A spiritual and physical high

by Sergi Reboredo

Huashan is made up of five peaks, covered in snow in winter, of which the highest South Peak at over 7,000 ft is also the highest of the Five Sacred Mountains of China. Photo Tao Ming / Alamy

The Five Sacred Mountains of China have long been places of pilgrimage and are strongly linked to Taoism, whose philosophy is based on a harmonious relationship between nature, humanity, and the divine. There is a mountain at each point of the compass, and its center. Huashan near Xi’an is the West Great Mountain, with Taishan in Shandong being East, and Songshan in Henan the Center. Hengshan in Hunan is South and Hengshan in Shanxi is North, less important than the others because it has long been hard to visit due to its remoteness.

These high peaks were seen in early belief as holding up the heavens, as well as a place to be closer to the gods. Worship at the mountains dates to at least 100BCE, long predating Taoism in an organized form, and has therefore been part of Chinese culture more than 2,000 years.

Huashan is known for having 474 species of medicinal herbs

Famous Taoist and Buddhist temples are associated with each, as monks were drawn to the remoteness and peace to be found there. Many places of worship were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and restoration has not always been sympathetic. They are also sources of medicinal herbs, with Huashan known for having 474 species of such plants.

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