EXTRA: The Trail Down from Tiantai Temple, Jiuhuashan, Anhui

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on April 14, 2014.)

A newly-carved Dizang (Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva=地藏菩萨) and his freshly primed
attendants at Guanyin Feng Temple (观音峰) on Jiuhuashan, Anhui (安徽, 九华山).

June 21, 2012 - It turned out that my struggle up to Tiantai Temple on Jiuhua Shan was the easy part. I had been informed (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the next temple on my list was somewhere between the top of the mountain and the bottom. Best to walk down, I thought.

Wrong. In fact, it was at the bottom--just 150 meters from the cable car station where I had gone up!

But by walking down I saw some wonderful sights. The four to five kilometer trail of stairs passed numerous small temples--some in caves--and monastics (mostly nuns) farming on precipitous mountainsides.

First, just below Gu Baijing Tai, was Guanyin Peak [Guanyin Feng], which, naturally, featured images of Dizang, the patron of Jiuhua Shan, as well. Beginning my descent in earnest, I encountered numerous places where the stairs had been washed out, and workmen were making repairs. Chatting with some of them provided my only excuse for much-needed rests.

Next encountered was Heaven's Bridge Chan Temple [Tianqiao Si]. "Heaven's Bridge" indeed! It clung to the hillside, and the trail actually arched into space! Then I passed through an odd little cave before reaching Morning Sun Nunnery [Chaoyang An], with carvings in the native stone inside.

Next, I passed a nun winnowing grain the old-fashioned way at Rejuvenating Nunnery [Fuxing An], and another ancient one sunning herself in the doorway of the aptly-named Long Life Ancient Cave [Changsheng Gudong].

Finally, nearing the flats, I passed the larger and more-prosperous-looking Auspicious Temple [Jixiang Si] before, knees throbbing, I reached Huiju (Abode of Wisdom) Temple, my destination.

Most of these temples are too small and insignificant to locate on a map. You might spot some of them in satellite view by scanning between Gu Baijing Tai at the top of the trail, and Huiju Temple at the bottom.


More pictures can be found here.

A wooden Dizang figure at Guanyin Peak Temple, Jiuhua Shan (postcard above)
Workmen repair the trail down from Tiantai Temple
Heaven's Bridge Temple, where the trail leaves the ground (postcard below)
Carved native stone inside Morning Sun Nunnery (postcard below)
A nun winnows grain at Rejuvenating Nunnery (postcard below)
Prosperous-looking Auspicious Temple, near the bottom of the trail (postcard below)
BONUS IMAGES: Most of the images above rendered as vintage postcards.

The "Heaven Bridge" (天桥) which lent its name to Tianqiao Temple (天桥寺) on Jiuhuashan, Anhui (安徽, 九华山).
This carving is in native rock inside the main hall (大雄宝殿) at
Chaoyang Nunnery (朝阳庵) on Jiuhuashan, Anhui (安徽, 九华山).
This nun (尼姑) was winnowing something--nuts?--in the courtyard formed by the path
running between buildings at Fuxing Nunnery (复兴庵) on Jiuhuashan, Anhui (安徽, 九华山).
The doorway was all I saw of the "ancient cave" called Changsheng Gudong (长生古洞)
as I trudged down from Tiantai Temple (天台寺) on Jiuhuashan, Anhui (安徽, 九华山).
The path down the mountain from Tiantai Temple (天台寺) led down these
stairs at Jixiang Temple (吉祥寺) on Jiuhuashan, Anhui (安徽, 九华山).

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