Among China’s famous landmarks is Mount Huangshan, known as “the loveliest mountain of China”, which has been acclaimed through art and literature during a good part of Chinese history (eg, the Shanshui “mountain and water” style of the mid-16th century). Today, it holds the same fascination for visitors, poets, painters and photographers who go on pilgrimage to the site, which is renowned for its magnificent scenery made up of many granite peaks and rocks emerging out of a sea of clouds.
Huangshan is the mountain best renowned in China for its scenery and it has an interesting but complex geological history. It features numerous imposing peaks, whose formation dates back some 100 million years to the Mesozoic era, when the ancient Yangtse Sea disappeared as a result of crustal movements and subsequent uplift. Aesthetically, the site presents an almost unique spectacle, with its combined attraction of high mountains, forests, lakes, stepped lakes, waterfalls and calcareous shoals. The rich variety of colours is also notable; many of the lakes have clear blue, turquoise or green waters, while in autumn many of the leaves turn a range of rich colours. The site supports a high diversity of plant and animal species, including a number of that are threatened.
Forests of stone pillars formed during later glaciation are numerous; other features include grotesquely shaped rocks, waterfalls, lakes and hot springs. The oldest rocks are the sedimentary deposits and metamorphic rocks from the Yangtse Sea, formed over 570 million years ago and outcropping at the southern foot of Mount Huangshan and south of the Xiaoyaoxi fault. Granite formations are characterised by well advanced longitudinal joints, responsible for the many impressive caves, ridges and gorges.
Flora and fauna of Mount Huangshan
Forests, characterised by Masson pine below 800m and Huangshan pine from 800m to 1800m, cover more than half the site. Predominantly evergreen moist forest occurs between 600m and 1100m. Deciduous forest occurs from 1100m to 1800m and alpine grasslands above the tree line. Some 1650 plant species have been recorded. A number of trees are celebrated on account of their age, grotesque shape or precipitously perched position, including 1000-year-old specimens of Huangshan pine, maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba ) and alpine juniper (Sabina squamata).
Vertebrates comprise 300 species and include mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. A total of 13 species are under state protection. Large mammals include rhesus and stump-tailed macaques, Asiatic black bears, wild dogs, civets, Chinese ferret-badgers, clouded leopards, wild boar, sika deer, mainland serows, red-bellied and spotted squirrels, and pangolins. Notable among the birds is the Oriental white stork.
Mount Huangshan’s culture
The high esteem accredited to Huangshan throughout much of Chinese history has given rise to the Huangshan culture. Generation after generation, people have come to eulogise the mountain, resulting in a rich legacy of art and literature. Huangshan is considered to be a prime example of classic Chinese scenery, as typified in Chinese landscape paintings. On June 17, 747, during the Tang Dynasty, an imperial order was issued to name it Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). Until that time, however, the mountain had remained largely inaccessible from the outside world. Thereafter, poets, literary scholars and numerous other celebrities were among the many visitors, and by the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), 64 temples had been constructed on the mountain. During the Ming Dynasty, in 1606, Monk Pumen came to Huangshan and built the Fahai Meditation Temple and the Wonshu Temple, connecting them by steps cut into the mountain. Paintings and drawings of the mountain appeared as early as the mid-16th century. It is no wonder that Mount Hangshan has become one of China’s famous landmarks.
The inclusion of a number of Tibetan villages in the buffer zone adds to the cultural interest of the area.