearby, one man could only shake his head as the porters passed, sweating profusely under the weight of the oil drum. "It's a miracle," he said.

Still, up they went, through a forest of old cypress trees and flat-faced rock walls inscribed with ancient calligraphy. Their route skirted countless shrines with gargoyles poised on the tips of upturned eaves, along 18 tortuous turns en route to the South Gate of Heaven.

Along the way, they passed a leper holding a cup in his outstretched hand, a beggar woman with gnarled fingers and vendors using cellphones and portable computers. They overtook a single porter, who shouldered a load of vegetables and beer, swaying a free arm for balance. Near the top, just short of the Pavilion That Touches the Sky, the stairway became sharply steeper. But the porters did not pause to rest or even take a drink.

At the summit, a fog rolled across the temple walls and tourists donned jackets as the sound of a gong rang through the mist. Only then did Han and the others stop.

Within the hour, the porters had loaded up a bulky generator for the return trip.

Although aided by gravity, the way down is often more dangerous, the porters say. Many slip on loose stones. And with the heavier loads, they build up the momentum of a human freight train, unable to stop quickly.

One woman knelt in the middle of the stairway, focusing her camera. "Hai huh!" the men called out, but she did not hear them. Still, they could not stop. Finally, a companion reached out to pull her aside before she was trampled.

The porters know such work may take years off their lives. Many have bad knees, back spasms and other chronic pains. Zhao, the leader, keeps a plastic bag filled with painkillers and Chinese medicinal herbs for the worst cases.

The self-proclaimed "old oxen" say even those animals no longer labor in the fields. Said veteran porter Li Hongping: "Now our lives are worse than even theirs."

Fifteen years ago, Tai Shan added a cable car to whisk tourists to the top in minutes. A second, slower freight lift was also built, but there is often a wait for deliveries. Many merchants prefer the porters for their quick turnaround time.

Although they believe that they are underpaid, the porters are reluctant to raise rates, fearful that merchants will switch their business to the freight gondola as a lesson.

But Zhao said Tai Shan administrators could afford to make the porters' lives easier. Each of the hundreds of thousands of annual mountain visitors pay a 100-yuan, or $12, entry fee -- more than his six men together earned carrying the oil drum to the top.

Government officials have built worker housing, but at a distant location, so many choose not to sleep there. Although the porters collectively pay 10,000 yuan a year for the quarters, most men sleep in the huts with dirt floors that become rivers of runoff on rainy nights.

The porters contribute 15% of their pay to an insurance pool, in case one is injured and cannot work. It's a cost that they believe the merchants should help shoulder.

Lu Guilan, owner of the Country Egg restaurant on Heaven Street, was not sympathetic, asking: "If the government doesn't care, why should we?"

A government spokesman also scoffed at the porters' requests. "Do you know who these people are?" asked Du Guanghua. "They're farmers. They come to do labor."

One porter will not last until change comes to Tai Shan. After 33 years, Cui Qisheng said, he is too weak to go on.

"I want to quit," the 59-year-old said. "Next year I will."

Then he picked up his heavy burden, crying out at the weight, and returned to his mountain task.

He sighed. There were only 3,000 more steps to go."

Link to post
Share on other sites
Isn't there are saying that if you have been to Huangshan, there is no need to visit another mountain. Save yourself the trouble and go to Huangshan first off!

(Make sure you have very sensible walking shoes, the descent down the western steps is a killer...)

share different views. yeah shoes are important but its quite a easy climb. took me 6hrs with my girlfriend.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I've seen porters carrying coal on their backs going up to the 金頂 of Emei Shan on foot.

oh yeah, and those carrying bamboo sedans actually walked faster than i did. took me 10hrs to reach the peak, but i visited like 6 temples along the way, spent about 30mins in each. was january and it was -10c up there. snow began to fall at 900m above sea level. it was all quiet, cos nobody goes there winter time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just found out I skipped another important mountain -- Mt. Kailash -- in western Tibet.

That mountain is the origin of most Hindu Gods and every year many Indians pay pilmirage there.

And another not that important one -- Luoshan in Shandong -- where the German discovered the famous spring water in late 19th Century to brew their famous Tsingtao Beer.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...