Wuyi Mountain (200 kilometers northwest of Fuzhou, 100 kilometers north of Nanping) is located in a 60-square-kilometer national park in Chong'an County. Cut off from other mountains by streams and deep valleys, it forms the border between Fujian and Jiangx provinces. The highest point on Wuyi Mountain — and in Fujian Province — is 2157-meter (7,076-foot) -high Huanggang Peak. Mount Wuyi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination with mainland and Taiwanese tourists.
Mount Wuyi is a famous scenic spot with red cliffs, lofty peaks, a deep and secluded valley, caves and fantastic rock formations. Regarded as the most outstanding biodiversity conservation zone in the southeastern part of China, it has vast tracts of unmolested forests. Many of the hills here are made of red sandstones, and rise steeply but are flat on the top. The peaks and rocks of unusual shapes are flanked by clear streams, green trees and bamboo groves. Wuyi is 14 kilometers long from north to south and five kilometers wide from east to west. [Source: Xu Lin, China.org, August 22, 2012]
Mount Wuyi has a long cultural history. The site of the Wuyi Palace, built in the seventh century for emperors to conduct sacrificial activities, remains in place today. The mountain was an important center of Taoism and was listed as one of the top nine Taoist Temples in the 10th century. Mt. Wuyi is particularly associated with Neo-Confucianism and the 12th century philosopher Zhu Xi. The mountain boasts many cultural relics, including stone inscriptions.
Mount Wuyi was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 based on both natural and cultural grounds. According to UNESCO: “ Mount Wuyi is the most outstanding area for biodiversity conservation in southeast China and a refuge for a large number of ancient, relict species, many of them endemic to China. The serene beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine Bend River, with its numerous temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, provided the setting for the development and spread of neo-Confucianism, which has been influential in the cultures of East Asia since the 11th century. In the 1st century B.C. a large administrative capital was built at nearby Chengcun by the Han dynasty rulers. Its massive walls enclose an archaeological site of great significance.
Tourist Office : Wuyishan Tourist Office, Wuyishan China, tel. (0)- 599-513-1890, fax: (0)- 599-530-2773 Web Site : Travel China Guide Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site: : UNESCO ; Admission: 140 yuan (US$22.02) per person. Budget Accommodation: Most accommodation is at Wuyishan city or Wuyi Mountain resort. Check Lonely Planet books;
Getting There: Mount Wuyi National Park is accessible from Wuyishan city and Wuyi Mountain resort. Visitors reach Wuyishan City by bus, air or train. Wuyishan is also accessible by bus from Nanping which can be reached by train. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Mount Wuyi: UNESCO World Heritage Site
According to UNESCO: Mount Wuyi, located in China’s southeast province of Fujian, contains the largest, most representative example of a largely intact forest encompassing the diversity of the Chinese Subtropical Forest and the South Chinese Rainforest. Of enormous importance for biodiversity conservation, the property acts as a refuge for an important number of ancient, relict plant species, many of them endemic to China, and contains an extremely rich flora and fauna, including significant numbers of reptile, amphibian and insect species.
“The serene beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine-Bend River is of exceptional scenic quality in its juxtaposition of smooth rock cliffs with clear, deep water. Situated along this river are numerous temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, which provided the setting for the development and spread of Neo-Confucianism, a political philosophy which has been very influential in the cultures of East Asia since the 11th century. In particular there are no fewer than 35 ancient Confucian academies dating from the Northern Song to Qing Dynasties (10th to 19th centuries CE). In addition the area contains tombs, inscriptions and rock shelters with wooden boat coffins dating back to the Shang Dynasty (2nd century B.C.), and the remains of more than 60 Taoist temples and monasteries. In the 1st century B.C. a large administrative capital was built at nearby Chengcun by the Han Dynasty rulers. Its massive walls enclose an archaeological site of great significance.
“The property consists of four protected areas: Wuyishan National Nature Reserve in the west, Nine-Bend Stream Ecological Protection Area in the centre and Wuyishan National Scenic Area in the east are contiguous, and the Protection Area for the Remains of Ancient Han Dynasty is a separate area, about 15 kilometers to the southeast. Totalling 107,044 hectares, the property is surrounded by a buffer zone of 40,170 hectares and has been inscribed for cultural as well as scenic and biodiversity values.
Mt. Wuyi is special because: 1) It “is a landscape of great beauty that has been protected for more than twelve centuries. It contains a series of exceptional archaeological sites, including the Han City established in the 1st century B.C. and a number of temples and study centres associated with the birth of Neo-Confucianism in the 11th century CE.” 2) It “was the cradle of Neo-Confucianism, a doctrine that played a dominant role in the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Asia for many centuries and influenced philosophy and government over much of the world.
3) “Mount Wuyi is one of the most outstanding subtropical forests in the world. It is the largest, most representative example of a largely intact forest encompassing the diversity of the Chinese Subtropical Forest and the South Chinese Rainforest, with high plant diversity. It acts as a refuge for a large number of ancient, relict plant species, many of them endemic to China and rare elsewhere in the country. It also has an outstanding faunal diversity, especially with respect to its reptile, amphibian and insect species.”
In 2010, Mount Danxia Landforms were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO: “ China Danxia is the name given in China to landscapes developed on continental red terrigenous sedimentary beds influenced by endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion). The inscribed site comprises six areas found in the sub-tropical zone of southwest China. They are characterized by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms..These rugged landscapes have helped to conserve sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests, and host many species of flora and fauna, about 400 of which are considered rare or threatened.
“China Danxia is an impressive and unique landscape of great natural beauty. The reddish conglomerate and sandstone that form this landscape of exceptional natural beauty have been shaped into spectacular peaks, pillars, cliffs and imposing gorges. Together with the contrasting forests, winding rivers and majestic waterfalls, China Danxia presents a significant natural phenomenon. China Danxia contains a wide variety of well developed red-beds landforms such as peaks, towers, mesas, cuestas, cliffs, valleys, caves and arches. Being shaped by both endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion), China Danxia provides a range of different aspects of the phenomenon of physical landscape developed from continental (terrestrial) reddish conglomerate and sandstone in a warm, humid monsoon climate, illustrating both the range of landforms in relation to the forces and processes that formed them. The component parts represent the best examples of "least eroded" to "most eroded" Danxia landforms, displaying a clear landform sequence from "young" through "mature" to "old age", and with each component site displaying characteristic geomorphologic features of a given stage.
“China Danxia is a serial property comprising six component parts (Chishui, Taining, Langshan, Danxiashan, Longhushan, and Jianglangshan) found in the sub-tropical zone of southeastern China within approximately 1700 kilometers crescent shaped arc from Guizhou Province in the west to Zhejiang Province in the east. The process of its development is characterised by a particular rock sequence, tectonic background, climatic conditions, erosional processes and landforms and these processes have been presented as an interim model.
“Due to the combined endogenic (tectonic uplift) and exogenic (climatic, erosion, weathering) forces, and other factors, the Danxia landforms have been developed in red sedimentary sequences continuously from the Neogene until the present. The six component parts represent the most important examples of "least eroded" to "most eroded" Danxia landforms, providing a range of different aspects of the phenomenon, and illustrate both the range of landforms in relation to the forces and processes that formed them, together with a range of associated landscapes.”
Boat Coffins and the Ancient Cultural Heritage of Wuyi
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “From Wuyishan to Jinggangshan, there are lofty mountains and high ranges both east and west sides, uplands, plains and river networks in the middle part, which is the important rice cultivating cultural area and granary in China. It is also the main destination that ancient northern peoples migrate to south in China, thus breeding profound and widespread impact of “Luling Culture” and becoming the crucial place of the construction and development of Neo-Confucianism andYangming’s School of Mind, and the cradle of Chinese Rural Revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century. The cultural heritages within the nominated property have complementarity and continuity with the cultural heritages of World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi, which all fall within a large canyon, and have commonality and homogeneity in clan characteristics, cultural traditions and heritage characters. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
The nominated property and the World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi all fall within the central region of Gumin Nationality and Guyue Nationality cultures. The “Boat Coffins in Cliff Caves” within the nominated property exist in the form of “Hanging Coffins” in North Wuyishan Component. They all belong to the life remains of the same branch of “Baiyue” Nationality. In the 1st century B.C., two large administrative capitals and living capitals were built in Mount Wuyi and the nominated property Jinggangshan Component respectively. The former preserves more color of “Minyue”nationality, while the latter takes more local administrative color under centralization. The two sites are complementary in construction styles and functions, and both of them are population center of water network areas in southern China. The Luling Culture region which takes the site as the center is known as the “the state of Civilization and Righteousness” and “the state of Confucianism”.
The underground cultural heritage sites within the nominated property are well preserved, ithas abundant unearthed relics and well protected measures of the underground reserve, with specific centers to protect them. The overground academy architectures of Ming and Qing Dynasties and memorial architecture sites all keep the original structures and appearances. The living facilities, furniture, traditional production tools, kinds of written materials and other appliances all keep the original state, which can also represent the local social relations and intangible cultural heritage and traditions at that time.
Guyue people placed their dead in hanging coffins on the mountain cliffs. Hanging coffins are an ancient funeral custom of some ethnic groups, especially the Bo people of southern China. Coffins of various shapes were mostly carved from one whole piece of wood. Hanging coffins either lie on beams projecting outward from vertical faces such as mountains, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections on mountain faces. [Source: Wikipedia]
It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally. Spiritually, the Bo people viewed the mountain cliffs as a stairway to heaven and believed that by placing the coffins up high the deceased would be closer to heaven. A practical reason for placing the coffins on cliffs includes isolation, so that they are hard for animals to reach and less vulnerable to destruction.
Wuyi, Zhu Xi and Neo-Confucianism
Mount Wuyi contains the tomb of Zhu Xi (1130-1200), the founder of Neo-Confucianism and sites of ancient Academies. Wuyi is regarded as the birthplace of Neo-Confucianism and a the place where it still thrives today. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Wuyishan is the cradle of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism of Song Dynasty. In 1175 A.D., Zhu Xi who lived in E’hu Academy of North Mount Wuyi Component within the nominated property and famous philosophers Lu Jiuling and others (came from northern areas) talked about and debated on the basic thoughts and ideas of Neo-Confucianism, which promoted the further improvement and mature of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism. E’hu Academy also becomes the landmark architecture of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism, thus initiating the precedent of the debating of Chinese Neo-Confucianism. The Neo-Confucianism and Wang Yangming’s School of Mind all advocate the ethics of the life style, and painstakingly to maintain the social order of the local, therefore, they have a clear relevancy and complementarity.” [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
Wuyi was “not only the crucial place of the construction and developmentof Neo-Confucianism (Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism”, “Yangming’s School of Mind”), but also the first practice place of modern China’s Rural Land Reform Thought. In terms of architectural landscape, Mount Wuyi and the nominated property also belong to the same type, namely, on the basis of confusing China ancient Hui-style architectures then forms common local characteristics. A series of cultural heritages within the nominated property, including the large administrative center and living center — Baikoucheng Site which was built in the 1st century B.C., E’hu Academy — the landmark ancient building that represents the complement of “Zhu Xi” Neo-Confucianism system in the 11th century, academy architectures of local colors and ancestral halls, grave sites of philosophies witnessed the whole process of the later period of Confucianism Ideological System. The entailed life skills, survival wisdom, philosophy of life of the cultural sites, together with the cultural sites of Mount Wuyi, constitute a complete system, which has the commonality and homogeneity of cultural inheritance and cultural value.
Zhu Xi’s father, a scholar, died when Zhu was 14. Zhu then moved with his mother to Wufuzhen, then a village near Mt. Wuyi. Aya Igarashi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Tthe great philosopher of the south, spent about a half-century near Mt. Wuyi...After passing through scenery that resembles a monochrome Chinese landscape painting, complete with strangely shaped rocks and mountain streams, visitors arrive at the site of a bronze statue of Zhu, who is depicted with a long beard. This is the entrance to the Wuyi Jingshe, a re-creation of the private school where the philosopher taught in his final days. Re-created scenes of a school lecture room are on display. Four female students from a local university sat among the mannequins of students and looked up at the statue of Zhu at the lectern. “It was as if coed classes, which were not allowed about 800 years ago in Zhu’s time, had finally been realized in the school. At a corner of Laojie, a labyrinthine township quarter, is a building known as Lau Ancestral Hall, where Zhu studied as a child. Beyond the site is a school called Xingxian Shuyuan, where he worked as a teacher. The path that Zhu routinely took is affectionately nicknamed “Zhuzihang” (Master Zhu’s way) by local residents. [Source: Aya Igarashi, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 12, 2014]
The Jingganghshan Component of Wuyi is associated with the development of Wang Yangming’s School of Mind System: According to the report submitted to UNESCO: In 1510 Wang Yangming was the magistrate of Jinggangshan region, he lectured in Qingyuanshan of Jinggangshan region and had a lot of followers. Then he laid out the Jiangyou Wang Ology and gradually Qingyuanshan became the headquarters of the dissemination of Wang Yangming’s Shool of Mind, Thus it was awarded “the state of Neo-Confucianism”, which enjoyed widespread renown. Afterwards, Jiangyou Wangmen scholars lectured in the local and made it becoming the dissemination center of School of Mind in the whole country. Qingyuanshan is the crucial place of the construction and development of Wang Yangming’s School of Mind System, the maintaining and guarding place of it and the important area to push it to the peak. In terms of ontology and methodology, Wang Yangming’s School of Mind has carried on the reform and innovation for Neo-Confucianism, its ideology system has a profound influence on China and the world. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
Wuyi Ecosystem, Plants and Animals
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Mount Wuyi belong to mid-subtropical humid monsoon climatic zone, which are characterized by monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forests in east Asia, representative endemic species, rare and endangered species relict species, rare relict plant communities. It has distinctive heritage values because of the differences in biological diversity and natural landscapes in folded mountains formed by the geographical differences in the intersection of middle subtropical and southern subtropical zones when compared with the heritage sites in eastern mainland China, large mountains in southeastern Asia and other mountains in the same latitude in the world. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
Jinggangshan-North Wuyishan and Mount Wuyi “are both located in the Palaearctic Realm Chinese Subtropical Forest province and Southeast China-Hainan Ecoregion, they present the physical geographies, mountain ecosystems, biodiversity and natural landscapes of the two most important mountains in southeast China--the south slope and north slope of Wuyishan Range and the east and west slopes of Luoxiao Range, which represent the outstanding universal values of the subtropical forest in southeast China from different perspectives. They together incorporate the extremely diversified, the largest and the most representative Chinese middle subtropical forest and tropical monsoon rain-forest in east Asia Continent. And they have abundant horizontal and altitudinal vegetation spectral bands, which is the typical representative of the integrity of ecological system and natural vegetation zones of east China, belonging to the most outstanding subtropical forest. It is also internationally listed as an important Bird Area and Endemic Bird Area. It is the protective and differential center of amphibians and reptiles in east Asia. It is one of the “Global 200 Ecoregions” that confirmed by World Wildlife Fund. It is the key region to study bio-geography, species alternation and differentiation in east Asia.
“In terms of biota, the nominated property and the World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi are located in the third-level ladder of Eastern Mainland China, belonging to East China biota, and is also a key region of East China biotas, which not only presents the integrity and diversity of biotas in east and west slope of Wuyi Range and Luoxiao Range, but also reflects the effect of habitat diversity on biota formed by Xiang River watershed, Gan River watershed and Min River watershed. In addition, both of them have distinctive complementarity. Firstly, coniferous trees of North Wuyishan is characterized by Pseudolarix amabilis, Cryptomeria fortunei, Cephalotaxus sinensis and Platycladus orientalis, While that of Jinggangshan Component is characterized by Abies ziyuanensis, Fokienia hodginsii, Amentotaxus argotaenia and Pseudotaxus chienii. Being affected by the cold monsoon of Center China and Northwest Yunnan, Jinggangshan Component added more transition elements of temperate zone at the middle-high altitude, and it preserves the typical ravine monsoon rainforest or named south rain-forest, or monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forest at low altitude, which is the only example of the middle subtropical regions in the globe, which presents the outstanding universal values of the geological and biological co-evolution and ecosystem co-evolution of the two mountains from different aspects. The extension of Jinggangshan-North Wuyishan is the important supplement to the heritage values, natural habitats and biodiversities of the World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi.
“The nominated property falls within Chinese Sub-tropical Forest Biome of the Palaearctic Realm of the Udvardy (1975) Biogeographical Classification, and belongs to middle sub-tropical humid monsoon climatic zone.It is rich of biodiversity, which is the important passage for higher plants and vertebrates from south to north migration and from east to west dispersal in east monsoon zone of China. It is internationally listed as an important Bird Area and Endemic Bird Area. It is the protective and differential center of amphibians and reptiles in east Asia. In the history of paleogeography and paleogeology, it is far away from the coverage of the Quaternary glacial, thus preserving lots of ancient, relict and endemic communities, which is also the cradle for species re-dispersal in Post Glacial Age. It is one of the “Global 200 Ecoregions” that confirmed by World Wildlife Fund. It is the key region to study bio-geography, species alternation and differentiation in eastern Eurasia. The nominated property is situated in an ecotone of complicated habitats and diversified ecosystem types. The natural vegetation include 12 vegetation types, 90 formations and 180 associations, which including 9 kinds of primary habitat types, 35 kinds of secondary habitat types and 53 kinds of various complicated ecosystem types, almost covering all kinds of habitat types except marine. The complicated land-forms and diversified niche spaces of the nominated property and the unique edge effect that formed in macro-scale land-forms, providing a refuge for biodiversity. The monsoon evergreen broadleaved forests with southern subtropical characteristics that developed at the low altitude ravines of Mount Jinggang Component is an enclave formed by the “Indo-Malayan Realm” (Udvardy,1975) monsoon rain-forests toward northern extension, which is the important complement to the outstanding natural heritage value of World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi .
“Within the nominated property, there are 338 families, 1398 genera and 4252 species of higher plants, among which, there are 597 species of Bryophytes, 378 species of Pteridophytes and 3,277 species of Spermatophytes, up to 27 species of coniferous trees, 197 species of ancient relict plants and living fossils, 214 species of rare and endangered plants, 1253 species endemic to China. There are 44 species of plants on the IUCN Species Red List, 110 species of plants listed on schedules of CITES (2011), and 144 species of recorded plants in China Species Red List. There are 47 species of local endemic plants. And there are 32 orders, 110 families and 601 species of vertebrates, among which, 68 species are endemic to China, 44 species on the IUCN Species Red List, 76 species listed by CITES (2011), 8 species of local endemic mammals and more than 4,200 species of insects. There are about 1,940 species (under 810 genera and 223 families) not recorded from the exisiting World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi, and about 168 species of vertebrates not recorded in World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi.”
Sights in Wuyi Mountain
With green water and red hills, Wuyi Mountain is famed as the “Most Beautiful Under Heaven.” It is known as “three by three”, “six by six”, “seventy-two,” and “ninety-nine”. “Three by three” refers to the jade-like nine twist stream circling around the mountain. “Six by six” refers to the thirty six gorgeous peaks. “Seventy-two” and “ninety-nine” refer to 72 caves and 99 cliffs, respectively.
Sights in Mt. Wuyi National Park include the Peak of Great Kings and Water Curtain Cave. At the foot of Dawang peak is Wui Palace where sacrifices were made by feudal rulers during the Tang dynasty. The highest point on Wuyi Mountain — and in Fujian Province — is 2157-meter (7,076-foot) -high Huanggang Peak. The area’s greatest attraction is The Nine-Bend River (See Below). There are many tear plantations in the area. Wuyi's ecology is particularly ideal for tea cultivation and its rock tea is celebrated as among China's best brews. It is processed in 10 steps and served in 18.
According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “The nominated property excellently combines the queer peaks and lofty mountain ranges, rivers, waterfalls, forest and other landscapes of ancient continental folded mountain in Eastern Asia, together with the seasonal changes of colors, which displays the unique and picturesque natural beauty of mountains in southeast Eurasia. The grandeur peaks and mountains, graceful canyons and streams, lush forests and bamboos, vast sea of clouds and other natural landscapes, the primitive forests that are rich of relict plants of the Tertiary, crown of rhododendron forests above cliffs and crags, and various vertical vegetation spectrum and mountain environments form seasonal changes of numerous colors, which constitutes the natural and marvelous landscape of biological refuge and echoes the beautiful scenery of Nine Bends Stream of Mount Wuyi that was listed into the World Heritage List, and together incorporate a magnificent natural landscapes Hundreds of years, people create numerous legends, verses, musics and drawings to eulogize North Wuyishan and Jinggangshan.
“The World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi is not only famous for the winding Nine-Bend Stream, the outstanding natural wonders of red rocks and steep peaks on both sides, but also possesses beautiful landscapes of southeast slope of Mount Wuyi. While North Wuyishan Component of the nominated property will more fully presents the spectacular volcanic peaks and vast sea of clouds of Mount Huanggang-“The ridge of east China”; and the crossed tranquil gullies, streams and waterfalls, the natural landscapes of lush forests of the great rift valley of Mount Wuyi.... The cultural heritage within the heritage site mainly includes: the “Gumin nationality ” culture and the later “Min-Yue nationality” culture and “Neo-Confucianism” . Unique highlights include“boat coffins in cliff caves", and burial accessories, Min-Yue King Han City Ruins, the tomb of Zhu Xi and sites of ancient Academies.”
According to UNESCO: The cultural landscape in the eastern zone, along the Nine-Bend River, has conserved a remarkable degree of authenticity, largely owing to the strict application over more than a millennium of the 8th century ban on fishing and forestry operations. However, the intact cultural properties in this region have to a considerable extent lost their authenticity in design, materials, and function as a result of numerous changes of use and reconstructions. By contrast, the archaeological sites-the Chengcun ancient town site, the boat coffins, and the remains of demolished or collapsed temples, academies, and monasteries-possess full authenticity.”
Mountaineering in Wuyi Mountain
According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “ Wulingyuan Heritage Site is composed of Quartz stand-stone land-forms, which is renowned in the world for its unusual peaks and weird stones of Quartz sandstone forests and karst geomorphological landscapes. WhileJinggangshan and Taoyuandong of the nominated property is superior in green sand-stones and unusual peaks and canyons in the fold mountains in Ancient Land of East Asia, the gallery of primitive forests, winding mountain creek waterfall groups and other landscapes.
On mountaineering at Wuyi, a China Daily reporter wrote: “Terrified shrieks echoed through the cave's eerie darkness, mingling with the screeches of the bats above us. People squirmed in panic but we were literally between two rocks and a hard place. Passing through A Thread of Sky in the Wuyi Mountains means squeezing through a 163-meter-long rift that is sometimes less than half a meter wide. The tightest spots are pitch black at ground level but light shines several meters down through the crevice's opening high above, just enough to trace the silhouettes of bats flitting around. Someone said something about flying rats. My wife said something about vampires. Squashed between those gooey walls, excrement also came to mind. Finally, we popped out of a slender crack into searing sunlight, which illuminated the limestone spires, looping rivers and fragrant tea gardens that make Wuyi Mountains a splendid travel destination. [Source: China Daily, May 21, 2009]
“Our subterranean experience seemed antithetical to the hours we had spent clamoring toward towering mountaintops. Wuyi's peaks average about 400 meters, with its highest-the Three-Layer Peak-soaring 717 meters skyward. They are part of a Cathayshan fold system, meaning that millions of years ago, the earth belched out tons of magma, which the sands of time ground into cones and pillars.
“The day before, we had scaled the Heavenly Tour Peak to take in the panorama. From 414 meters up, the 9.5- kilometers Nine-Bend River looked like a wriggling green ribbon. Fleets of tiny bamboo rafts traced its course as far as the eye could see. The peak and its views resembled those of the colossal Roaring Tiger Rock, except for a stone Buddha-about 24-meter-tall-chiseled into Roaring Tiger's cliff-face in 1992. But this likeness wasn't the only thing carved into the bluffs. Throughout the ages, the splendor of Wuyi's peaks have so deeply inspired poets, they didn't just write about them, they wrote on them.”
Nine-Bend River is 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) long, meanders among the hills in and around the Mt. Wuyi area and and is famous for 36 rock formations that have been named after the animals which they resemble. Originated from Wuyi Mountain range, Nine Twist River (also called Nine-Bend Stream) crosses the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Spot, with nine curves, hence its name. About 9.5 kilometers is in Mount Wuyi National Park. Among the main scenic spots are: Dawang Peak, Jade Maiden Peak, Immortal Visiting Rock, Imperial Tea Garden, Cloud Caves, Wuyi Studying House, Touring Heaven Peak, and Drying Cloth Rock. Visiting Nine Twist Stream by bamboo raft is especially a pleasure.
According to UNESCO: The spectacular landforms in the eastern scenic area around Nine-Bend Stream (lower gorge) are of exceptional scenic quality, with isolated, sheer-sided monoliths of the local red sandstone. They dominate the skyline for a tortuous 10 kilometers section of the river, standing 200-400 meters above the riverbed, and terminate in clear, deep water. The ancient cliff tracks are an important dimension of the site, allowing the visitor to get a ‘bird’s-eye-view’ of the river.
The best way to enjoy the scenery is riding a bamboo raft along the Nine-Bend River. The China Daily reports: “More than 400 prose inscriptions are etched into the gorges flanking the Nine-Bend River and are collectively known as the Calligraphy Garden. These can be seen from the hundreds of bamboo rafts that drift along the river. Oarsmen croon folk ballads as they pull these vessels along the waterway by jamming long poles into the stony riverbed. Small caverns pocking the surrounding bluffs warehouse the ancient remains of these boaters' ancestors by blood and predecessors by trade. Several are entombed in wooden "boat coffins" that date back more than 3,800 years. [Source: China Daily, May 21, 2009]
“Nine-Bend River curls through some of Wuyi Mountains' most imposing bens and Jade Goddess Peak is widely acclaimed as the most beautiful among these. Legend has it, this limestone monolith was created when the fairy Yunu was lured from heaven by Wuyi's magnificent scenery and fell in love with a mortal man named Da Wang. The Emperor of Heaven was so infuriated that he threatened to turn them into stone. Yunu retorted: "If it means I can stay in the human world with Da Wang, do it." It is but one of many myths surrounding Wuyi Mountains. Even the area's name comes from the folktale of two brothers-Peng Wu and Peng Yi-who split the mountains to release the water they held back, creating a fertile paradise for local people.
Conservation at Mt. Wuyi
According to UNESCO: Mount Wuyi has a high level of ecological and landscape integrity, as well as a long history of management as a protected area. It has had strict protective status since 1979, prior to which provincial and central governments had issued protective edicts over the area for more than 1,000 years. It is a large property with all elements necessary to express its values included within the boundaries of the inscribed area, and has an effective buffer zone. The property lies within one provincial administration of Fujian, and in 1999 when the property was inscribed, few inhabitants lived within the Wuyishan National Nature Reserve; the 22,700 inhabitants (24,500 in 2012) in Mount Wuyi being scattered through 14 villages primarily in Nine-Bend Stream Ecological Protection Area and Wuyishan National Scenic Area. The water and soil loss caused by the increased tea production activities of inhabitants has certain impact and is a challenge for management.
“The Mount Wuyi World Heritage property is wholly owned by the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is listed as a state-level nature reserve, a state-level scenic area, a forest park and a state-level cultural relics protection unit, thus assuring the safeguarding of both the cultural and natural values of the property, under a number of national laws including: the Forestry Law (1998), the Environmental Protection Law (2002), Regulations on Nature Reserves (2002), Cultural Relics Protection Law (2002), the Law on the Protection of Wildlife (2004), and Scenic Areas Ordinance (2006). Regulations relating specifically to Mount Wuyi were promulgated by the National Government in 1982, 1988, 1990, 1995, and 1996. The property was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in 1987, giving it additional international and national protection status.
“At the provincial level, Fujian Province has issued the Regulations of Fujian Province on the Protection of Mount Wuyi World Cultural and Natural Heritage and other special local regulations relating to the protection of Mount Wuyi as a World Heritage property. A master plan or a protection plan has been compiled for each of the four protected areas of the property. Special administrative organizations, including an on-site Monitoring Center, have been set up for the property. The Monitoring Center conducts periodic monitoring on the condition of the property’s cultural and natural resources, the overall ecological environment of the property, and the potential damage to the property resulting from the pressures of tourism. The Center is also responsible for conducting research on the subtropical forest ecosystem, biodiversity protection, and sustainable development of the nearby community. This ongoing monitoring and research programme informs policy review to enhance the safeguarding of the property’s integrity and authenticity.
“Future management priorities include: reduction of the impacts from domestic sewage and solid waste on the water quality of the Nine-Bend River; improved forest fire management taking advantage of GIS technology, improving fire control facilities and training professional staff; reduction of the weathering of rock inscriptions; and measures to achieve sustainable development of the tea industry.”
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Jinggangshan-North Wuyishan consists of two components; Jinggangshan Component and North Wuyishan Component, the total area of the nominated property is 788.68 k square meters, and that of the buffer zone is 536.94k square meters. Among which, Jinggangshan component covers the east slope and west slope of the middle section of Luoxiao mountains, including Jinggangshan region and Taoyuandong region, the area of the nominated property is 629.35 square kilometers and the buffer zone covers 400.68k square meters. North Wuyishan Component covers the north slope of the middle section of Wuyi Mountains which borders with the World Heritage Site Mount Wuyi to the south, the area of the nominated property is 159.35 square kilometers, and the buffer zone covers 136.26 square kilometers. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
“The two components constitute not only the catchment areas of the first and second freshwater lakes of China (Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake), but also one of the water supply regions of the two major paddy rice production areas in southern China. The two components respectively represent the physical geographies, ecosystems, biodiversity, natural landscapes and local culture characteristics of the north slope of Mount Wuyi and the east and west slopes of Luoxiao range in southeast China, but they are irreplaceable with each other. The nominated property is rich in terms of biodiversity of east Eurasia, and is the important passage for higher plants and vertebrates from south to north immigration and from east to west spread in east monsoon zone of China.
“The cultural heritage part of the nominated property consists of two components: North Wuyishan Component and Jinggangshan Component. The former takes Er’hu Academy as the main body. The latter includes Baikoucheng Site, Philosophy Scholars ruins in Ming and Qing Dynasties (including Jinggangshan academy architectures and tombs).”
Xiamei: Beginning of the Ancient Tea Road
Xiamei is a village in the Wuyi Mountain area regarded as the starting point of the Ancient Tea Road. Xiao Kunbing wrote in China Pictorial: “I exited the Wuyishan Railway Station, booked a minibus and set off for Xiamei Village. There are no means of public transport from urban Wuyishan to Xiamei and, at 20 yuan, a private minibus is the best option. If you're not in a hurry, you can wait until the driver books another four passengers. Usually, the driver charges each person four yuan. In fact, this is the way in which Xiamei villagers get to and from town. [Source: Xiao Kunbing China Pictorial, June 10, 2009]
“The Dangxi River flows gently from west to east, dividing the village into two parts. Along the old stone-paved road in the village are preserved more than 30 residences dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The ancient structures with white walls and black tiles, as well as gate towers, girders and windows decorated with superb brick, wooden or stone carvings The locals built long benches with wooden planks against the balustrades by the river, and these they gave a poetic name: "Beauty's Backrest." Here is where the villagers take a break, chat and drink tea in their spare time.
“I stayed at the Xianmei Guesthouse, the only hotel and the tallest building in the village, and the only brick-and-concrete structure along the local stretch of the Dangxi River. Although built in 1998, the hotel maintains the architectural style of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties, behooving the overall look of the village. Since 1999, when Wuyi Mountain was inscribed to the World Heritage List, to preserve the village's original look and charm, new structures must comply with official processes of design approval.
“Next to the hotel is Zou's Ancestral Temple, the largest structure in the village. Despite more than a century of weathering, the brick-carved mystical beasts sitting on upturned roof ridges still guard the old courtyard, while exquisite brick carvings decorating the gate tower remind visitors of the past glory and distinction of the Zou clan. Built in 1790, the 55th year during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, the temple is a brick-and-wooden structure covering an area of more than 200 square meters. In front of its gate stands a stone stake, which in ancient times was used to tie up the horses of descendants who came to worship their ancestors. Enshrined in the temple are steles with inscriptions of family rules and temple annals. The main hall is flanked with two side buildings. The second floor of the main hall was once a place for opera performances. The distinctively-designed corridor in front of the hall is supported by wooden arches, which are sometime used to hang lanterns. In the courtyard there is a small rainspout in the shape of ancient Chinese coin, and which is now covered by moss.
“Xiamei was once the starting point of the Ancient Tea Road, which extended from northern Fujian to Moscow. In ancient times, many merchants from the far north Shanxi Province travelled here to purchase tea leaves here and transport them northwards via Guangxi, finally reaching Europe across the borders between China and Russia. Today, the village is not as bustling as before, and only the remaining old residences remind us of its past prosperity. During the Qing Dynasty, water transportation thrived here due to the bustling tea trade. As a place of prayers for protection by the goddess, the local shipping guild raised funds to the temple. In those days, the temple was also a place for boat trackers to rest and have dinner, and each day dozens of boat trackers ate here. Still today, the proprietor sings several of the work songs sung by boat trackers. These he learned in childhood from his elders...During my days in the village, I learned the way of local tea drinking. In my spare time, I often relaxed holding a cup of tea, breathing of the strong fragrance swirling from the white porcelain cup. When drinking tea, locals traditionally hold the cup with three fingers. The movement is popularly referred to as "three dragons guarding the vessel."
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020