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Travel Journal

Visiting Laoshan Mountain
by Hongxin; May 18, 2009


Everyone who visits Qing-Tao, a beautiful harbor city in China, visits Laoshan Mountain. And everyone who visits Laoshan Mountain dreams of seeing the Upper Taoism Abbey. It is not only for its wonderful landscape, but also for the famous legend of the fairy lady--“Purple Snow”-- written by the great writer Pu Song-ling three hundred years ago. The story was widely read, so the Upper Abbey became historically interesting.

Laoshan Mountain is located at the east end of the Shan-Tong peninsula facing the vast Eastern Sea. The Upper Abbey is a historical site full of mystery.

On an early summer day, we climbed the majestic Laoshan. Beside the trail, trees were thick and lush. Between the clefts and huge boulders, the clear spring water ran. Under the shadows of trees and facing the refreshing mountain breeze, we felt summer had gone away. Laoshan Mountain was really an especially chilly world at that time.

The trails led us over the top. They zigzagged and twisted and turned. On the way, we often saw creeks –nine-times. Luckily, some glacier boulders laid on the stream, benefiting our crossing. However, most times we would rather wade across for the water was cool. The feeling was so strange to we city dwellers.

“Ouch!”-- It was Xiao Xi fording barefoot; the gravel had hurt him. “You deserve it!” someone said, and that made us laugh. Surely, he was sometimes a daredevil.

Climbing up high, we left the noise and turmoil behind and became a kind of instinctual humming. We had already gone into a peaceful world.

Surprisingly, a huge inscription carved on the cliff—saying “Listening to water”—appeared before us.

Yes, it was sure! Before I saw, I heard the sound of rushing water. Turned around the cliff, I felt the delicious cool of the misty spray from the falls. Water tumbled over the rocks from on high, and formed a deep pool underneath. This wonderful place invited us to rest and have a snack.

Some laid and stretched limbs under the sunshine. Others scattered and searched around the bushes to find berries and wild fruits. Xiao Xi swam and splashed in the pond. I just stood on a huge cliff to see the view.

Surveying the trail that we had trudged, I was stunned at the wonderful scene: the town we left was as small as a bean; the following hikers straggled in a long line and seemed as if they were ants climbing a tree.

Far in the distance, the East China Sea waved on the horizon. High above us, Laoshan Mountain loomed behind up to the cloudy sky. On this midway, the noises were totally fading and the hubbub was away from us—oh, Laoshan, what a heaven of peace!

Refreshed, we continued our long march.

Then the trail turned into a ravine, and the environment was quiet as if an untouched area. Only our footsteps could be heard. Occasionally, one or two birds chirped to break this perpetual tranquil.

”Purple Snow, how are you? I’m coming to see you!”--suddenly Xiao Xi shouted. Then the sound echoed back and forth in the valley many times.

“Are you crazy, or spellbound? Xiao Xi.”--another one teased him aloud and the echoes responded once more.

We ascended on and on. Among the luxuriant green pines and the mist, the famous Upper Taoism Abbey was in sight.

Unexpectedly, the Abbey was simple both in shape and colour. Far from a palace, it was only a common cottage – the black brick wall with the stone tiles. A limpid pond rippled in the yard, and the purple, scarlet peony flowers opened their beauty to the visitors. A tall mulberry tree attracted my attention, for a big stone tablet stood by, signed “Purple Snow”.

Hundreds of years later, her canopy still flourished. Some secret admirers took photos with her; Xiao Xi was one. The fictitious, mysterious love story caused so much imagination from generation to generation. Hundreds of years later, none had a chance to meet the beautiful fairy lady. But the yard, the flowers and the tree reminded the pilgrims of her.

Turning out of the central yard, I went to the side. There was a fountain—the headwater of the pond. Beside the fountain, a Taoist priest was drawing water. He was middle aged and wore a black robe and white stockings. He had grown a beautiful long beard and wore a hair coil on the top.

“Hello, Master.” I saluted him. “May I have a scoop of this water?”

“Certainly, please benefactor.”

“It’s truly the mineral water, better than any bottled water. Thanks a lot.” And then I asked: “I wonder to know why this Abbey is so different from the majesty Wu-dang Mountain Abbey?—that’s grand as a palace!”

“Wu-dang was built by the Emperor of Ming dynasty for showing off to his subjects. But ours embodies the true qualities of Taoism—simple and natural.”

“How many priests remain in your abbey?”

“The four young priests you’ve seen at the central yard, my master and I.”

“Congratulations, you’ve got successors.”

“But, they are the youth league, too.”

“Do you believe in the immortal?”

“Yes. However, practice is the most difficult thing in this world —perhaps only one thousandth or ten thousandth could be the successful one. Anyway, we are lucky-- the public worship never stopped—have you heard the Lower Abbey and the Middle Abbey?”

“On the way, we saw the relics—some debris, a dry well and crumbling walls. The other abbey is used as a barn. We also saw some slogans written on the barn walls.”

“So I say we are lucky. Over thousand years later we still stand here. Benefactor, you enjoy this spring water; have you gotten some enlightenment from the water?--it is the water which nourishes all things without trying to . . . therefore, it is like the Tao.”

“These sentences come from Tao Te Chin. I remember some of them.”

“Do you?” a little surprised expression appeared in his eyes.

“But I don’t understand their deep meanings.”

“Sure, we are destiny luck, benefactor. If you wish I‘d like to show you the site where I practice.” I followed him out of the yard along a trail to the back of the summit. Before a huge boulder we stopped; behind the boulder a tall pine tree stood by.

“Every dawn, I do Tai Chi under this pine tree. The scenery of sun arising from the East Sea is wonderful and more fantastic than what you see now. And then I sit in meditation on the boulder.”

“What a fairyland!” I exclaimed.

Standing on the summit of the Taoist sacred land, I pondered about the Taoist teaching—the harmony of the heaven and human being. Someone said we “conquered” the mountain. I‘d rather say that I was part of this majesticy mountain. The white clouds floated leisurely above, and the boundless East China Sea in the distance. What vast scenery the great nature was! In this place, all the worldly considerations stayed away—neither the lure of power and money, nor the tantalizing “Purple Snow”! In this eternal, the question through the ages welled up: “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”

Laoshan’s scenery was pleasing to both the eye and the mind--majestic, vast, verdant, and tranquil. But the visiting of the famous Taoism wonderland, the Upper Abbey, lingered in my mind till now. It was a baptism that made people’s soul more pure.


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