Qingcheng Mountain, Sichuan Province, China

This is the second in a series of posts from a trip to Chengdu, where we head northwest to the famous Qingcheng Mountain (locals call it Qingchengshan as “shan” is “mountain” in Mandarin). What makes this mountain famous is that it’s the birthplace of the Tao religion (Taoism/Daoism). In Taoist mythology, it was the site of the Yellow Emperor’s studies with Ning Fengzi. As a centre of the Taoist religion it became host to many temples. The mountain has 36 peaks, and since 2000, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Qingcheng Village at the foot of the mountain; GFX100S 64mm ISO-320 1/50sec f/8

In this series from Chengdu:

Qingcheng Mountain is about a 1.5 hour easy drive from downtown Chengdu. It’s almost all highways so it makes for a nice and relaxing drive. There is also a high speed rail station in Qingcheng, but with all the COVID related checks, I felt that taking the car would be the most convenient option and likely end up being the shorter duration. For my stay in Qingcheng, I decided on the Six Senses Hotel, a sprawling hotel with Hutong style villas that you take golf carts to reach.

Qingcheng Mountain

There are two sides to Qingcheng Mountain. The front side is where you’ll find all the temples that formed Taoism/Daoism. The back side is where you’ll find all the waterfalls. We decided to hike the back side and to go in the reverse direction so that we can face the waterfalls rather than have our back to the waterfalls. This turned out to be a great decision as we had much of the trail to ourselves for the first few hours.

GFX100S 32mm ISO-200 1/3sec f/8
Immense and powerful waterfalls surround you as you hike up the mountain; GFX100S 64mm ISO-1600 1/38sec f/4
GFX100S 64mm ISO-400 1/50sec f/4

To get to the upper mid point and back is about a five hour journey, including a 25 minutes gondola ride. The total elevation we climbed was 755 meters across 11 km. You can go even further and climb to the very top to see the temple at the peak, however the clouds were so intense while we were there that we decided it best to turn back without the final climb. For about half of the hike, we were inside the clouds which was a rather cold and wet experience.

However, all that wetness was worth the spectacular and powerful waterfalls that we came across. One after another after another. I wish there were more people around to show the scale of some of these waterfalls and the immense power. I’ll try to add a video to give a sense, but I can say unequivocally that Mother Nature is a powerful beast that should be treated with respect. This respect extends to the hike where there’s a number of places with precarious platforms for walking.

Many foot paths are like this up the mountain, so you need to tread with caution; GFX100S 32mm ISO-400 1/25sec f/4
GFX100S 32mm ISO-1250 1/25sec f/5.6

All in all, this was an amazing day, and I only wish that we had more time to explore the front side and see all the temples. The day we went was cloudy, cold and wet, and we still had fun. I can only imagine on a dry sunny day, where you can see the full extent of this glorious mountain. If I get the chance to come back here again, I’ll definitely hike both sides.

The small wooden bridge is not for the faint of heart! GFX100S 50.8mm ISO-1250 1/40sec f/8
If you’re afraid of heights, this is not the gondola for you; GFX100S 40.3mm ISO-100 1/170sec f/5.6
GFX100S 32mm ISO-1000 1/25sec f/8
My favourite fried potatoes with spices; GFX100S 32mm ISO-320 1/25sec f/4
GFX100S 50mm ISO-200 1/45sec f/4

Six Senses Resort

The suite was well appointed and the property, very beautiful, but what made the stay here really pleasant was the hospitality of the staff. Everyone tried very hard to make the stay as special as possible, while not making it into a cringe-worthy 6-star overwhelming experience. I really enjoyed the fine balance the staff at this hotel have found, and I’m sure it comes from the brand’s vast experience in running resorts all over the world including Bhutan and Israel!

Six Senses Qingcheng Hotel; GFX100S 32mm ISO-320 1/25sec f/11
Six Senses Qingcheng Hotel; GFX100S 32mm ISO-1600 1/20sec f/4
View from Six Senses Qingcheng of Qingcheng Mountain; GFX100S 61.8mm ISO-200 1/52sec f/8
GFX100S 32mm ISO-1600 1/13sec f/8

We had an absolute feast at the hotel’s exquisite private dining room, decorated in a Qing Dynasty style. We felt like Emperors with our own personal chef and staff, attending to all of our needs. It was a wonderful experience with great food. You can see the freshness in the fish and the quality ingredients used in the dishes.

X100V 23mm ISO-1600 1/60sec f/2
X100V 23mm ISO-640 1/60sec f/2

The Qingcheng Mountain area has much to offer for tourism and we’ll check out a few more famous areas before we head back to Beijing. This will include visiting a few ancient towns nearby, the incredibly innovative Dujiangyan Irrigation system, and finally, the main reason people to come to Chengdu in the first place, seeing the pandas!

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