Existing in an Chinese painting is an interesting experience especially when joined by thousands of others. The mountains in Anhui Province are legendary: Huangshan or Yellow Mountain is an iconic place... they say there are five mountains in China you must see before you die, but if you visit only one -it should be Huangshan. When you see Chinese Landscape paintings - particularly on a vertical scroll - again and again you see stylized representations of Huangshan. Vertical granite walls, organic sculpted pine trees framing the views, accented by variable cloudscapes, these define this archetypal mountain landscape. After seeing so much Chinese art, it is especially interesting to feel like you were IN a painting.
The place exists on its own but more intensely, it exists as part of a cultural landscape, one that has intense meaning for a few thousand years. Many trees and places are named and there are the 5 places that must be seen. We got lucky, the weather was clear, it is usually rainy but that prevented our seeing "the sea of clouds", one of the 5. The paved stone walkways were PACKED with people, it felt like a city park - maybe more like National PARK but with its urban park meaning. People were so excited to be there- it felt more like a pilgrimage - place as deity - than a typical mountain experience.
There are no roads, just stone paths and a few cable car routes. There are hotels and restaurants where EVERYTHING is carried up by hand - by these very tough guys (young and old) who carry 50 kg loads on a bamboo pole. A major hotel is being built with ALL materials carried up by hand. That alone, made every bite of dinner especially tasty and poignant.
The translation of iconic and traditional chinese places into modern tourism was interesting and telling of the transformations underway in Contemporary China. An efficient system of buses, trains, cable cars, hotels, and souvenir shops are in place to allow the maximum number of people to enjoy the place. Of course, with a 2-1/2 hour wait for the cable car on a Saturday morning in the summer (the worst possible timing) us masses may have to wait a while for the experience. With patience, we will have it and the pictures to memorialize our time with the mountain.