Here is a perfect place for a weekend mountain outing, where stillness and quiet allows you to hear the chatter of squirrels, the melodious singing birds, water lapping at a lake shore or a gurgling snow-fed stream, all the while breathing fresh air, viewing emerging new plants and flowers and enjoying nature’s bounty.
Mount Ling Shan
Mount Ling Shan is located near the western border of Mentougou District with Hebei Province, about 125 kilometres from Central Beijing. In the past, travellers to Ling Shan could easily spend five hours just getting to the road heading up the mountain. Now, the trip on G109 takes between 2.5–3 hours by car, depending on how often you stop to take in scenic views and old villages along the way. Buses from Pingguoyuan in Westcentral Beijing serve the area.
Ling Shan is special and different. Unlike other mountains, such as Xiang Shan or Baihua Shan, which have twisting lanes, paths, temples and historical sites, Ling Shan is like a giant dome and awaits you with the tempting scenery of alpine meadows, numerous smaller peaks, flowers and sometimes even domestic and wild animals. Expect larger crowds as the weather warms in spring into summer.
Ling Shan is an ideal summer retreat. It has an alpine climate and typical landform of a plateau with gentle slopes. The average temperature on Ling Shan can be 12 degrees Celsius cooler than in Central Beijing. A coat can be needed even in August to stay comfortable and safe. When Beijing is experiencing the extreme summer heat in July and August, Ling Shan is like springtime with dozens of wild flowers in bloom. Wreath goldenrods grow luxuriantly, alongside wild poppies, bristle grass and bright nasturtium on the mountain slope. In autumn, its 18 squares kilometres of mostly birch forests and seven square kilometres of wild grass yield a explosion of late-evening colour.
A Hint of Things Tibetan
In July and August, when flowers bloom on the mountain, a special Tibetan folklore festival is held. During this period, tourists can enjoy Tibetan-style songs and dances, campfires, shooting, yak races and other sports. You may even get a chance to taste original Tibetan butter tea and barbecue.
Some hikers who have been there said they did not see any kind of Tibetan scene, such as the Tibetan-style village or yaks, the “boat of the plateau” here. But some say they did see it. Therefore, take time to ask around and explore more deeply into this wonder.
Wildlife experts say that more than 700 animal species inhabit this natural environment, including foxes, eagles, squirrels and hares. An alpine meadow at an elevation of more than 1,900 metres is the only farm in Beijing for yaks.
To save time or for a quick view from a height, take Ling Shan’s chair lift to the 430 metre mark on the east side of the mountain. Built in 1997, the cableway is 1,548 metres long. Viewing the mountain from the suspended cable car, you’ll have a chance to experience the mountain’s majesty. Alas, some climbing is needed to get a view of the peak. Guided horses are available for children and those who can’t make the climb, for a price.
Plan a trip to Ling Shan that takes at least two days. It is possible to make a day trip of it from Central Beijing, but you’ll be in a rush. Stay in one of the area’s many new “mom and pop” family hotels or camp in a soft meadow to enjoy a sweet sleep rarely available in the city during the long, hot summer. A dark blue sky stubbed with shining stars may come as a bonus. Wear appropriate clothes for the season, and bring a good sleeping bag to ensure your slumber before waking to take in a sunrise like no other. Bring mosquito repellent during summer.
Cuandixia is a beautiful ancient mountain village close to Beijing. It is very small, only around 70 traditional court yards. It is renovated nicely and seems rather authentic.
Near Baihua Shan in Zhaitang Town, about 50 kilometres west of Beijing, nestled along the sides of a high but narrow valley, is Cuandixia, a village that dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). This ancient mountain village, the best preserved in China and overlooked by towering peaks with terraced orchards, covers an area of about 10,000 square metres.
Cuandixia has about 70 courtyard houses built of stone and timber that contain about 500 rooms. The houses feature vivid stone, wood and brick carvings, reflecting the ancient Chinese culture. During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), it was a distribution centre for businessmen, lending to its prosperity at that time. Because this village originated from one family, most of the houses are inter-connected. One can walk from one house to another, from one end of the village to the other, without using the main street. Peaceful and tranquil with distinctive character, this village is a “cultural pearl of ancient villages,” more commonly known as “The Ming Village.”
The character cuan means stove; the villagers named it Cuandixia in keeping with its sense as a shelter or respite from severe winters and the scourge of war. This village is great for hiking, offering a range of walks suitable for families as well as experienced walkers. The houses and buildings mirror the old Chinese architecture and have been well maintained despite their old age. Up until recently the village was home only to ethnic Han Chinese. There are mainly quadrangle dwellings and a few courtyards with houses on three sides. The houses, which are arranged in good order, have delicate gate piers as well as distinctive screen walls and, along with the stone, wood and brick carvings.
Keeping in step with the times and taking advantage of China’s reform and opening to improve their lives, the residents of Cuandixia Village decided to exploit the idea of folk-custom tourism to welcome tourists from home and abroad. In the evening, there are various amusements, such as outdoor movies and campfire parties. Now it attracts film crews and tourists looking for the charming China of days past. Among films shot in Cuandixia are Cell Phone by Feng Xiaogang and The Warlord by Chen Kexin.
Crumbling but picturesque, Cuandixia Village’s natural environment and distinctive characteristics make the old postal stop a popular tourism resort. It is an ideal two-day trip for those with a passion for Chinese vernacular architecture or those keen for a glimpse of life in rural China.
If you don’t have a car, you can get there by bus. Take buses 929, 326, 336 at Pingguoyuan in Westcentral Beijing, transfer at Hetan to a local bus to Cuandixia.
Baihua Mountain situated in Mentougou district, is a botanical garden that is famous for its beautiful and rare flowers. You can spot plenty of migratory birds in spring and autumn. With 1000 species of rare plants and 170 species of rare animals in the pristine greenery grants a heaven-on-earth feel to the traveler. From mountain peach to Wild Lilac, Peony, China rose, Wild Opium Poppy etc, flowers are always in bloom on Baihua Mountain according to their season. A special flower named ‘Tropaeolum’ that can be seen only at the altitude of 1800 meters to 2000 meters is also found here.
Mount Baihua Shan is reputed for its array of flowers and birds, some rare. Also in Mentougou District, about 110 kilometres from Central Beijing, it is the third-highest mountain in Beijing, with its peaks Baicaopan reaches 2,050 metres. It covers an area of 19.2 square kilometres, with 82 percent of that covered by vegetation. Baihua Shan is also famous as the “best forest bath” in Beijing suburbs. The forest here is dominated by pine trees, including the Chinese pine, and larches; the ground is dotted with wild flowers.
The main peak scenic area, Baihua alpine meadows, Baicaopan scenic area and Wanghailou scenic area are four top scenic areas, but there are 35 other scenic spots, among which are the Baihua alpine meadows, the Baihua Shan waterfall and ancient trees that jut into the sky. Enjoy sunrises in the clouds, exotic flowers, ant holes and ice as described below.
Baihua Shan is well-known for its flowers. Varieties bloom at various times, because the temperature varies greatly with the elevation of the mountain. In early March, mountain peach trees bloom first. As seasons and temperature change, flowers of every description decorate the mountain with a sea of colour, including roses, wild lilacs, wild peonies, red Jessamine and other species. Even in October, hikers can still view wild opium poppies. The most marvellous flower in the mountain is the nasturtium (tropaeolum), which can only be found between 1,800 and 2,000 metres.
This scenic area is a habitat for more than 170 kinds of rare animals, such as leopards, black storks, golden eagles, brown-eared pheasants and gorals. Other animals including foxes, roe deer, wild boar and wild goats also live here, along with more than 300 kinds of birds that gather here in spring and autumn.
Ant holes are peculiar on Baihua Shan. Thousands of holes lying adjacent to each other have been built by hundreds of millions of ants. The holes resemble small villages. The largest ones are three metres in diameter and one metre high and resemble pyramids.
There is a vast monument of ice, resembling a waterfall that never melts completely despite Beijing’s warm summers. Fifteen metres wide and 150 metres high, the icy waterfall is a favourite. Nearby, blooming flowers and flourishing trees add beauty to the scene.
Source: Beijing This MOnth
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