The Wudang Mountains stretch for 800 miles of spectacular scenery with secluded valleys, peaks, rugged hiking and stair climbing. It is mainly famed for its religious history as one of the centers for Taoism, tai chi exercise, and Taoist fighting styles. Now it is a place to hike and sightsee in northern central China.
There are about 72 peaks, about 24 streams, about 11 caves, and ponds. The main peak is called Tianzhu Peak. The other peaks surrounding it and the streams are a special sight.
It is now a national geopark famed for both its history and rocky rugged terrain. You can enjoy some hiking with less crowds than at the more famous national parks.
- Chinese 武当山 Wǔdāng Shān 'War Acceptance Mountain(s)'
- Special Distinction: It is a famous Taoist area and World Cultural Heritage.
- Key features: Steep and rugged hiking on paths and stairs. To hike up for even a few hours requires a lot of stamina. The rewards are amazing views and ancient architecture with active schools and temples.
- Highest peak: Tianzhu Peak (天柱峰) is 1,612 meters (about a mile high).
- Location: It's in the northwestern part of Hubei Province. It is in the eastern side of Daba Mountain and is a part of Danjiangkou City.
- Activities: strenuous nature hiking and seeing historical sites. Learning about martial arts. The locally produced tea is a good buy.
- Suitable for: fit hikers who want some solitude on weekdays or people wanting to sightsee around the local region. It isn't one of China's best natural parks.
- Expanding tourist industry: Wudang is increasing in popularity and becoming more like a tourist park.
Religious center: This was an important religious mountain in the dynastic eras. From the time of the Tang dynasty in the 600s, many temples, Daoist schools, and martial arts training schools were built there.
Martial arts center: One of China's two major types of kungfu was partly developed there. A popular legend is that a grandmaster developed tai chi (taiji quan) there, hence the alternative name Wudang quan ('Wudang fighting'). But most people say this legend is a myth.
Wudang Mountain's Major Architectural Attractions
The ancient architecture on Wudang Mountain has been listed since 1994 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the famous old temples and structures, famous Daoist leaders trained and lived centuries ago.
The buildings exemplify the Taoist ideal of "Zhenwu Training to be Immortal" with imperial architectural design laid out to match the surrounding landform. Some buildings are built on the peaks of the high mountains, some are between cliffs and in valleys, and some are in forests in harmony with nature. In China, it is thought of as a place that exhibits the high achievement of ancient Chinese architecture.
Top 3 places: Jin Ding, Nanyan Gong, and Zixiao are the three most popular.
Golden Palace (Jin Ding 金顶)
This is one of the most popular highlights, but it is also one that you have to hike to or pay extra for the cable car because no bus goes there. It is a nationally protected site at the top of Tianzhu Peak at an elevation of 1612 meters.
The Golden Palace was built in the 14th year of the Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (1416 AD). Inside there are three edifices that are 5.54 meters high, 4.4 meters long and 3.15 meters wide. All of them are of gilded bronze. It is said to be a world masterpiece of copper architecture. A hotel/boarding house is there. The entry fee is 20 RMB.
South Rock Palace (Nanyan Gong 南岩宫)
It is said to be the "Taoist sacred ground." They say that Zhenwu attained the way to fly and be immortal. People say that this South Rock Palace area has the best scenery. It was renovated in the 11th year of the Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (1413 AD). There are about 150 buildings such as palaces, housing for Taoists, temples and pavilions. It has a tablet with the words “Dasheng Nanyan Palace.”
In the 31st year of the Jiajing Period (1552 AD), the palace was enlarged. There were once 460 rooms. Stone Palace, Nantian Gate, Stele Pavilion and Liangyi Palace still exist.
Zixiao Palace (Purple Cloud Palace, 紫霄宮)
Built in the 11th year of the Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1413), it originally had more than 860 palaces, porticoes and pavilions. There is a tablet with the words "Taiyuan Zixiao Palace". Zixiao Palace backs against Zhanqi Peak and faces Zhaobi, Santai, Wulao, Lazhu, Luomao and Xianglu peaks. Leishen Cave, Yuji Pool and Baozhu Peak are on either side. The title, "Zixiao Merry Land," was conferred on the area by Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty. The entry fee is 15 RMB.
Xuanyue Gate is the common name for "Zhishi Xuanyue" Memorial Arch. It is a chiseled stone building with three rooms, four pillars and five floors. It was built in the 31st year of the Jiajing Period in the Ming Dynasty (1552 AD). It is 12 meters high and 12.8 meters wide. Four Chinese characters “Zhishi Xunyue” (Govern the World, Profound Name 治世玄岳) that were written by Emperor Jiajing are carved on a tablet.
Its full name is "Xuantian Yuxu Palace." It was the biggest building complex on Wudang Mountain. It was built in the 11th year of the Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (1413 AD) and renovated in the 31st year of the Jiajing Period (1552). The complex was built with 2,200 temples or rooms. Most of them were damaged in the 10th year of the Qianlong Period in the Qing Dynasty (1745 AD), so now there are four remaining.
Mozhen Jing Palace
It is also named "Chunyang Palace." It's 12 kilometers south of Laoying. The palace was first built during the Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty. The existing Mozhen Jing Palace was rebuilt in the 2nd year of the Xianfeng Period in the Qing Dynasty (1852 AD). In the 1984, it was renovated to be almost the same as before. There are over 50 rooms and a surface area of 1,700 square meters.
Taizi Po Palace
It was built in the 10th year of the Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (1412 AD). It is also called "Fuzhen Guan." It was renovated in the 1st year (1662 A.D), 23rd year, and the 29th year of the Kangxi Period in the Qing Dynasty. It is now smaller than it used to be, but it is still one of the larger building complexes.
Qiongtai Guan Palace
It is southeast of Tianzhu peak and about ten kilometers from it. It is at an elevation of 1,350 meters, and it has upper, middle and lower sections. It was called "Qiongtai Palace" in the Yuan Dynasty. Then during the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was renovated and enlarged for 24 Tao sanctuaries and hundreds of temple rooms. It was destroyed in the war of the 6th year of the Xianfeng Period in the Qing Dynasty (1856 AD). Some of the temple rooms have been restored. It is the starting point for a cable way for the Wudang Mountain Scenic Area, so it has become a tourist transport center nowadays.
Wulong Palace (Wulong means Five Dragons)
Wulong Palace is beneath the Lingying Mountain peak. During the Zhenguan Period in the Tang Dynasty (627-649), "Wulong Ancestral Hall" was built by imperial order. In the 10th year of Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (1412), about 215 temples, mountain gates and other buildings were built. There were about 850 rooms or buildings in the complex, but in 1930, this temple was also destroyed by fire. There are many relics and remains.
Rules for Visiting a Temple or School
Temple rules: There are rules and customs to follow when you enter a temple or school so as not to offend the people.
- Don't stand around the temple entrance and don’t make loud noises.
- There is a saying: "Monks don't tell their names, and Taoists don’t tell their ages." Taoists cultivate themselves for longevity and don’t like to be asked how old they are or about their life experiences.
- Don't use dirty words or curse...
Best Time To Go
- Best months to visit: April to May and September to October are the best times to visit. The weather is comfortable in autumn. The weather is cold and icy in winter. Rainfall increases during the height of summer.
- To avoid the crowds: Don't go on weekends and holidays. Hiking and sightseeing in the area is best done when it is quiet.
- Recommended duration: half a day to two days depending on what you want to see or do. If you want a quick visit, you can use the cable car. If hiking, you need at least half a day.
- Festivals: Other than the regular Chinese holidays, the main local festivals are the temple assemblies on March 3rd and September 9th in the lunar calendar and the yearly Wudang International Tourist Festival. Martial arts demonstrations are held often. There are also exhibitions of photographs of natural scenery.
Wudang Mountain has some sparsely populated places. Unless you are familiar with the area, it is best to not go alone or unprepared. You might get lost while trying to find some of these places especially if you don't read Chinese signs. You can hire a local guide. If it is icy, make sure your shoes have good traction, and if you are planning to hike around, go lightly and carry as little weight as possible.
Transport to Mount Wudang
The mountain is about 350 miles northwest of Wuhan in Hubei Province.
- Flight: The Wudangshan Airport is an option.
- Train: You could also take a train to Wudangshan Station, and then take bus 203 to the mountain.
- General admission tickets: Generally about 140 RMB or 22 USD.
- Entry for special sites: Purple Cloud Palace, 15 RMB. Golden Palace, 20 RMB.
- Cable car: 80 RMB up and 70 RMB down.
- Sightseeing bus: 100 RMB
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