Located in Henan Province near the city of Luoyang, Song Shan is one of the five sacred Taoist mountains of China. It is best known for its natural beauty, geological importance, and its Shaolin Temples. Song Shan consists of 70 peaks, the highest with an altitude of 1500m.
The five sacred Taoist mountains are associated with the five cardinal directions (in which the center is included as a direction), in accordance with Chinese geomancy (deriving spiritual meaning from the layout of the land).
According to Chinese mythology, the mountains were created from the limbs and the head of Pangu (盤古/盘古), the first being and creator of the world. Tai Shan is generally considered the most sacred, because it lies on the east, where the sun rises.
Song Shan is the center mountain of the Five Great Mountains, and is thus also known as Zhong Hue (Central Peak). It has been identified as a holy Taoist mountain at least since the Zhou ruler Ping moved his capital to Luoyang in 771 BC.
What to See
The seven peaks of Song Shan stretch for 64km between the cities of Luoyang and Zhengzhou. The slopes rise steeply from the valley and are thickly clad with trees, giving them an impressive appearance, but the highest peak (Junji) reaches only 1500m in altitude.
The mountain range is covered in walking paths and there is no single designated route (unlike other Chinese sacred mountains). The slopes are populated with various Taoist and Buddhist temples, pagodas and guard towers. Among the temples are Shaolin Si, famed for its kung fu, and Zhongyue Miao, a working Taoist temple.
There are several options for exploring Song Shan. Most travelers visit on a day trip from either Luoyang or Zhengzhou. Tours leave from outside the train stations in both cities early every morning and include at least Shaolin Si and Zhongyue Miao. Tours from Luoyang usually stop at Baima Si (the oldest Buddhist temple in China) on the way back as well.
An alternative is to stay at Dengfeng, a town at the center of the Song Shan range. From here you can occupy several days wandering the paths around the valleys, which pass various temples and pagodas and provide some wonderful views along the way. The slopes up here are not steep and the undergrowth is sparse, so you can set out in pretty much any direction.
Quick Facts on Song Shan
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|Coordinates:||34.509450° N, 113.041323° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Song Shan
Below is a location map and aerial view of Song Shan. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Song Shan - The Rough Guide to China 4 (October 2005), 297-98.
- Songshan Area - UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List
- The myriad sights of Songshan - Celeste Fong, The Star, Nov 19, 2004
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