Thu, May 14, 2009
Lifestyle > Travel

Yin and yang in perfect harmony

2009-05-14 09:26:15 GMT2009-05-14 17:26:15 (Beijing Time)

Picturesque Hengshan Mountain offers an oasis from the summer heat.

Thank you for visiting my hometown Hengyang, a wonderful 2,000-year-old city in Hunan province, Central China.

Let me be your tour guide to this magical place located south of the lofty and beautiful Hengshan Mountains and on the middle reaches of the blue Xiangjiang River.

You may have heard the expression "yin and yang". It is part of Taoist philosophy that says everything in life is an interplay of two reactionary forces - the cool and hot, negative and positive, soft and hard.

Yin and yang even crops up in names of places, such as my hometown. Usually, if a city is located south of a mountain, or north of a river, the name will have yang in it. If the reverse is true, it will have yin.

For example, Luoyang, in Henan province, lies to the north of Luohe River, and Huayin, in Shaanxi province, to the north of Huashan Mountain.

My hometown, Hengyang, lies to the south of Hengshan Mountain.

Hengyang is the second largest city in the province with about 7 million people, but despite this is a very casual and relaxed city.

What makes it famous is Hengshan Mountain, also known as Southern Heights Mountain, which is one of the five sacred Buddhist mountains in China.

I'm not a devout Buddhist, but when I was preparing for my college entrance examinations, I felt so stressed that my mother took me to climb the mountain.

So let's go. It will involve a two-day trip, and at the foot of the mountain, you will see the biggest temple in southern China, the Grand Southern Heights Temple.

If you want, we can light a couple of joss sticks, kneel down in the middle of the temple, and pray.

The mountain is more than 2,000m high, and has 72 peaks in all.

We'll head to the highest peak, Zhurong Feng (Wishing for Harmony Peak) and stay the night. The following morning we'll awake before sunrise to an amazing view.

We will take a deep breath and be calm, just like the ancient monks.

Many visitors say they always experience a great sense of peace after visiting this sacred mountain.

I got a high score in my exams after my mountain visit, and finally made my way to Beijing.

Maybe, you will get lucky too.

Let me show you the wonderful local waterways. Xiangjiang River runs through Hengyang.

When I was a kid, I would sneak out after class and plunge into the river, even though swimming was banned.

To stop me, my mom told me a water-ghost lived in the river. "She only takes away kids," mom said. "Nobody knows what she looks like, because she never appears out of water.

"If you and your brother go swimming there frequently, she will know you. Someday, she will grab your feet with her cold hands, and you will never come out."

Let's take a stroll on a special pathway built along the river. This newly built walkway features ancient-style pavilions and sculptures, which tell the city's history. My hometown riverbank is a truly romantic place.

You can easily spend one week in Hengyang, visiting its marvelous mountains and peaceful river - and balance the yin and yang of your soul.

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