Zhangjiajie is a city situated in the northwest of Hunan Province. It is home to two large national parks, one of which is the famous Zhangjiajie National Park. The park became world famous when the box-office hit Avatar drew inspiration from Mount Huang for its floating Hallelujah Mountains. Wondrous caves, breathtaking mountains, and spine-chilling cliffs are all hidden within this mysterious landscape.
Path toward heaven
Tianmen Mountain embodies the spirit of Zhangjiajie. At 1,518 metres above sea level, the climb to its peak is a dangerous one! You will need to brave the 11 kilometre long Coiling Dragon Cliff Road, part of which is Guigu Plank Road, a plank road suspended from the cliff at 1,400 metres above sea level. Don’t look down!
The plank road is around 1½ kilometres long, and it’s actually suspended from the cliff. It gives the sense of free-falling into the valley below — this is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The plank road begins at Yihong Pass and ends at Little Heaven Gate.
Nothing can prepare you for this walk — on one side there’s the cliff, on the other you have the abyss. It’s too late to back out and there’s nowhere to hide. It’s no wonder this place is considered one of China’s top nine horror locations!
The legend of ‘the sage of the ghost valley’
There is a legend that says during the Warring States period (5-221 B.C.) a sage named Guiguzi lived at Tianmen Mountain. He was the founder of the School of Vertical & Horizontal Alliances, also known as the School of Diplomacy, and he was also known as the father of fortune telling. He had many renowned military strategists, such as Su Qin, Zhang Yi, Sun Bin, and Pang Juan, as his disciples.
Guiguzi also studied the art of Yi and devoted years of his life to the practice. He hid in a cave hidden behind trees and a waterfall at Baizhang. Eventually, Guiguzi developed the Guigu Divine Practice, along with a secret martial arts manual. The cave was later named Guigu Cave after this wise old sage.
Tianmen Mountain split open in the year A.D. 263, revealing a large glowing hole. The Wu Kingdom’s lord Sun Xiu came to see the hole after hearing the reports. He believed it was an auspicious sign, naming the hole the “Heavenly Gate.” There is a legend that says the Heavenly Gate was created to allow Guiguzi to fly up to the heavens.
No one knows who built the Guigu plank road, but there is no doubt it’s an unforgettable experience for those who dare to walk it. Walking on the plank road is like taking a path to heaven, with endless greenery beneath, surrounded by playful birds, and even the occasional glimpse of an eagle if you’re there on a lucky day. The cliff is engulfed by fog before and after rains, immersing you in a sea of cloud.
You will feel that you’re standing on top of the world, and it’s worth reflecting on the legacy that the great sage Guiguzi left behind. Cultivating here 2,200 years ago, he strengthened the underpinnings of traditional Chinese culture, ensuring that future generations would be left with this wonderful gift.