No. 115: Shangfeng Temple, Nanyue, Hunan

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on December 1, 2014.)

This relief in a side hall features some of the 18 Arhats (罗汉)
at Shangfeng Temple (上封寺), Nanyue, Hunan (湖南, 南岳)

August 14, 2012 - My next destination was the charming town of Nanyue in Hunan, at the foot of Mount Heng. This is one of the "Five Great Mountains of China," along with another Mount Heng (different Chinese character) in Shanxi in the north; Mount Tai (east); Mount Hua (west); and Mount Song (center). Because of its position in the south, Mount Heng is called Nanyue ("South peak"), as is the town. (Last week's temple on Yue Lu Mountain lies at the north end of the same range.)

The town of Nanyue boasts the largest complex of ancient buildings in Hunan, and the largest temple in southern China. The Grand Temple of Mount Heng (Nanyue Damiao) was built in 725, but this was not my goal.

Paying 100RMB to enter the Mt. Hengshan Scenic Spot, and 70RMB more for the shuttle bus up the mountain, I was disappointed to find that--though a road runs past the first target of the day--the bus stopped partway up and with hordes of other pilgrims I had to walk the steep remaining 2.5 kilometers to Shangfeng (Upper Peak) Temple.

Unfortunately, not only was the temple crowded, but it was also under heavy reconstruction. The statues were of negligible interest, and the monks were too busy with tourists to offer much in the way of hospitality.

The prime benefit derived from all that work (besides the exercise)? The view! This place is spectacular, truly rugged, and (almost) worth the long climb up a paved road to reach it.

But I couldn't linger to appreciate the view for long. I had two more temples to visit that day, unless I wanted to pay the same price the next day to return!

GPS Info:
  • 27.29141, 112.69954


(Regarding problems with this map, please see the CHINA section on this page.)


More pictures can be found here.

Assistance awaits those who would prefer not to climb the steep ascent.

Workmen undertaking the reconstruction of Shangfeng Temple

The front courtyard is disrupted by the new construction.

Part of a new bas relief

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