Since early times, Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountains, has been called the Sea of Clouds. The Sea of Clouds is probably the most wonderful of the Four Wonders of the Yellow Mountains. The other three are: oddly-shaped pines, oddly-shaped rocks and hot springs.
The Sea of Clouds not only is an awe-inspiring example of natural scenery, but it is also the stuff of legends, with a mystical quality in the eyes of Chinese. The Sea of Clouds envelops the forest of peaks at Huangshan like Penglai (蓬莱), a fabled abode of immortals that takes the form of a mountain island floating in the clouds.
The Sea of Clouds is divided into five sea areas: south of Lotus Peak, and Heavenly Capital Peak is the South Sea or the Front Sea. Wenshu Terrace on Jade Screen Pavilion is the best place to view the Front Sea. From the main gate, you can take a minibus past the hot springs to Kind Light Pagoda, where the Jade Screen Cable Way is there to transport you effortlessly up to Jade Screen Pavilion.
Southeast from Lotus Peak is Jade Screen Pavilion. It has the reputation of being "the best place in Huangshan". It's a great place for enjoying the scenery of the Front Sea. The famous Welcoming Guest Pine stands on the east side of Jade Screen Pavilion.
East from Welcoming Guest Pine is Heavenly Capital Peak, which is the steepest of three main peaks of Huangshan. It isn't easy to climb Heavenly Capital Peak. Climbers must pass the steep and lofty Heavenly Ladder and Heavenly Bridge, Carp’s Backbone and three caves, before reaching the top.
North of Lion Peak and Beginning-To-Believe Peak is the North Sea or Back Sea. Lion Peak and Refreshing Terrace are not only the best places to view the Northern Sea of Clouds, but also to watch the sunrise. As moist air circulates, the clouds are always changing. When the sun is shining, the peaks are bathed in sunlight, then a moment later they are shadowed by cloud. It is a splendid show, to which nothing can compare.
North Sea Hotel marks the fork north to the back mountains. Just south of North Sea Hotel is Flower Growing Out Of A Writing Brush. Opposite North Sea Hotel is the majestic Lion Peak, on which there is the famous rock called Monkey Watching The Sea. Refreshing Terrace, the main viewing point for watching the scenery of the North Sea is on the hotel side of Lion Peak. In the early morning, people congregate there to watch magnificent sunrises over the Sea of Clouds.
After Chen Yi (1901-1972, former Mayor of Shanghai and former Chinese Foreign Minister) visited Huangshan he said: “Huangshan ... the front part is majestic and the back part is beautiful.” This shows that there is a difference in the internal natural scenery of Huangshan Scenic Area. Some people say: the cream of the front is the three peaks (Lotus Peak, Heavenly Capital Peak and Jade Screen Peak) and the cream of the back is the two seas, that is, the West Sea and the North Sea.
East of White Goose Ridge, which is at the top of Cloud Valley Cable Way, is the Eastern Sea of Clouds. Looking east you can sea the clouds wreath over the valleys of Huangshan as it drops into the Anhui countryside. Looking east you are at the tallest point between Huangshan and the Pacific Ocean, and further east the mountains of Mexico.
People who have visited Huangshan all say: “The essence of Huangshan is in the clouds.” That is to say, the best views are in the high peak zone. In addition, it's best when it's cloudy. According to the experience of travelers, people who visit Huangshan must climb up the high peak zone, or they can't enjoy the best scenery. Now that cableways or telphers have been opened, travelers can take a bus from the hot springs to Cloud Valley Temple, and then take a cable car to White Goose Ridge on the East Sea.
West of Red Cloud Peak and Flying Over Rock is West Sea Scenic Area. Cloud Dispelling Pavilion, the ideal point for enjoying the scenery, attracts daily sunset watching crowds. It's a masterpiece made by God. If you enter Huangshan Scenic Area by the back gate or take a walk down to Pine Valley Nunnery, Taiping Telpher (Asia's longest telpher) is there to take you up to Cloud Dispersing Pavillion.
The best place for enjoying the scenery of the West Sea is Cloud Dispelling Pavilion. There are a lot of peaks like a forest of arrowheads. As the clouds move around in the wind, tier upon tier of mountains appear and disappear, looking like numerous islands on a boundless sea. When the sun sinks below the horizon, the mountains are aglow with sunset colors. To the south of Cloud Dispelling Pavilion there is the famous Flying Over Rock.
Figures in the Sea
When the Sea of Clouds rises to a suitable height, near and far mountains seem to drift and rise and fall in the sea. This looks like numerous islands in the sea, appearing and disappearing in the waves. The rock formation called Five Old Men Boating, at the foot of Gongyan Mountain, comes to life in the Sea of Clouds. The Fairy Walking On Stilts in West Sea Scenic Area appears to be walking on the clouds.
Between the three highest mountains, Lotus Peak (1873m), Bright Summit (1841m) and Heavenly Capital Peak (1800m), is Heavenly Sea, which is located in the middle of the other four “seas”.
Bright Summit is the spot to enjoy scenery in Heavenly Sea. Because the ground is high and spacious, it is the best place to watch sunrise and the Sea of Clouds. Huangshan’s weather station is located there.
Walking south from Bright Summit, travelers will descend One Hundred Step Cloud Staircase and arrive at Lotus Peak. Lotus Peak is sheer, tall, majestic, and looks like a young lotus. There are two surprises when people climb up to the top of the mountain. One is the scenery and the other is the array of padlocks on the chains marking the edge of the viewing platform. Young lovers or couples lock two padlocks together on the chains on all sides of the top of the peak, to show that they will love one another for ever. So here is an exhibition of padlocks.
On the cloud sea to the southwest of Bright Summit, a huge “turtle” (Turtle Peak) appears to be swimming amongst steep ridges and peaks. At sunrise or sunset, when rosy clouds may appear, radiant golden light glitters in the sky and mountains are covered with beautiful coats of many colors. The oddly-shaped rocks of Huangshan can appear more complicated and mystical with the flowing of the clouds. Oddly shaped-rocks become odder. This adds to the artistic appeal of Huangshan.