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Pandas and Pagodas

Mount Qingcheng

Lush vegetation inhabits every inch, ancient pagodas dot the terrain, and somewhere in the thick forests Giant Pandas make their home.

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By Kevin McFarland

Visited October 2017

Mount Qingcheng, rising to thirty-six separate peaks, is a paradise coming from the hot and humid plains of the Sichuan basin to the east and the congested metropolis of Chengdu. Once we reached this mountain, it feels as though we as far removed from the bustle of city life as possible, while only being a mere couple hours away.

UNESCO designated the Qingcheng as a World Heitage Site in 2000 to protect its religious significance. For centuries, Mount Qingcheng has been praised as one of China's most beautiful mountains and the center of Taoism. In fact, it is here where the religion of Tao was birthed hundreds of years ago, and still remains the center of the religion for thousands of devotees. More specifically, in 142 A.D, Zhang Ling founded the religion, with a series of 11 temples, reflecting the teachings of Taoism, constructed during the Jin and Tang dynasties. History and nature coincides quite nicely here.

Additionally, in 2006 UNESCO also protected several mountains and valleys in Central Sichuan as Panda Sanctuaries. Wolong and Siguniang became well known panda reserves, but less people realize that Mount Qingcheng is also protected as a World Heritage Site for a panda sanctuary. Although seeing a Giant Panda here is slim to nil, it is special to realize China's most iconic mascot and one the world's most threatened species lives in these forests.

Mount Qingcheng, like most mountains in fact, consists of a front and back side. The front side is heavily touristed, peppered with ancient Taoist Temples, and requires a 90 yuan entrance fee. The back side is quite the opposite as it is seldom visited, surrounded by trees, waterfalls, rocks, and caves, but no temples. It will only cost 20 yuan to enter. The preferences of which to visit depends on your interests. If the Taoism religion intrigues you, the front is the way to go. If nature, waterfalls, and serenity appeases you more, than definitely head to the back. For me and Mary, we took to the trails of the back mountain to connect with nature.

It seemed every turn along the trail we encountered a pristine waterfall, and the vegetation was unreal. The paths were also carefully and intelligently constructed, offering endless panoramic views of the valleys, streams, and waterfalls. Two cable cars are also constructed in the back mountain for those who do not fancy climbing the mountain on their own. We took one cable car up, and walked the remainder up, as were short on time. For those looking for a peaceful afternoon, away from tourists and light on the pocket book, I highly recommend the back mountain of Qingcheng. We were surprised by its vegetative and lush beauty.

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