We have wanted to visit Fanjingshan, the sacred mountain in Guizhou province on the border with Hunan province, for many years. Unfortunately, we never had the time when we were in Guizhou. Last summer one of my students, Maria Vioque and her partner, visited and climbed Fanjingshan and here is their review and photos.
Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山
Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. According to the Chinese Tourism rating system for places of interest in China, this sacred mountain for Chinese Buddhism has an AAAAA rating (the highest score).
Just climbing up the infinite steps and walking through the lush green forest was an experience in itself, but better to get some tips in advance if you want to enjoy this unforgettable spiritual experience properly.
Starting the Ascent
On arrival, it is necessary to buy two tickets to get into the Fanjingshan Nature Reserve; one to enter the park and another one for the shuttle bus (approx 100 CNY both) to the entrance.
It’s easy to feel dizzy and a little carsick on the shuttle bus as it wizzes up the narrow zigzagging road with hairpin bends, but the amazing landscape and the delightful river flowing by the side of the road make the discomfort all worthwhile.
A few meters from the main gates, there is a stone dragon fountain in the river and a building with a big golden Buddha on the roof. We started our ascent by taking the stone steps, all 8,888 of them, to the top (five hours); which is the equivalent of climbing all the stairs of a 460-floor-building.
There is a cable car option for the lazy ones or those in a hurry (it takes 7 minutes to get to the closest point to the peaks, but after that there are some more steps).
However, the path winding up the mountain was gorgeous, full of nature, fresh air and stunning views. There are endemic species such as the rare Guizhou golden monkey and lots of colorful insects and birds. You’d be very fortunate to catch a glimpse of the elusive monkeys because they are shy and keep well away from humans.
The infrastructure and facilities along the way are very good.
There are some toilets and more important: locals selling energy drinks and fruit.
If you are feeling lazy and can’t handle the challenge, you can be carried up to the top on a chair by some porters. Like the emperors of old.
After several arduous hours of hiking up the precipitous steps, the temples on the top of the mountain come into view and the goal is within reach.
Then came the anti-climax. Despite having set off very early with the hope of beating the crowds, by the time we reached the summit it was already overcrowded and full of local tourists.
We somewhat regretted not having taken the cable car in order to have reached the peak sooner. However, the amazing climb up the paths and through the gorgeous forest more than compensated for the slight disappointment of having to share the final experience with so many people.
The Chinese have a great saying for this moment when the whole of China’s enormous population seem to converge on one place at the same time: Ren Shan Ren Hai 人山人海, which translates as “people on the mountains, people in the sea”。
On the Top
The views from the top are stunning; there are strange rock formations and stone pillars made by stratus and the peak is crowned by three temples. In the middle there are some famous rock formations from where you can enjoy a magnificent overall view. We decided to climb to the highest temple, on the right. The path is beautiful and slightly dangerous, with very steep steps, a slippery surface and vertical drops. It was a whole new experience walking along those small paths and being treated to those spectacular views from the summit.
To get to Fanjingshan, we took a class-G-train from Guiyangbei (Guiyang North Station) to Tongrennan (it costs 122,50 CNY). Once there, we took a van from the train station to Jiangkou, a city full of neon lights and very comfortable to spend a night.
There were nice restaurants in the city center and lots of convenience stores where you could buy a piece of fruit, water or nuts. Early the next morning, we bought some baozi and soy milk for breakfast and we called for a ride by Didi app (which is similar to Uber) and a couple of minutes later a driver picked us up and drove us to Fanjingshan. Getting there doesn’t take long: It is possible to go by taxi (100 CNY approx.) You can take a bus if you don´t mind arriving a bit later in the day (I wouldn’t recommended arriving after 12 pm in August as the place is packed and there are endless queues).