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China Hiking Adventures Inc.

Hiking and Cultural Tours of China


 

"Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon"

The HuangShan hiking trip makes a stop at the village where the Movie was filmed.

Yellow Mountains( HuangShan) is located at 118 east longitude and 30 north latitude

For thousands of years it has been regarded as a Natural Wonder in China landscape.

In 1990 it was listed in Catalogue of World Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO.

 


 

 

The following is part of a letter from Jeff and Ellen in Maine,USA (email : MessyJean@aol.com), who hiked with us on Yellow Mountains October 5 to 19, 2001 :

". . . .

You have done a wonderful job choosing fascinating places to visit. These are places that would be so hard to visit on one's own. I absolutely fell in love with the villages and scenes along the Xin An River. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to see the rural China that has existed for so many centuries and that is fast disappearing...

Climbing the religious mountains was spectacular as well. QiYun was a fascinating place with its Taoist shrines and grottos. It was exciting to be there during the National holiday and to see so many Chinese families visiting the shrines. Jiuhua was the experience of a lifetime. The Buddhist religion is still very much alive ? it was totally unexpected to see so many temples being built. Attending the Buddhist ceremony at night was incredible ?I felt like I had been transported several centuries back in time...'"

. . . "

 To meet Jeff and Ellen click here

 


 

For the China We Rarely See

This paper was printed on Lifestyles section,

THE DAILY PROGRESS, Charlottesville, Va.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

By David A. Maurer

Daily Progress staff writer

The Chinese painting of mist-veiled mountains are so beautiful as to seem otherworldly.

The mountains stark-sharp peaks appear impossibly shaped, the serenity of the tranquil scenes too good to believe. Small wonder many viewers feel they're just creative renderings from an artist's imagination.

" We used to live in San Francisco, and I'd go the Chinatown and see these beautiful paintings with mountain scenes and little temples, " said Dr. Jim Krag, medical director of Valley Community Services Board of Staunton-Waynesboro.

" I thought, ' Is this place for real or is it sort of like dragons, and just something that's in the Chinese culture? ' Then I was in a Chinese restaurant I frequent in Staunton, and I saw this photograph on the wall.

" I asked where it was taken, because that was the kind of place I had seen in the paintings, I learned it was the Huang Shan mountain area of China, and that poets and artists have been inspired by this region for thousands of years "

Krag found more information and photographs of this area on the Internet. He also found a company at www.China-Hiking.com that specializes in taking small groups of people to remote areas of China that most tourists never see.

Krag signed up for a walking tour of AnHui Province, where the beautiful mountains are located. He recently returned from the 20-day excursion, during which he hiked into villages and visited mountain temples far from the beaten track.

Dr. Jim Krag and a villager

What the psychiatrist came away with was a new appreciation for the Chinese culture and the beauty of the countryside. He also was amazed at how different the nation was from what he had perceived it to be.

" The thing that was really amazing is that you wouldn't know it was a Communist country, " Krag said. "People have their own shops, their own vehicles and, from what I saw, freedom.

" I didn't see any military presence or anybody checking up on where I was or saying I couldn't go here or there. I would wander around these little villages and towns and feel completely comfortable.

" The people would be smiling, friendly and very welcoming. It was a very comfortable experience."

Before going on the trip, the Albemarle County resident watched a 12-part documentary series on China made in 1984. When he got to China, he was stunted by what he found.

" Wow, what a difference, " Krag said with a laugh and disbelieving shake of his head. " Everybody in the videos I borrowed from the public library was wearing blue and Mao caps.

" There's almost none of that now. I only saw a couple of old people dressed that way. There weren't pictures of Mao everywhere, either. In fact, there's a lot of open ambivalence about Mao. I asked a local guide what he thought about Mao, and if he was good for the country or not.

" He said that was a hard question, because there were some things that were terrible and other things he helped with. They're grateful that he cracked them loose from the type system they had, but it's Deng [Xiaoping] who they feel particularly grateful to, because he pointed them in the direction of prosperity through flexibility. "

On Dec 11, 1978, Deng, the newly named head of Communist Party in China, made a speech credited for launching the country in a new direction. In what would have once been considered heresy, he called for facts, not ideology, to guide the nation.

" Deng said a cat is good cat whether it's a black cat or a white cat as long as it catches mice, " Krag said. "Basically , what he was saying was, 'let's do whatever works to get out of poverty.'

" They made mistakes, huge mistakes, and nobody would want to go through the Cultural Revolution again, and things like that. And they seem to be doing their best to avoid those kind of terrible cultural mistakes.

" The country is now protecting their relics, whereas during the Cultural Revolution with Mao at the head, they were destroying them. When I visited Taoist and Buddhist temples, there were no guards. I saw many Chinese people making pilgrimages to these places, and there was no persecution of religion that I could see. "

Krag became so enamoured with the new China he found that he plans to return with his family for another visit. While he said he didn't find a hint of the oppression one might expect in a Communist country, he said that the areas he hiked were some of the most beautiful he had ever seen.

" The AnHui Province, where we were, is due west of Shanghai in the east central part of the country, " Krag said. " I think the Huang Shan area is probably as beautiful as it gets in China.

" It has the feeling of enchantment about it. The granite mountains are three thousand to six thousand feet high. Because of the shearing of the granite and earlier glaciation, they've been left with these very sharp peaks.

" Climbing up into the mountains, you would suddenly come to these beautiful temples that are build right into the crags and caves and on the peaks. As a huge bonus, I was also meeting the Chinese people and seeing these incredibly interesting small villages that have buildings hundreds of years old. "

Brantly Womack, professor of foreign affairs in the department of politics at the University of Virginia, has been a regular visitor to China since 1978. He just returned from a trip to Beijing and Shanghai.

In Womack's Albemarle County home hangs a painting of one the sacred mountains of Huang Shan. The work was done by an artist who only does Huang Shan, and the professor said it's worthy of that singular attention.

The professor applauds people such as Krag who have taken the initiative to visit China and see for themselves what it's like today.

" Things have changed amazingly in China, " said Womack, who is putting the finishing touches on his book, " China and Vietnam : The Politics of Asymmetry, " scheduled for release by Cambridge University Press in January.

" Clearly, our relationship with China will be one of the most important relationships we'll have for the foreseeable future. It's also one of the least predictable. Not because China is unpredictable, but because of mutual ignorance.

" So the best thing we can do as individuals, and as a country, is to make more contacts. It sounds like Jim Krag has done it. "

Krag recounted a typical day where the tourists left their hotel and rode a small bus into the mountains, He continued on foot along narrow paths and up stone steps to a Taoist temple built on a craggy peak.

" Our guide knew the abbot of the temple, so we were able to have lunch with him, " Krag said. " Afterward, we walked down through this beautiful valley with waterfalls.

" It opened into these fields where people were working. Then we came to a river where two bamboo rafts were waiting for us.

" We rode the rafts back to town, it was just lovely. I can't tell you how much fun that was. "

During a free afternoon, Krag asked a couple of schoolboys to take him to their English teacher. The psychiatrist taught impromptu English lessons to middle school and high school students.

" Apparently throughout China, English is a required subject beginning in the first grade, " Krag said. "when I went into the classrooms, the students would spontaneously applauded.

" They were very polite, well behaved and their English was incredible. We did a question-and-answer thing and they wanted to know about the simple daily things we do in the United States.

" On another day, we saw how silk is made and that was fascinating. We also went to this home where orphaned children and old people live together. They would take care of each other and, as a physician, I was impressed by what a novel idea this was. "

Krag also was impressed by the reasonable prices. The entire trip, including roundtrip airfare, lodging, food and travel within the country, cost about $3000. He said a beautifully prepared buffet breakfast in a four-star hotel cost less than $4.

But the natural beauty of the area and the friendly outgoing people make Krag want to return. Womack said a trip like Krag took provides an important perspective on China.

" More than half the population in China still lives in rural areas, " Womack said. " So if you just visit Shanghai or Beijing, you haven't seen the China most Chinese wake up to.

" That is not to say that these remote villages are the true reality, and Shanghai is just a false show. China has become a very complex society.

" It's easier to visit a city like Shanghai, because there's much of it that's basically familiar to us. It's more of a cultural challenge and more of an introduction to a totally different way of life when visiting the villages. "

Womack's advice for people thinking about visiting China is to learn as much about China as they can before they go. That's what Krag did. Since his return, he wants to continue to learn as much as he can about the country and its people.

During the trip Krag helped give out medical supplies that were brought there by a couple from Alaska. As he explained the supplies to a local doctor, photographs were taken.

Two days later, and 100 miles away, a hotel doorman looked at Krag and then excitedly handed him a newspaper from a stack.

" There we were in a picture on the front page of this local newspaper giving the medical supplies away, " Krag said with a smile. " I was wearing the same shirt, and the doorman recognized me.

" I had someone translate the headline about the story. I was told it read, 'Loving hearts know no boundaries.' ".

 

China Hiking Adventures Huangshan Tour May 10-24, 2004

 

Diary of Sam

May 11, 2004

We woke at 3:30 am on May 10th to catch our flight out of New Orleans. It took 4 hours to get to San Francisco. From there we flew 13 hours on a fully packed 747 to Shanghai. The flight was terrible. I only slept 2 hours on the plane. I am writing this at 11:30 pm Shanghai time. That means it is 10:30 am Baton Rouge time. I have been awake for about 30 hours now with 2 hours sleep. Shanghai is a city that is alive! Lights, people, car blowing horns; 13 million people all with their own agenda. We are staying at the Zhong Ya hotel. It is very nice, but apparently Chinese do not believe in air conditioning. It is hot and humid. The salt air mixed with pollution and stench, coats you with its film. Neil and I walked around the city for a little bit. Thank God for Xiaolan, my mandarin tutor. I can actually communicate well with the Chinese. They actually understand me. Honestly, if I did not know how to speak mandarin, it would be very difficult to get around without our guides. A few people know English, not many, but the bit they know is so little. We seem to be an attraction to them. They constantly look at us and sometimes even follow us. Not to harm us, just to see us. I think it partly has to do with the fact we are Americans, but I seem tall to them, not to mention the fact I have a shaved head. We had a couple that took our picture tonight and the man gestured how he was so short and I was so tall. But, they are all very friendly. Neil and I went by ourselves and ate at an artsy restaurant tonight. We had daffodil tea, even though I asked for green. It cost 35 Yuan for the both of us to eat!!!! That is about 5 dollars U.S. We are to explore the city tomorrow due to a flight problem. I am glad, I have always wanted to see the city of decadence.

 

May 12, 2004

I woke at 4 am. Got a grand total of 5 hours of sleep. I walked around Shanghai @ 4:30am. Vendors were selling food on the corners and people were biking to work. While waiting for Neil in the Zhong Ya lobby, I talked to the Chinese guy behind the desk. He was impressed with my size and wanted to arm wrestle. So, I obliged and we had our picture taken. Neil and I walked to a local park where numerous Chinese were doing Tai Chi and learning a folk dance with a fan. We ate a great buffet style Chinese breakfast. They had congee, steamed dumpling and buns, fried rice, and much more. We then took a Taxi to the Bund (sp?) It is a famous historical area on the river in Shanghai. The park was swarmed with vendors. They would not leave us alone! We also saw the famous TV tower you see in a lot of pictures. Some people call it the CCTV tower, but that is in Beijing, not Shanghai. We then walked to an open market in YinYuan. I bought an Erhu (Chinese violin) and practiced some more Zhonguohua (mandarin) with great success. Tony arranged for us to have a lunch of wonderful noodles, which Shanghai is famous for. We also went to an antique market that had some beautiful items. We took a Taxi back to the hotel and made it safely. They drive like maniacs, yet they have no wrecks. They also lay on the horn 24/7. We then took a local airline out of Shanghai to Huangshan airport in Tunxi. Our hotel is extremely nice and everything is so cheap. A bottle of water is about .60 cents. We are at the Huashan hotel. We had an incredible Chinese dinner with beef, noodles, dumplings, whole fish, and droves of vegetables. It was all on a lazy Susan. The people of China are so polite. They appear to love Americans. Tomorrow we go to the Farmer's market and hike the Xinan River.

 

May 15, 2004

I woke up very early today at 3:30 am. Part is jet lag, but mostly it is adrenaline. A few of us went to two early morning markets. People were selling all kind of vegetables and animals to eat. They had fish, ducks, snakes, and frogs. At 9 am, we took a bus to a rural village. We had to ferry across the flooded Xinan River on a gondola type boat. We hiked many miles today through different villages. We first saw how Tofu was handmade using soybean. Along the way, I passed out American cigarettes to the elder men who seemed to appreciate it. The "houses" seem older and dilapidated. Their main function seems to be cultivating canola, rice, and tea. Everything is done by hand. The local people were fascinated with us, especially the children. They especially like Neil and his camera. Each inch of farmable land is used, nothing seems to be wasted. After dinner, a few of us went to a private tea ceremony. The lady that owned the place, Ms. You (sp?) was so gentle and kind. She told me that she felt it was karma we were supposed to meet. She also let me play the Chengdu (zither). What a treat! Tomorrow she is arranging a local opera performance, thanks in part to Tony. Once back at my hotel, I had a Zhong Yi (Chinese doctor) perform Chinese massage (tui na). I also had QiGong by another doctor. He ran his energy into me, I was doubtful, but now I believe! Without even touching me, it felt like electricity entering me. I was dumbfounded. This by far was one of the most unreal events I have ever been a part of.

 

May 14, 2004

I woke up again at 3:30 am. We walked to a local park where hundreds of people were doing Tai Chi Chuan. There was sword form, push hands, fan dance, etc?What is strange is that they all stare at us. I guess they do not see westerners much. After breakfast, we left to go hike through a local tea plantation. We took the ferry across the river and hiked inland today. We went to a village called Ma Hua Yu (sell flower fish village). We had lunch of fresh noodles and vegetables at a local villagers house (side note: to me, this was the most wonderful meal of the trip). We then went to another house to where they showed us how they raised silk worms to sell the cocoons to a local silk factory. They keep the worms in bamboo baskets with Mulberry leaves. It started to rain. We then went to a local school with all of the children learning. They had a blast seeing us. We then hiked more and could see tea plants as visibly far. After dinner, we went to see a local opera at a teahouse. It was fantastic! They dressed in traditional Chinese opera clothing and sang with the nasal pitched intonation. All accompanied by an Erhu, pipa, gongs, and bells. I presented Ms. Yo with a gift of 450 Yuan ($55) from us. As all Chinese, when presented with a gift, they must return the favor. She gave us Yixing clay teapots. She was a wonderful person. Finally, Neil and I ended the night with an hour-long foot massage at the hotel spa. It was only $8!!

 

May 16, 2004

I am writing this on Sunday morning because I was too tired to write last night. Yesterday, I finally got 8 hours of sleep and feel refreshed. After breakfast, we loaded up the bus and checked out of the Huashan hotel. We dropped Tony off so he could take care of some personal affairs and headed to the Pau family village with our guide, the man, the one and only, Terry Chen. This village had Tang, Ming, and Ching architecture. We visited memorial shrines made in the Ming dynasty. They were huge, spacious, open-air buildings with multi-levels and massive columns. These columns sat on a granite base and were made of camphor wood. We also viewed some ancient "houses." These again were partially open air and had multi-levels. They had a system of channels under the house for rainwater to circulate. They could remove a stone cover from a hole to have "air-conditioning." Traveling through this village felt like being in the China of Wang Fei Hung. It also rained all day, but we did not notice it. From here, we traveled to see some memorial archways for the Pau family. These archways could only be erected by permission from the emperor. They were a sign of status for the family. The official of this village was a minister of war during the Ming dynasty. The same as the US Sect. of Defense. Each archway represented a different value: loyalty, filial piety, chasity, and rightousness. These would be traversed under when entering the village. We also saw something rare in China, a massive memorial hall for women. They are generally small. They would use these halls to worship their ancestors by sacrifice. From here, we left for our next destination for the night. We are staying at a hotel near the base of Mt. Qiyun. This is supposed to be the largest Taoist Mt. in China. The river running through the terrain gives the appearance of the Yin-Yang symbol from atop of the Mt. We are staying at the Guo Nei Lu You Ding Dian Fan Dian. W had an incredible dinner last night of fresh veggies and meats.

 

May 17, 2004

I woke at 5:30 am and wrote the previous part of my journal. We then went to see an open market in the city we are staying in, Yi Xian. After another great breakfast, we went to hike through a bamboo forest. This is where they filmed part of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The bamboo was huge. They use bamboo for everything here: they eat it, make furniture, scaffolding, teapots, etc?They harvest the bamboo just like a pine forest. The scenery is incredible, smokey Mts. With acres of bamboo. We came back to the hotel for lunch. Afterwards, we went to Hong Cun. This is a village and also the area where the famous bridge from Crouching Tiger was filmed. This village was mainly from the Ching dynasty. We saw an old school room with an area in which they learned the Confucian works. We also saw an old Ching residence. They had a main room where the wife's bed was on one side and the concubine was on the other. We walked back to the hotel and did a little shopping. After a great meal, we listened to some traditional Chinese music.

 

May 18, 2004

Started today with a traditional Chinese breakfast. It consisted of Conchee first and they give us plates of veggies that are spicy to add. They have steamed rolls, some plain, some with meat or sweet bean curd. To drink we generally always have green tea and soymilk. They then bring us each a fried egg, which you are to add to the conchee. The meal also includes sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf and maybe a soup of some kind. We checked out and headed to Qiyunshan. This is one of the four famous Taoist mts. In China. We hiked up the Mt for probably 3 miles? It was stairs most of the way. We reached a lookout point that revealed the reason the Taoists chose this Mt. The river below pierces the landscape forming the Yin-Yang symbol. At this point, I met a kung-fu master for the Mt. He was also a porter and would carry people up for a price. We made friends, boxed a bit, and took pics. From here, we traveled up higher and began to see shrines dedicated to gods. They are selling incense; I bought some and offered it to almost every shrine for luck. The rock faces are sheer cliffs with thousand foot drops. We then arrive at an area that is visually stunning. It was a place that seemed to be carved out of the mountain. There were numerous shrines: one to Lao Tzu, one to the dragon king with a pond in front, etc?One shrine had Taoist priest that would write your name down if you gave a contribution. This was to keep you in good with the god. We continued on and found the Temple of the Heavenly Master. This was dedicated to the supreme ruler of Taoism, the Jade Emperor. As we made our incense offering, the Taoist priest rang a gong. I donated some money, and again my name was put in a book. This temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but was recently rebuilt on the same spot. We then had a traditional Taoist lunch, no meat, just veggies. This, Tony arranged special for us. Tony also showed us a spot in which there were dinosaur footprints. We continued along and came upon the cave temple. This temple was built inside a natural cave. The actual structure was only 400 years old, but the cave has been used by the Taoists for over 1000 years. We then climbed some steep stairs and a few of us did a bit of rock climbing to give us an awestruck view. The scenery looks like it does in the painted Chinese scrolls. We then hiked down and took a bamboo raft down the river to our bus. We then traveled to the base of Huangshan where we are staying at a four star hotel. We will leave in the morning to hike Huangshan and stay at the top for a night. I felt a special connection to QiYunshan.

 

May 19, 2004

I am currently overlooking Huangshan right now. To describe it is impossible. I could never do it justice. Rock Cliffs, jagged, piercing the sky, ancient, drops thousands of feet. Ancient pines growing from nowhere. Single rock structures sitting on top of plateaus. The rocks should not be there, but they are.

Basically, what you would see in the ancient Chinese scrolls of Mt. scenery, that is Huangshan. Today, after we woke, we hiked up the Mt. It was 4.5 miles up stairs the whole way. The hotel we are at tonight is the Huangshan hotel on top of the Mt. It is very lush and there are a bunch of foreigners here. I like non-lush and no yang gui tzus.

I do love the Mt and its scenery. I have never seen anything like this before. Now I know why the poets and painters use this place for their inspiration.

 

May 20, 2004

Yesterday, we woke at 4am. This was so we could get a good spot at an area called, "Monkey Gazing at the Sea." Sometimes, when you are out there for sunrise, the clouds will be below you and it looks like an ocean. We did not have this luck, but it was still beautiful.

After breakfast, we checked out and hiked around Huangshan. We saw many beautiful areas, but two particularly stood out, Flow in Rock and Lotus Peak. Flown in Rock is basically a huge boulder sitting atop a plateau. The reason it is special is because no other rock in the area is of the same composition. They believe it was deposited here by a glacier millions of years ago. Lotus Peak is the highest point on Huangshan. Going up was hard but going down was more difficult and actually scary. One slip and you would fall far. We had lunch at a restaurant that used to be an old Buddhist temple. On the way down, I hurt my knee bad. It took me forever to get down the Mt. We did see a wild monkey on the way down. We got back about 4:30 pm to the hotel, at dinner, and then I sat with our guide and some other Chinese and chatted way into the night.

 

May 21, 2004

We had an easy day today. We first went to see the 9 Dragons waterfalls. They were 9 separate waterfalls that were beautiful. We then went to green jade pavilion. This area has a creek and some falls. The water is jade green and crystal clear. We saw some more areas where they filmed Crouching Tiger. From there, we drove 3 hours to JiuHuashan. It is one of the most famous Buddhist mts. In China.

 

May 22, 2004

Today, we woke early to hear a lecture about comparative religions. He did not show. We walked around and saw a Chinese funeral. The area we are in is a big pilgrimage/tourist area and the monks capitalize on that. We hiked a long way up the Mt. today. All along the way people begged saying, Om Ni Tofu. Which is a blessing of some sort. There were several nunneries and monasteries along the way. One of the monasteries is suppose to be the most sacred spot in China for Buddhism. The footprints of the Buddha are there. In 719 a.d. a Korean monk settled in the area. He meditated in this cave for 75 years. He always stood in the same spot when he bowed reciting the sutras. Due to this, his footprints were imprinted in the stone. We climbed to the top where there is a huge temple with massive Buddha's. I met a monk who showed me his style of Kung Fu, he was good. One of the older ladies and I had to take the cable car down because of our knees. I think I tore my meniscus.

We shopped a bit, ate, and then went to see a Buddhist ritual. They chanted, sang, and hit drums.

 

Mon. May 24, 2004

I am writing this while on the plane back to the USA. On Saturday, we woke to droves of Chinese tourists at JiuHuashan. We had 2 hikes planned. First, we did a slow, small hike up the mt. to see the gold gilded mummies. Apparently, when some of the monks die, after a few years of being en-tombed, their skin is still soft and rigormortis has not set in. When this happens, they are considered holy and gilded in gold. The Korean monk who settled this mt. had the same process, he is considered to be the Buddha reincarnated. They have his body in a temple under a huge pagoda. So, we hiked and saw numerous temples. I met quite a few monks and became friends.

The next morning, we took the bus 3 ?hours to Hefei. This place is huge and reminds me of New York. We just shopped. That night I departed from the group and went out on my own. They had Mongolian hotpot and I went to an authentic Teahouse. Then a few of us went to a dance club and had a blast. We woke at 5am and have officially left China.

 

Taoism in China

 


 

The following is part of a letter from Neil living in Atlanta,USA (email : dragonrises@hotmail.com ), who hiked with us on Yellow Mountains May 10 to 24, 2004 :

". . . .

Your hiking tour in China was a life-changing experience for me and I thank you for providing me the opportunity. Going to China has awakened so much from deep within me. I am undergoing a wonderful transformation. ...

In this chaotic and self-absorbed world we live in, it was very refreshing for me to meet someone, such as yourself, who has so much compassion and mercy for others. One day, I hope I can find myself in the position to help out people in the poor rural villages of China, as you do. The people in the villages really touched my heart. They had nothing, yet they were so happy, friendly, and full of life, which was very different than most of the people I encountered in the cities. Their qi was different than most in the cities, more pure. ...

. . . "


A Taoist's Pilgrimage

 

I, like many others, consider myself a Taoist. But to be a Taoist, does one need to practice the rituals with robes, music, and incense. Of course not, one may simply be a Taoist by trying at all times to be at one with the Tao. What does this mean, being at one with the Tao? We all in one way or another have stress in our lives, be it your job, family, or just trying to endure the daily grind. As one who tries to be at one with the Tao, we should not let this affect us emotionally or physically. As the bamboo sways with the wind in the direction it is blown, we to must sway in whichever direction we are blown. Essentially, we allow nature to direct us in our lives and do not fight or try to change forces that should be allowed to act naturally. Once we understand this, everything else is trivial.

To read about this in books will give you knowledge, but to see and practice it will give you wisdom and understanding. The former is what Tony Pau and China Hiking Adventures hopes their guests will attain on QiYunshan (Mt. QiYun). I stumbled upon their website while searching for trips to China. I knew I did not want the typical tourist trip. I wanted to see the "Real" China, the China of old, the China of Lao Tzu and Chuang Zi. Did it still exist? Or was I to be disappointed and have to return home and live vicariously through my books on Taoism. I want to be the first to tell you, it does exist!

 

QiYunshan is more than just a mountain and it is more than just altars and temples. It is a holy place. This was never more evident to me then when I stepped foot on the first step to climb to the Temple of the Heavenly Master. I will never forget how I stopped, looked at our path to be, took a deep breath, and was filled with a spirit that cannot be put into words. The energy that I felt was from the accumulation of thousands of pilgrimages to this sacred site, and I was to be one. As we ascended this mountain, which is only one of four sacred Taoist mountains in China, the air was cleaner, the trees greener, and the energy pure. All of my years of studying Tai Chi Chuan, Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Taoist Classics, was coming to a culmination.

The people we met along the way were nicer and more humble than anyone I have ever met before. It was like we were seeing old friends that we haven't seen for years. They were glad we were there, as were we. They could not help but have a nature as this. For this mountain holds a vitality that will purify anyone's soul whoever wishes it. As we made our way to the top, we passed so many altars and smaller cave temples that I was in awe. As we climbed higher, the scenery was even more spectacular. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever see the inspiration for the ancient artists of China. It was as if I had a priceless silk scroll in front of me adorned with the beauty of nature.

 

Once we reached the Temple of the Heavenly Master, I felt as if I had taken a step back in time. The temple was utterly breathtaking. We had entered the home of the Jade Emperor and what a home he has. Sadly, this temple had to be rebuilt due to the communists destroying the original, but they built it on the same ground and they built it exquisitely. You may destroy the body, but you can never destroy the spirit. The spirit at this site is still very much alive. This was never as evident as when an old Taoist priest was writing a blessing in a copy of the Tao Te Ching I had brought. Upon departing the temple, we learned that Tony had arranged a special lunch for us. We were going to the home of a Taoist priest where we would have an authentic Taoist meal. This was not part of our itinerary, so what a special treat this was.

After our meal, we then went to a temple on the edge of a cliff that the Taoists have used for over 1000 years. To see how the Taoist use nature and can make an existing cave into a temple instead of destroying nature to erect one is seeing the true essence of Taoism. After some more exploring on our own, it was time to descend and depart down the HengJiang River on bamboo rafts.

 

As we hiked down, I couldn't help reflect upon one of the poems written by one of China's greatest poets, Li Bai.

You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;

I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.

As the peach-blossom flows down the stream and is gone into the unknown,

I have a world apart that is not among men.

 

Upon departing, I could not help but feel happy. I was not leaving something behind; I was bringing something with me. I was bringing home the true essence of the Tao. What is this true essence? It is that which cannot be explained only experienced. Thanks to China Hiking Adventures and QiYunshan, I now know I am one step closer to being at one with the Tao.

 


Hiking in China 1997

by: Allan Bancroft

 In ancient China, a revered emperor visited the mountain region of the An Hui province. His health was poor and it was hoped that its spectacular beauty would help. It did, and in gratitude, the emperor offered the exclusive gift "yellow" as the name for the region. Two thousand years later, UNESCO identified HuangShan, Yellow Mountains, as a World Heritage Site, famous for the natural beauty of the rocks, pine trees and cloud formations and the curative properties of the hot springs. We spent two days here, carrying only our day packs and over-nighting in a high quality hotel, reachable only by foot or cable car. There was plenty of time to absorb the beauty. The trip down took us past many of the highlights of the region, spectacular vistas, huge rocks oddly perched on bald mountain tops and thousand-year-old pines that welcome weary travellers for a rest. This day was most tiring, about 10 hours on the go, trotting on about 8000 stair treads carved by stone masons.

 

Our walking trip was much more than a hike in beautiful mountains. It was also an exposure to the history of two of the world's great religions, Taoism and Buddhism. As we walked the paths of pilgrimage mountains of both religions we exchanged smiles and brushed shoulders in good spirit, as pilgrims have done for thousands of years. We paid our respect at shrines that appears at strategic rock faces, lookouts, springs and pools. About 2000 years ago, LaoTse wrote the first comprehensive summary of Taoism, which means "truth" and centres around living in harmony with nature. Yin and Yang, the balance struck between opposites, is perhaps its best known feature. Pilgrims come from many parts of China and neighbouring countries as the fulfilment of a lifetime obligation. During the five days we were on these mountains we were the only white-skinned people we saw. We were a novelty and enjoyed the smile we caused and "ni hao"s (hello) that we prompted. The shoe was on the other foot when Chinese tourists asked to take a photograph with us !

 

Perhaps our most pleasant days were those spent on the paths between villages where there was no vehicle traffic. Here, away from Chinese tourists and where the only white visitors are those who are part of this hiking tour out of Toronto, was the perfect opportunity for closer human contact. We were in the studio of an artist who carved human faces from bamboo stumps, of which the fine roots were the hair. In the fields along the paths was an astounding variety of crops. After all, we were in one of China's richest agricultural regions. On the valley bottoms, the black canola grains were being harvested and the straw burned. These fields produce two crops of rice and one of canola each year. In smaller fields were potatoes, cabbages and almost everything else that grows in the ground. On the valley sides at a level above irrigation were tea, mulberry( to feed the silk worms), qumquats, wheat, barley and oats. The patchwork of textures and colours was eye-catching.

 

Hong-Lin is a village of 800 residents close to the XinAn River that is noted for its bonsai trees. The day we visited, several dozen trees were carried on porter-poles to the river ferry for delivery to offices in Shanghai. They are an important cash crop to supplement the adequate table produce. Most courtyards in the village had many dozens of trees being patiently trained to their beautiful shapes. We were told that some, about a meter tall, had "been in the family" for a thousand years! This village was a special part of the tour because of the relationship Tony has established there during the last two years. When we arrived we were invited into the doctor's house for tea and noodles. Later, we participated in a meeting with the village chief, school headmaster and teacher about establishing a library for the children. There are no books for use at school or at home and it appears that people in villages can expect little help from governments, other than the use of land to grow crops. An earlier tour group had helped the school by providing the materials to cover the earth floor in an old stone building and to build six new desks. The new floor had reduced breathing difficulties among the young children.

 

"Hiking in China" tours are the creation of Tony Pau of Toronto. He spent much of 1995 planning the details with Madame Shan of the An Hui Tourism Corporation. In September of that year he tested the accommodation and hikes on sixteen seniors from the Bruce Trail Hiking Association. "It couldn't have been better" said Tony. "The food was good, no one got sick, there was hot water for showers and the day outings were the right level of difficulty". China is encouraging foreign tourists and, because of the participation of the government, Tony is allowed to go to places off the normal tourist paths. He also offers a two-weeks tour along a few sections of the Great Wall between Beijing and the East China Sea. Although we have not been, the features of this tour are topography and history. In 1998, bird-watching along the Yellow Sea coast is being planned. For us, the experience was special for the obvious reasons of culture, history and scenery. In addition, Tony's personal presence and all the doors he opened into the living rooms of the local people were important pluses. The use of local guides added to our pleasures by providing further insight into culture and customs. We travelled during May 1997, enjoyed our exposure to Chinese people and cuisine.

   


2003 Hiking Group Diary

 

Year 2003 Great Wall Hiking Group (October 20 to November 3, 2003) had nine participants. This group called themselves " U-CAN Keep Trekking Group ", which stood for USA and Canada Hiking group. It was because the group members consisted of hikers coming from USA and Canada.

 

Ellie Brown Gee

"...A huge thank-you for a most incredible trip. It doesn't seem possible that so much could be packed into 15 days! Truly fine by me, as I am a doer, (not necessarily a shopper as I have been good naturedly teased about.). The hiking was truly a challenge, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I have never done that kind of hiking before and just loved it. It certainly brought home the meaning of "being in the NOW". …I felt so alive at the end of each day! and my energy is still up. I really appreciated your sensitivity to everyone's needs and comforts. As a group we seemed quite compatible which was a nice bonus for everyone..."

 

Elizabeth Grucelski

"…I am still on high from my trip. It took me about a week to get over the jet lag. I must say that coming home was harder than going to China.

I want to thank you for such a warm, wonderful time. The trip was all and more than I could of hoped for. I have some wonderful photos and memories.

I just took for granted what my parents had done for me---until our visit to the school. What a powerfully emotional event that was for me. I wish that I could thank my parents. ..."

 

Tomoko Makabe

"…Thanks for everything you've done for us and me in

particular. I had a great time in China and am glad I went

this time ... The expedition went very well

overall without any accident,..."

 

Marjorie Sparrow

"...thank you for the experience that was so well thought out while seeming also spontaneous and off the beaten path..."

…Hello and thank you again for a wonderful experience?

 

Nick Martens,

 

Linda Norris

 

Michael and Joel Matuskey

 

Tony Pau

 

********* October 20, 2003 *******************************

by Tony Pau

 

October 20, 2003 Tomoko and I departed from Toronto to Beijing early in the morning .

We arrived Beijing in the afternoon of October 21, 2003. We lost one day flying to Beijing and we knew that we would gain one day on the way home.

 

********* October 21, 2003 *******************************

by Marjorie Sparrow

 

10/21 We all meet for dinner. Our round table in the middle of many empty ones. Tony demonstrated chop sticks, we met "thousand year old eggs" we toasted to our first nite....lecture by Prof. Guwen on the Great Wall, the contents I will leave out here...we are very tired from traveling and eating. But we are eager to continue and happy about our group... Tony, Joel, Mick, Nick, Linda, Elle, Marje, Elizabeth, Tomoko, Tian, Helen and Shi Wei (Sylvia)

 

********* October 20, 2003 *******************************

By Marjorie Sparrow

 

10/22 Good discussion our first morning about the Asian racism experience in Canada ... and onto our big bus. Very exciting. Beijing and its high rise construction , lots of traffic and bicycles ..By sports stadiums and Village for the 2008 Olympics, the Hotel of Tibet, The National Garden Pagoda , the SARS hospital built in a week ..onto the Badaling Highway by 8:30 lecture by Sylvia on the Great Wall .. Best preserved and most visited , it was most impressive and imposing. We walked several hours with all kinds of Chinese who were all very fascinating to me..and so were the Yen Sun Mtns.. Mid week and off season and SO many people.. Badaling Great Wall Museum explained and interpreted by Sylvia and Tony which helped a lot. We saw the numbered bricks with the sticky rice and the written on bamboo sticks recordings of Wall construction from 200 BC, lots of weapons and armour and the room of world dignitaries photos at the wall, , and the surround sound movie in Chinese . A feast lunch at Badaling Restaurant (the first of many to come) and on to Beifang Great Wall Hotel for an incredible dinner with fried squid, our first "squirrel" fish duck with head etc...Tony talked about the public minded Chinese government and the economic reforms. A truly fabulous day, a wonderful dinner and interesting subjects.

 

By Tony

BaDaLing is the "North Pass" of JuYongGuan Pass, the important strategic pass of the Great Wall. It used to be heavily guarded because it was the outpost to safeguard the capital, Beijing. In 1505, a city on the pass with two opposite gates "JuYong Outskirts and Key-to-North-Gate" was built. The terrain is strategically situated and access to it is difficult. The Wall at BaDaLing is 7.8 meters high and 5 meters wide built with rectangular stabs of stones and green bricks from the hills. Most tourists are permitted to visit only BaDaLing section of the Great Wall.

 

...

 

********* October 23, 2003 *******************************

by Elizabeth Grucelski

 

Thurs. Oct. 23rd.

We are at the Beifang portion of the Great Wall. Breakfast was a wonderful combination of Chinese and Western foods.

Off to the Ming tombs. Its a clear and beautiful day, perhaps in the 60's. The atmosphere is peaceful and respective even with the crowds of tourists. We visited the tomb of the 13th Emperor-WanLi and his 2 wives. Is very unusual that here are 2 wives buried with the emperor. This was done due to the fact that the emperors first wife died without bearing a son. So Emperor WanLis' concubine bore him a son and at her death that son buried his mother beside the emperor.

Before leaving the Ming Tombs, Tony bought some persimmons and we had a lesson on how to eat and enjoy them. It was the first time I had ever had them. They were good.

Lunch was in a Friendship Market place. The food was delicious. We tried Chinese Vodka 57% proof. It warmed the stomach.

Off to the Huanghuacheng portion of the Great Wall. On our way up a long winding mountain road we stopped and bought more persimmons from an elderly Chinese woman. She was selling the fruit for her family. She was beautifully aged with dark wrinkly skin. Her face told me a story.

This portion of the Great Wall is crumbling and not restored therefore not supposed to be climbed. But after a little negotiating with the local villagers we climbed the wall. But only after walking over a dam. It was here on this portion of the wall that I realized that I wasn't to fond of highs and wind. I found a secure spot and while the others climbed I enjoyed the time to myself. It was magnificent and peaceful.

We are staying this night at the DaDiXiuXianGangWon Hotel or for short DADI Leisure Hotel.

Tonight after supper we talked about Chinese medicine. A few members of the group went to visit the chief during the meal.

 

********* October 24, 2003 *******************************

by Ellie Gee

 

Day 3 - Friday, Oct.24, 2003

Marje, Elizabeth, Linda and I begin our day (a clear but chilly 6:00AM) with QiGong. . We had to cross oncoming traffic of busses, trucks, cars and a varied assortment of bicycles to get to the center of this rotary. Once there, a sense of quiet and tranquility took over as we joined a group of players of all ages and wearing anything from business suits to sweat suits. There is the scent of roses as we become more grounded and quiet. Soon the qi is flowing as each joint, limb and torso is stimulated. Wide awake and rejuvenated we hurry back to the hotel for a East/West breakfast - everything from fried egg sandwiches to pickled onions and salted noodles. Yay! Hiking today! Built by the Ming dynasty as a northern barrier to protect Beijing, Mutianyu is the day's climb. We travel a quiet 4-lane highway. The median strip has been planted with firs and willow trees. Periodically we see the "highway crew" sweeping the dirt shoulders with flimsy-looking whisk brooms. No litter on these roads. The road signs are in Chinese, but also English. There are warning signs to "avoid rear collision, keep space". On either side of the highway there are fields of harvested corn and harvesting is underway for groves of apple, persimmon and peach trees. Picking is done by hand. There are huge sunflower plants which make mine look rather dwarf-like. As we ascend the mountain there are apple pickers and many roadside stands, i.e. a blanket spread on the ground or just baskets and the sellers squatting or standing nearby. Donkeys, free of their carts, are grazing nearby. The traffic consists of flat-bed like pick-up trucks transporting fruit; three-wheel pick-up trucks, mini-vans and mini mini-vans, construction vehicles, jeeps and donkeys carrying a rider and/or drawing a cart. Everything seemed old and worn. Of course, there were the many motor scooters, motorcycles and bicycles. We saw a few accidents, mostly cyclists or carts being hit. Our driver, with generous use of the horn, maneuvered us through many a tight spot. As we went higher, the road seem to narrow and twist with not much of a shoulder or very sturdy guard rails. In the little villages there were many children waiting for transportation, walking or riding bikes, often with a passenger. No one wore helmets. They seem to ride with no fear. Road and building construction was everywhere - a constant flurry of activity.

 As we kept climbing in the bus, the Great Wall and watchtowers looked like a walkway on top of these mountain ranges. We are going to climb that? Tony seems to think so!

Neat orderly rows of trees circled the mountains. Tian said that people volunteered one day a year to help plant these trees. This I understood to be a government funded project.

Lost on the Wall! Well, it certainly felt like it. How Marje and I got separated from the group was certainly befuddling and we could never spot Elizabeth's yellow jacket! It all began when Tony gave us a choice of approaches to the Mutianyu Great Wall entrance. Well Majie and I decided that we would follow Tony and Joel's path. It wasn't long before we got separated by large groups of school children carrying backpacks and dressed in blue nylon sweat suits and sneakers. They kept rushing by us; their chaperones, often wearing high heels and leather shoes, slowed us down as well. By the time we began our climb - stairs, flat stretch, more stairs, steadily going upwards, we lost all sight of Tony and Joel. Soon they were returning as we were still going up. Tony told us to take our time and told us where we were going to eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Easy enough. So we stopped to breathe in the crystal clear air and absorb the beautiful vista all around, still not quite believing this is the Great Wall. Kids are so universal: the boys were clustered in the corners or in the watchtowers playing cards and rolling the dice. The girls were holding hands and giggling at everything and nothing as young girls at that age like to do. The school children wanted to try out their English and like to have their pictures taken. All the while we were looking for this elusive yellow jacket. How hard could that be with most everyone in blue. It and Elizabeth were not to be found so we quickly ate our lunch and decided to take the cable down to the parking lot. We spotted Linda, blonds stand out, and Tony bartering for a North Face jacket.

 On the road, we headed for Chengde. Everywhere there seemed to be construction of new modern buildings with lots of glass. The little villages we passed through looked a bit impoverished but even here new brick buildings were being constructed. The roofs are tile, slate, corrugated and mostly pitched. Piles of coal indicated how they heat their homes. There are shiny brightly colored playscapes for the children.

The further we drove the more rural it became. Corn is being harvested and the ears are stacked on the window sills for drying.. The stalks are bundled for fuel and also for bedding for the donkeys and sheep We passed plastic covered greenhouses with rolls of hay on top. Very neat gardens of green veggies (cabbage?) are seen at most homes.. The gas stations seem new and modern, some with convenience stores Finally we had a "pit stop". One of the many bathroom experiences to remember! We were shown a line of plywood sided stalls used to separate a section of the "trough". Now the challenge: straddle, squat, balance and aim. Well, when you gotta go, you do what you gotta do! We washed our hands at a community sink where the water was supplied by an upturned bottle that had a lever to let the water out. That wasn't so bad! Back outside,. Tony treated us to steamed sweet potatoes; very thin skins like white potatoes. Yummers

Still ascending we pass trucks that just can't go any higher. The Wall is never far from view. Power lines run in front of the The Wall which is another example of linking past and present. Chengde, our destination, was a 15 day trip from Beijing for the emperor and empress to reach their Mountain Summer Resort. We did it in 3 hours. We passed several showrooms of Lexus, Volvos, Mercedes. Chengde is a modernized city of new high rises, new bridges, and roads. We are to stay for several days at the Yunshan Hotel.- good food and hot shower -Yay!

 

By Tony

MuiTianYu hike - This is one of the most interesting sections of the Great Wall - the section visited by President and Mrs Clinton when they came to China. With its unique architecture it is called "The Wall Where The Eagle Must Bend his Wing".In the afternoon we visit the nearby 13 Tombs of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) - the world's largest concentration of Royal Tombs. Each tmb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way. The stone archway at the end of the Sacred Way is 14 metres high and decorated with designs of clouds and sacred animals. Unlike their predecessors, the Ming Dynasty came from an agricultural society in central China and believed in an "after-life" where the dead had a life similar to those who were living. Ming emperors therefore constructed large mausoleums. The Dingling Tomb is the tomb of Emperor Wanli and his two empresses. The underground palace at the Dingling Tomb consists of multiple chambers where sacrificial utensils are on display. More than 3,000 articles have been unearthed including the golden crowns of the emperor and his queen.

 

 

********* October 25, 2003 *******************************

by Linda Norris

October 25, 2003

 

Trip Diary: Saturday- Chende City, population 700,000

Stayed at Yunshan Hotel. A river runs through the center of the city. The city is surrounded by mountains.

Mary was our guide. In the morning we visited the mountain resort, Summer palace- 5 million square meters. It was the 2nd political center of the Qing Dynasty. Has 9 gates. Entrance to the palace was free today so the park was crowded. We met an american woman who tagged along with us. I met a young chinese man who was attending college for tourism and hoteling. He wanted to practice his english and walked along with us. He bought me candied hawthorn on a stick. We all ate some. It was very good.

Afternoon: Walked up to the needle- large upright stone. It used to be under water. We walked through a village and saw farms, homes, people and pigs all in a beautiful valley.

They were harvesting bok choy to dry for winter. Typical chinese dirt- bok choy, turnups, hot peppers, noodles.

Evening: We visited a woman who does amazing chinese paper cutting. We all bought some of her work.

 

By Tony

In ChengDe, around the mountain manor were 11 magnificent temples known as the Eight Outer Temples. They represent the Han, Manchu, Hui, Tibetan and Uygur architectural styles. As well as the palace we visit two majestic temples - PuTuoZongCheng Temple and PuNing Temple. The former was built in 1767 and covers 220,000 sq. metres and consists of nearly 40 impressive halls and other buildings. The main structure is the Great Red Terrace where stands the 35-metre-high, gilded and copper-tiled "Hall of All Beings Belonging to One". The PuNing (Universal Peace) Temple is a magnificent structure on the banks of the WuLie River. Built in 1755, it covers 33,000 square metres. The front is typical Han-style temple architecture and the rear is modeled after the Sam Ye Monastery in Tibet. The main building, the Hall of the Great Vehicle, symbolizes Sumeru, the mountain at the centre of the Buddhist world and it houses a giant statue of Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) with a thousand heads and a thousand eyes.

 

********* October 26, 2003 *******************************

by Martens, Nick A.

 

We started the day (26 October 2003) in Chengde once again with our tour guide Mary. Today, our intinerary for today was to visit the Temple of Universal peace, a temple (Buddha- La) that was a copy of the Potala Palace in Lhasa and an afternoon visit to the markets and department stores.

 We started our journey to the temple of heaven by driving along side the wall of the Mountain summer resort. This wall is 10 kilometers long and 10 meters high in spots. We also drove by a Sunday Market where produce and other goods were sold. The market also offered free haircuts by students. No one in our group decided to take up their offer.

 The Temple of Universal Peace was built in 1755 and has two temples, a Chinese temple and a Tibetan temple. The entrance gate hall contained two Generals Hon (big open nose) and Ha (open mouth). After the gate house there was a Stele pavilion which contained a large tablet. From the Stele pavilion we walked by the Bell and Drum towers. The Bell tower is on the east and is rung in the mornings and the drum tower is in the west and is beaten in the evening as signals to the monks. We then went to the Hall of the Heavenly Kings who protected the 4 paths to heaven (North, South, East and West). After we left the Hall we came across an interesting group of Buddhists who were dressed in robes and chanting, playing simple instruments (drum and cymbals) and moving in a snakelike path in front of the 3 Buddha temple.

The 3 Buddha temple contained three Buddhas representing the past (left), present (center) and Future (right). At this point, some members of our group burned an incense offering to the Buddhas.

 At this point we had to climb to the Tibetan portion of the temple. The climb was 42 steps. This temple contained the Great Buddha temple. The body of the Great Buddha is 23 meters tall carved out of a single piece of wood. The Buddha had 42 arms (same number as the steps) and 43 eyes. The arms were carved out of 5 different types of wood. On the left, there was a wall that a one time contained 10900 small buddhas (some were sections containing the buddhas were missing). The 10,000 buddhas were for long life and the 900 is a good number in Buddhism (as it is a multiple of 3, 6, 9). We retraced our steps out of the temple where we then went to a shop that had an artist who painted exquisitely on the inside of glass globes. We spent some time in the shop were a couple of purchases were made by members of our group. I have to say I resisted the temptation to purchase a glass orb. It was here that our Chengde tour guide Mary left her flag.

 We then went to Buddha-La which is a half size replica of the Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet. On the way we passed the Sunday market again. When we got off the bus at Buddha La we got our usual swarming of merchants but nothing unusual. Buddha-La was started in 1766 and took 4 years to complete in time for Emperor Qianlong sixtieth birthday. Buddha-La has 6 levels representing Emperor Qianlong sixtieth birthday. Along the top there are eighty niches representing Emperor Qianlong's mother's age (80).

 When we entered the temple grounds we went by the 5 pagoda arch which represented the 5 paths of Tibetan Buddhism. We also walked by 2 sitting elephants. We went by arch gate where common people were not allowed to go beyond. Arch gate had 3 gates, 4 pillars and 7 building (along the top to the gate). After we went beyond arch gate Joel and Mick got dressed up as Emperors so that they could get their photographs taken with the two cute concubines. After much antics (poor girls) the photographs were taken and we continued along our journey to the Buddha-La Temple. After climbing some stairs we finally made it to the entrance of the Buddha-La temple and saw 4 flag poles with flags attached. The flags were meant as a prayer to Buddha for Peace (red flag), Prosperity/ Wealth (Yellow Flag) and Good Luck/Happiness (Green Flag). Our tour members purchased flags to be raised depending on their desires.

We climbed into Buddha-La and I was impressed by the bright colours and ornate designs in the temple. This temple did not have a Buddha statue as other temples. We went to the top of Buddha-la and got a beautiful view of Chengde (although it was a little hazy out). We then retraced our steps including Joel and Mick chatting up the concubines (just kidding) and went back to our hotel for lunch. That was our tour of the temples in Chengde. I would have liked to see the other temples as a comparison but you can't do everything.

 After our normal food-packed lunch, we had a visit to the food markets and some department stores. The food market had all sorts of foods, fresh products and prepared foods that would be used daily. From the food market we traced our way through the clothing and other consumer goods (electronics, DVD, VCD etc) before we made it to the department store. Once again crossing the streets was a challenge for such a large group but we all made it across safely. We made it to the department store and wandered through the store. Prices for clothe and televisions were similar to those back in Canada and the US but other prices were cheaper. Shopping was done by some members of the group including our guide Mary. At this point the group split with some returning to the hotel and others going to a different department store which was more crowded. After looking at the second store we all made it back to our hotel for the end of our day. We had another food plentiful dinner.

 

By Tony

BiShuShanZhuang: In 1703 Qing Dynasty Emperor Kang Xi initiated the building of BiShuShanZhuang (Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat), which occupies 5.6 million square meters. Emperors of the Qing Dynasty spent almost half of each year at the mountain manor where they lived, went hunting, handled court affairs and received envoys from other countries. The numerous ancient buildings represent both the northern and southern schools of ancient Chinese architecture and merge with the architectural style of China's ethnic groups. Around the mountain manor were 11 magnificent temples, known as the Eight Outer Temples. They represent the Han, Manchu, Hui, Tibetan and Uygur architectural styles.


The Throne... The court...
All the treasures in the past is still there.

 

******** October 27, 2003 *******************************

by Elizabeth Grucelski

 

Today we walked the Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall. It was built in 1368-1398, then restored in 1567-1570. It is in this section that part of the wall is referred to as "the stairway to heaven". Portions of the wall were crumbling and narrow but there were many hands to help. I made friends with a Mongolian worman named Zhang Shadfen. She had 2 children and she sold me a book about the Great Wall. Once again we were graced with a beautiful day, low 70's.

The second part of our walk was to be on the Simatai portion of the Wall but instead Tony took us off the wall and we walked to a small village. On the way there we saw a grandfather and a small child in a field. They seemed wary at first but the man was soon waving and encouraging the little boy to wave to us. There we met some friends of Tony, who invited us into their home and had us join in a meal with them. It was great, if only for a brief time to join in and see how the villagers live and prepare a meal. The man and his wife showed great affection for Tony. It was a heartwarming experience. We ate chestnuts, roasted walnuts, and a meal of fried Chinese cabbage.

This night we are staying in an old garrison called Huangya Hotel. It is very cold and dark this evening. The purpose of this hotel was to show us somewhat of the way the soldiers lived.

 

 

View of Great Wall from her garden

By Ellie Gee

 

Oct. 27: Monday, already! We are off to the Jinshanling Wall and a steep climb up the wall that is crumbling and in disrepair. Soon we were followed by Mongolians that were eager to assist us over the rough areas. We finally persuaded them to leave. Again the vista was breathtaking and too soon we had to descend. However we were able to walk through a countryside village and to see how an agarian community lived and worked together. This time of the year everyone was preparing for winter. Near the end of the village, we stopped to visit with Tony's friends. A very hospitable older couple who open heartedly welcomed us into their home. We entered a small 3 room house that was spotless . One room served as a bedroom by night and TV/sitting room by day; the center room was for eating, washing and food preparation; the third room was clearly that of a teenager's - stereo and pictures. Our hostess fired up the wok and in no time served us a delicious stir fry of veggies and herbs picked from her courtyard garden. Refreshed we set off for the bus. Our destination this time was Huangya which was formerly a garrison built to protect the Wall. Today it is a summer resort. We stayed in a quadrangle of small, simple cabins. The view of the Wall was extraordinary. It promises to be a great hike tomorrow!

 

 JinShanLing Great Wall

 

By Marjorie Sparrow

mon. 27th

We travel east of Chengde on to the Ming period built JinShan Ling Wall (rebuilt 1700's) with the Stairway to Heaven. in those beautiful mountains that were so like the Blue Ridge Mtns of Appalachia to me where the farmers sow right up to the tops and to the edges and use every bit of land and are hardy and appreciative of the place... This was a most incredible day. Remember the group of hawkers who attached themselves to us and watched us eat? (they owned the place after all)..Then we broke off the wall, paid them off (or bought stuff) and continued down the path to drop in on Tony's friend's parents at their village home who most graciously treated us to a demonstration and snack of bok choy picked right then from the lovely garden ,cooked in the outdoor wok (that heated the indoor bed!) that we shared with tea, chestnuts and walnuts.. We soaked in their hospitality and humble charm and walked on in the glow reflecting on their fate of a highway to the Great Wall going in so near their door..

 Then we had the equally memorable army garrison turned Huangya Hotel. The one with no heat or hot water , that forgot we were coming? But we were tired, ate well, have the memory. A little exercise in the courtyard in the morning to warm up before breakfast .

 

By Tony

JinShanLing has 67 watchtowers along 11 kilometers of the Great Wall, with each watchtower an example of different architecture. It is 5 to 8 meters high and 6 meters across at the base and 5 meters at the top. The walkway along the top was paved with square bricks and provided a level surface wide enough to construct or erect batteries. Watchtower WangJingLou is 980 meters above sea level. It is said that one can catch sight of Beijing's light at dawn in Autumn. JinShanLing is the most spectacular sight of the entire Great Wall and is a representative of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.

 

 

********* October 28, 2003 *******************************

by Michael Matuskey

 

Day Number Eight China Hiking Trip October 28, 2003

 

07:00 Awakened to a cool brisk morning at the Huangya Hotel

07:30 Had Chinese Breakfast at hotel restaurant.

08:00 Started Hike by walking by garrison building being refurbished by a large construction crew

08:20 Began Wall Hike from near bridge that crosses a river and headed towards the left to start hiking on the wall towards the mountain peak to the left.

08:25 Tony told us about the Beacon Tower and it's relative importance as an observation point and a place to send signals from. Tony said that whomever controlled the Beacon Tower, controlled that section of the Great Wall.

08:30 Started up steep walk uphill

09:00 Reached the summit of that section of the Wall.

09:15 Started back down towards the bridge, when we saw a man picking Persimmons from a ladder. Very efficient process of using a net to snare some persimmons and then twist the net so as to break the persimmons off of their twig.

09:30 Back at the bridge that goes over the river and started to ascend the right side of the wall, by going up a steep path to the wall. We saw a small temple with a bell we heard earlier. We also saw a statue of a young Mao in a courtyard at the garrison.

10:45 Stopped at a section of the wall where a young female vendor has carried, what looked to be about sixty pounds of goods on her back, to sell us tourists on the Wall. She ran ahead of us and we were impressed with her capabilities and conditioning. Most of us purchased some item from her, I guess to repay her for her tenacity and strength, as she had three small children and this is how she made her living. After we purchased a few items from her, she sang us a song of thanks, quite impressive!

11:15 Reached the top of that section of the Wall.

11:50 When we came off of the Wall, we saw a new small hotel to be opened shortly. Took bus back to hotel for lunch.

12:25 Lunch at Huangya Hotel

13:00 Came back to hotel room to find some gentleman, who apparently come to the hotel for some sort of community meeting, were taking an afternoon rest in our hotel rooms, very strange!

13:20 Left in bus for the ride to our next hotel in Zunhua.

16:30 Arrived at Hotel

18:00 Had wonderful Chinese dinner.(again)

 

By Tony

 

HuangYaGuan was first built in 557 A.D. and rebuilt with bricks in the Ming Dynasty. The whole Great Wall lies on a precipitous ridge of mountains. It has an eastern cliff as a screen against invasions and a western precipice as support. It had ancient defensive structures such as fortress, high-wall, water pass, beacon tower and sheer precipice. Today we can also see a Museum, Beiji Temple and BaGua City (with a BaGua Labyrinth).

 

********* October 29, 2003 *******************************

by Tomoko Makabe

 

9th Day: October 29, 2003, Wednesday

 

We're in Zunhua, a capital city of Zunhua County. Our hotel, International Hotel Zunhua, is located in the central area of the city. Construction work seems underway everywhere in the city. Air is badly polluted because of the construction work and of the heavy and chaotic traffic perhaps. Soon I had a sore throat and eyes for the first time since I came to China. Gladly left the hotel after the breakfast at 7:30 a.m. as usually. Delighted with the traditional Chinese breakfast offered at the hotel. Had three tofu dishes, steamed buns (different kinds), a bowl of congee and some vegetables.

Made a sandwich for lunch to have it at the Wall.

Going to visit the Louwenyu Great Wall today. Left the hotel at 8:30. A fine autumn day for hiking with no wind. After about half an hour bus ride got the entrance to the Wall. It is located in the middle of a village, rather inconspicuously unlike the other Walls. The Louwenyu Great Wall has been kept in its original structure and forms with little work of restoration and reconstruction done. Steps on the Wall have little been repaired either. There were no tourists/hikers or local Chinese visiting the Wall at all. It belonged to us alone exclusively all day. Not a single vender either! Sorry but this wall is not mentioned in my souvenir book - The Great Wall.

Started walking at 9:00. From the entrance. To the top of the Wall, approachable, took about one hour. The path to the highest peak is too dangerous to climb. On the way back to the road there was some communication breakdown between Tony at the bus and Silvia, and the group lost the direction with no clear paths, but managed to walk down to the bottom through the fields and orchards. At the bottom of the hill had lunch: a peanut butter sandwich, a bun, and an apple.

At 11:45 left the Wall and the village nearby. Farms surround the village, but mining of stones, rocks, and sands seems a major activity for the villagers in the area.

A 3-hour bus ride to get the next destination, Qinhuangdao, a port city of over two million population. The 3-lane high way, newly built, was impressive. Stopped at the gas station for a break. Had an ice cream bar for 2Yuen (3 cents). The gas station does not offer a cup of coffee! Would like to open business in a gas station in China, selling nothing but hot coffee and tea.

Arrived at the Qunhuangdao International Hotel at 3:30 p.m.. Free time until 6:00. Explored the neighborhood, checking a market and supermarket. The city is a developing, busy place with heavy industrial and trade (export-import) activities. The harbor is located a few miles from the city central. Hardly wait to see the sea, nearing the end of our journey.

Had a drink at the bar of the hotel after dinner ( the soup was the best of all dishes). Y120 for single imported whisky for two. There was no soda available at the bar.

 


Part over 2000 years old There is a trail on top of this part Great Wall in ruin and we will hike on it.

********* October 30, 2003 *******************************

by Marjorie Sparrow

 

Thurs 10/30

1 hr bus ride to Jiumenkau Great Wall. First through the wild and wide streets of Qinhuangdao with pedestrians, bicycles, donkey carts, tractors, trucks, and buses into the pastoral countryside with rooftops of drying corn, fruit orchards, busy little village with marketing in progress right outside our bus windows,...seeing the wall took our breath away. this strategic ingenious wall to protect the garrison against the Manchurians was explained by Tony then Eliz. and Tomoko went with Tony thru the village and the rest of us scrambled uphill to another beautiful hike...both groups watched the goats crossing the wall from our vantage points. Linda found her heart stone. The mountains thru the haze looked like a Gui Lin painting.

 Off to the humorous storybook like Meng Jiangnu Temple with the chilish cement statues of her legend from birth from the pod to death by suicide to remain chaste...

 Hot Pot dinner was a new and fun experience and remember the dipping sauce you guys (hoisin, PB, salt, sugar, soy)...drink with Yingling beer

 Walk back to hotel to bump into folk dancing that Ellie and Tomoko entered.

 All heads turned in this town when we went by. We enjoyed it a lot............

 

 

by Elizabeth Grucelski

Thurs 10/30

We are off to Jimenkou Great Wall. This section of the Great Wall has been restored somewhat. "A stretch of stone" was the ancient name for this pass. While I enjoyed the first part of the climb, Tomoko and I chose to walk around a village for the second half. I enjoy so much walking through the villages and observing the people. I wish that I could speak with them. I have so many questions. There was a magnificent watchtower with a tree growing out of it near the river and could see it from the heights of the wall. Towards the end of Tomokos and my walk through the village we were graced with being able to see the tree close-up. Tony said it was a China Pine tree. There was a friendly elderly woman in the village who kept talking to Tony and following at a distance. It seemed important to her that we saw the tree.

Gathered together again we are off to the Temple of Mengjiangnu. It is a representative temple of a young bride whose husband is taken away to build the Great Wall. When he doesn't return she goes looking for him. When she hears of his death her tears break apart the wall so she can find his remains and bury them. Then to stay faithful to only him she throws herself into the ocean. Sylvia told the story so much more graceful than I have just described it.

Tonight we went to a restaurant for a traditional Hotpot dinner. Yummm! It was enjoyed by all. It was a fun meal to eat but very warm in the room.

Tomorrow will be our last day of walking on the Great Wall. I can sense that we are all feeling sad about this.

 


  Jiumenkau Great Wall.



 

********* October 31, 2003 *******************************

  By Ellie Gee

Oct 31 -Friday - Last day of hiking and lots of things to see and do before we head back to Beijing. Today we do the most challenging hike, the Jiaoshan portion of the great wall. The ascent was "straight up"! We had handrails in sections to help us along our crumbling pathway. There were ladders to access the watchtowers. A little scary in places but well worth it! Back on level ground we left for a well-earned lunch at a Friendship Hotel. Refreshed, we headed for a champagne celebration at Laolongtou, the Dragon's Head. We walked to the beach to collect a few shells, stick our hands into the China Sea. Mick braved the cold and waded in up to his ankles. We did some touring of the war museum and finished with a walk through a labyrinth. Great fun!

 

 By Tony

ShanHaiGuan Great Wall (literally 'the Pass where the first Mountain meets the Sea') is north of QinHuangDao city and is called 'the Museum of the Construction of the Great Wall' because it features the following sections: Old Dragon' Head (the only part of the Great Wall that meets the sea), No. 1 Pass Under Heaven (the first pass of the Great Wall), JiaShan Mountain (the first mountain the Great Wall climbs), JiuMenKou (the only part of the Great Wall in the shape of a bridge) and Meng Jiang-Nu Temple built during the Song Dynasty.

 JiaShan Great Wall

The last rock of Great Wall before enterring into China Sea

********* November 1, 2003 *******************************

by Ellie Gee

 

Saturday, November 1,2003

That is what the elevator mat tells us. After a huge buffet breakfast we are off to Beijing via secondary roads because the fog is so dense that the highways are closed. As we drive, we witness the "wakening up" of the villages: basins of water thrown out the door; children and commuters waiting for busses, the roads already clogged with traffic. Further on the fog closes in and bikes and unlighted vehicles pull over. We become a part of a "train of blinking lights" slowly creeping along. Finally we reach our destination, a school for the deaf. A modern building that was constructed in 1999 and equipped with earphones and other equipment to help educate 44 resident students to mainstream them into society. Along with signing they are taught crafts, weaving for example, other arts and how to cook. All students must complete at least the ninth grade. Most trips Tony brings an hearing aid to give to a child. Song Zhiping, age 15, was chosen as this trip's recipient. Her parents have an older daughter in public school that they are paying an education for as well. The father who has a work injury disability and the mother are struggling farmers who are working very hard to educate their two daughters so they will have a better life. This hearing aid will help Song Zhiping to further her education so she can pursue a more challenging vocation and perhaps find a "better choice" for a husband. Blessings to her.

 

We board the bus again for our return to Beijing - another long ride. Tony taught us the China Hiking song that he composed. Sylvia told us the Butterfly love story. Later we listened to the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. Helen sang Chinese folk songs and we shared some of ours with them. It helped our trip go a little more quickly. We were hampered by the fog, a bridge that broke and a huge backup of trucks trying to enter the highway entrance. We finally gave up and went to lunch! I think the staff was startled to have so many customers at once. However, they rallied and served us a very nice meal. We were able to enter the highway and proceeded to Beijing without further interruption. Our afternoon plans were changed but we did shop at the huge market place across the street. Sylvia was able to get us tickets to the Chinese Acrobatics - Awesome! A fun way to end the day.

 

********* November 2, 2003 *******************************

by Elizabeth Grucelski

 

Today is cold, windy, and overcast. We all laughed and joked about how the weather held out for us all the journey and now it is showing us its sadness at our impending departure tomorrow.

After a large breakfast we headed off to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace. Since it was Sunday the number of tourist was large. The vastness of Tainanmen Square demanded respect. After lunch we were off to the Summer Palace.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a pearl market where we were able to purchase cultivated pearls from the lake at the Summer Palace. Then we stopped at a tea shop called Dr. Tea. We were shown into a private room where 2 young women showed us different teas. They explained where the teas were grown and demonstrated to us the proper way to prepare the teas. This was a real treat for the women. The fellows chose to go back to the hotel after the pearl shop.

Tonight we were treated to a Peking Duck dinner. Tian joined us and presented us each with a certificate that showed our journey on the Great Wall from beginning to end. Mick read a poem that he wrote about Mr. Cheng (our very experienced bus driver), Helen, Tian, Silvia, and Tony. We told Tony of our decision to make a group gift to him for the deaf mute children.

Life is so interesting here in China. There was and still is so much to see and learn. Its amazing the great mixture of old and new that is present everywhere. To have a 2 lane highway with fast moving traffic and then a donkey drawn cart in the middle of it all. Old building built thousands of years ago standing beside a new high rise apartment building or a highway. Its as if China is trying to grow-up fast. (Tony, I say this in a good way not bad)

 

 

by Linda Norris

 

Last day: It was cloudy, windy and cold. We visited the Forbidden City. It was very crowded. Difficult to look into buildings. The street venders were exceptionally persistant that day. Ate lunch at the Friendship hotel, beautiful place.

 

by Marjorie Sparrow

these days were a whirlwind of sightseeing as we wound up from hiking to wind down to leave... TIANEMAN SQUARE was amazing and had an equally amazing amount of people visiting it and waiting in line to visit Mao's body. Not us. Sylvia was an amazing tour leader today. The hawkers were relentless . THE FORBIDDEN CITY where the last emperor stayed til 1924 was more decadent than expected (the gold throne) and it was all just as swarming with tourists on this weekend day. THE SUMMER PALACE with the marble boat that the Empress Dowager Cexi built instead of upgrading the Navy, with the Chinese GARDENS with imported rocks, and the lovely lake and LONG HALLWAY (leading to the boat) painted with historical and mythological stories that Sylvia was able to explain. She is amazing.. (This paragraph should be a page or two, but I have to go to work!)

 We went to a Pearl shop (yes, from this emperors lake) some bought pearls, some face cream of ground pearls, I bought a shirt worn by the gorgeous sales ladies...thenn to a tea shop with a classroom demo of the Chinese tea method with clay pots..we listened and slurped and bought tea (the guys left)

 We had our Peking Duck Restaurant meal which was elegant and delicious, our final meal. Tian presented certificates, speeches were given, toasts.. (Mick, you are so clever, thank you)

 

By Tony

Forbidden City and Summer Palace. The Imperial Palace complex of 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors was in imperial times called the Purple Forbidden City from the association of the emperors with the colour of the Pole Star. Surrounded by 10 metre high walls and a wide moat, it was inaccessible to ordinary people but well populated by imperial family members, their servants, staff, officials and guards. The major ceremonial buildings are aligned on a north-south axis towards the Temple of Heaven complex and the Yongding Gate. The main entrance to the palace complex is via the Meridian Gate from which the New Year was announced each year by the emperor, proclamations were read and the fate of prisoners decided. Past five white marble bridges and the Gate of Supreme Harmony a great courtyard could accommodate several thousand people for state occasions such as imperial weddings. The ceremonial buildings are accessed by ramps carved with ornate dragons over which the emperor was carried in a palanquin. The three main halls and associated side buildings formed the outer courtyard of the Forbidden City and were devoted to official functions. The inner chambers included private living and sleeping quarters of the imperial family. This was divided into three palaces and twelve courtyards. The tour takes most of the day and is fascinating.

 

********* November 3, 2003 *******************************

Nov. 3rd, Monday

 

by Elizabeth Grucelski

 

This morning we went to the Temple Under Heaven- where the emperors believed earth and heaven met. The day is clear and chilly and it seems that we are all feeling the fact that we leave for our homes this afternoon. Except for Nick and Tomoko who are staying on for a day or 2 longer. Tony joined us for breakfast and then he met us at the airport to see that we all took off safely. Ellie, Linda, Mick, and Joel were on the same flightout of Beijing as Marji and I so we were able to delay our goodbyes until Chicago. It helped not to have to say goodbye to it all- all at once.

 

 

 by Marjorie Sparrow

 

The last nite was either sleeping or shopping because the last day was more sightseeing. We visit THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN and largest park in Beijing (since 1918) Round for Heaven, Square for earth, the mound that should echo...lots of people..playing instruments, exercising, playing games...lunch, goodbyes, Tomoko and Nick into (the 3rd) cab back to hotel, off to airport, a very long ride home and Marje, Linda, Elizabeth, Elle, Joel and Mick , we are all near each other on the plane.. A great time was had by all. We love you Tony.

 


Pilgrimage of a Taoist from USA

Sam

Imagine studying eastern philosophy, mysticism, and history for many years out of books but never truly witnessing this at its origins. Now, imagine knowing these thoughts, these ideas, these sacred teachings and finally getting to see it first hand. That is the opportunity that I was presented in May of 2004 through Tony Pao by way of China Hiking Adventures. Forget crowded tourist places that large groups visiting China see, this is the real, authentic, hard to reach sites that many westerners have never had the opportunity to visit.

Tony's trip allowed me the rare adventure that comes very seldom in the life of a person that loves Taoism and eastern thought. His trip allowed me the chance to visit a true Taoist temple and meet true Taoist priests in the land where Taoism originated, China. "That which can be described is not the Tao," as stated in the Tao Te Ching is also true of Tony's trip. Trying to describe the feeling one gets when setting foot on Qiyunshan (the Taoist mountain visited on his hiking adventure) is a feeling one cannot describe but only witness for themselves.

When visiting Qiyunshan, the air is fresher, the water cleaner, your life, better. As soon as we stepped foot onto the soil of this sacred Taoist site, I felt as if I were a different person. I couldn't wait to reach the top and visit the Temple of the Heavenly Master. I sprinted up the stairs leaving the rest of the group behind as if I were floating on a cloud. Meeting the locals along the way felt like meeting members of one's own family. The kindness, generosity, helpfulness that these people demonstrated could only come from a place that had a spiritual essence about it. This place was special. As we climbed, we saw numerous ancient alters and smaller cave temples dedicated to various gods in the Taoist pantheon. Once at the top, we entered the main temple filled with breathtaking statues of Lao Tzu, Guan Gong, the Jade Emperor, and many more. As a special treat, I brought a copy of my Tao Te Ching with me to have a priest write a Taoist inscription on the inside cover which he gladly did without hesitating. Once we saw the temple at our own pace, Tony surprisingly and unexpectedly, arranged a special Taoist meal at one of the priest's homes. To Tony's credit, I do not think any other guide could have or would have arranged this. Tony went over and beyond what a guide is required to do for his customer; he did what a friend should do for a friend. After our meal, we visited a cave temple that we were told has been in use for over 1000 years! Finally, after visiting some other sacred areas and observing everything we could at our heart's content, we descended the mountain and took a bamboo raft down the Hengjiang River to our bus that was waiting to take us back to our hotel for a hot shower.

Tony's trip provides the chance to see one of the four sacred Taoist mountains in China. Yet, it also provides the opportunity to witness first hand what so many of us have studied in books and have tried to attain in our daily life. It provides us with the chance to understand the true nature, chi, balance, and harmony. Thank you Tony!

Information about this Taoist Hike

 


 

The following is part of a letter from Jeff and Ellen in Maine,USA (email : MessyJean@aol.com), who hiked with us on Yellow Mountains October 5 to 19, 2001 :

". . . .

You have done a wonderful job choosing fascinating places to visit. These are places that would be so hard to visit on one's own. I absolutely fell in love with the villages and scenes along the Xin An River. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to see the rural China that has existed for so many centuries and that is fast disappearing...

Climbing the religious mountains was spectacular as well. QiYun was a fascinating place with its Taoist shrines and grottos. It was exciting to be there during the National holiday and to see so many Chinese families visiting the shrines. Jiuhua was the experience of a lifetime. The Buddhist religion is still very much alive ? it was totally unexpected to see so many temples being built. Attending the Buddhist ceremony at night was incredible ?I felt like I had been transported several centuries back in time...'"

. . . "

 To meet Jeff and Ellen click here


<<Walking the Wall >>

following are parts of feature story printed by 'Boston Globe' on September 5, 2004

and this paper was written by Marty Basch

who is a member of our 2004 Great Wall Hiking group (photo below).

 

Stretching for more than 4,000 miles across northern China to the Yellow Sea, the wall, its origins almost 3,000 years old, was constructed as a defense against marauders. It is a symbol of China and once an important transportation system. Beacons were used with flags and smoke as a way to communicate approaching army positions. The varying architecture is impressive, as is its strategic military placement in valleys and along ridges. The wall is also a sinister. The enemy was lured into courtyards with false doors, deathtraps where hot oil was poured on them by soldiers overhead …The wall is also an opening to rural China. Terraced fields of corn and rows of apple trees with little bags protecting the fruit are planted in sight of the wall in dusty brick villages where residents use hand pumps for water and animals live in the yards. Squirrels, butterflies and passing song birds are spotted. The YanShan Mountains ripple like the sea, watchtowers floating in the distance? The Great Wall is the world's largest staircase. There are old steps and new steps, some broken, other worn. Low steps, shin-high steps, and dizzyingly steep steps are climbed in dress shoes, hiking steps, sandals, sneakers, pointy shoes, and high-tops, worn by loud schoolchildren, quiet senior citizens, staining tourists, and scurrying workers?

 

MuTianYu …about 45 miles northeast of Beijing…the steps are in blissful shade…we are climbing them under the cool pine trees up to the Great Wall where there is little escape from the heat and haze. Just to get to the wall, we walk up 1000 nice even steps…The wall looks like an eagle, two wings spread across a crest of mountains…The tower served as a photo op during President Clinton's 1988 visit. I turn to our guide and ask if the former president climbed all the steps we did, including those first thousand. " He took the cable car," the guide says smiling?/FONT>

 

BaDaLing…a most congested and popular spot on the wall about 40 miles from Beijing, we meet three robed monks. They speak no English. One stopped us, and through the international language of pantomine, gestures for us to take their pictures - together with us. Our guide later explains that our group is a curiosity to people who don't see many Westerners. Throughout the two weeks tour all members of our party were asked to have their photos taken while on the wall. The most requests went to an African-American social worker from Maryland. People stopped, stared, pointed, and some even had to touch her. She took it in stride?/FONT>

 

JuYong Pass…nearly 35 miles from Beijing…We looked upon ancient barracks where generals once lived and temples sat, …we passed…a line of locks call "love locks", strung on the wall. Couples announce their love for each other and then throw away the key…The longer we walked up the steep, narrow stairs packed with people, the fewer people there were?/FONT>

 

JinShanLing…about 55 miles from ChengDe city…on the spectacular 7 mile hike to the incredible knife-edge peaks at SiMaTai…From each watchtower ( 67 are said to grace this section ) it is like the Great Wall for the first time. Atop tours reached through steep, narrow steps are million-dollar vistas of an endless dragon's tail. Here, the wall fades into yesteryear with broken steps, and unsafe ruins where trails lead along the wall to the next passable place. Bricks bear the inscription of where they were made hundreds of years ago. On the Great Wall are more walls, outfitted with slots where archers could safely ward off intruders. A swaying cable bridge crosses to SiMaTai?

 

LuoWenYu…The farther from Beijing we traveled, the less populated the wall became. The only person we saw at the crumbling section in the village was a farmer. No vendors, no admission, nothing. We followed a signless trail over a dry riverbed and under terraced chestnut trees to reach a decaying section of the wall that had not been rebuilt for tourists. Sandy soil, rows of corn along it, a sea of mountains in the distance?

 

JiuMenKou…is on the border of HeBei and LiaoNing Provinces and the wall features a flat bridge that crosses a river, dry in June. We head into the dusty village to find a soda. Always, villagers asked our Chinese guide where we are from?/FONT>

 

JiaShan…the first mountain the Great Wall climbs…At the top, we gaze out upon the jagged hills surrounding YanSai Lake?/FONT>

 

ShanHaiGuan …the wall fades out to the BoHai Sea with the smell of the ocean strong after we have spent days in the mountains. With imagination, the wall looks like a dragon's head by the sea, and the rest of the wall its body. Me, I see the start of a grand staircase through the heart of China.

 


 

Year 2004

Year 2003

Year 2002

Year 2001

Year 2000

 The List goes on ....

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Group Donation Stories
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 Photos of Great Wall Hiking

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