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Seeking natural beauty combined with history on Jinggangshan Mountain
Latest Updated by 2006-10-11 10:25:36
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Though the current 100-yuan note pictures the Great Hall of the People at Tian' anmen Square in Beijing, Jinggangshan Mountain on the older 100-yuan note is a greater lure for travelers seeking natural beauty combined with history.

Near the Hunan Province border, more than 60 percent of the mountain in western Jiangxi is covered by forests, with its highest peak standing 2,120 meters above sea level. The mountain is home to more than 2,000 rare plants and 840 animal species including the State-protected short-tailed monkey.

Locals call it a "green and red" place, since it boasts well-preserved virgin forests and is famous as the revolutionary base where the young Mao Zedong and other leaders set up the rural Jiangxi Soviet in the 1930s.

The main settlement in Jinggangshan City, also known as Ciping, is surrounded by five villages -- Big Well, Little Well, Middle Well, Lower Well and Upper Well. The mountain, literally "Well Ridge Mountain," takes its name from the villages.

Frequent tour buses run between scenic spots and Ciping, 862 meters above sea level. But it is greater fun to walk the mountain paths.

Of the five mountain passes, the most famous is the 1,343-meter-high Huangyangjie, locked in clouds and fog year-round. Locals also call the place "Wangyangjie," a place hidden in clouds like the sea. Back in 1928, the Red Army won a battle here over Kuomintang troops 10 times their number, for which Mao Zedong wrote a poem praising the gallantry of his soldiers. The stone stele, inscribed with Mao's poem, is never short of company as tourists wait in queues to take a snapshot.

Fresh air and vibrant green growth dotted with clear creeks surround Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) style houses in small villages. In spring, a sea of peach and azalea blossoms cover the slopes. The next stop is Little Well, six kilometers north of Jinggangshan City. Here the Red Army built its first hospital. The 32 rooms of Hongguang Hospital were once packed with more than 200 soldiers after each battle. The hospital is now a historical site open to tourists.

Further north is the grand view of five ponds at the base of 18 escalating waterfalls emptying into a canyon. Crabs and salamanders, paler than normal because of the minerals in the water, can be seen shuttling around the ponds. Fairy Pond, the most beautiful of the five ponds, is at the foot of a 40-meter waterfall. The pond was named for its resemblance to a fairy in white dancing on the rocks.

Six kilometers to the southwest of Ciping is the scene jumping off the back of the old 100-yuan note, the 1,586-meter-high Five Finger Peak. The Old Dragon Waterfall, plunging 150 meters down the crags, is the biggest in the mountain area. Covered by thick forests, the peak is off-limits to climbers.

But the view is easily enjoyed while cruising on Qunluan Lake (Group Mountain Lake), formed by damming the Jinggangshan River at the foot of the forbidden peak. The 5.3-kilometer cruise, costing 25 yuan, from the south to the north and west of the lake, is a refreshing experience after long hours of mountain climbing.

It's recommended that tourists stay overnight at Big Well to visit the mud-wall, tile-roofed houses once inhabited by Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Chen Yi and Peng Dehuai. For extended exploration, there's Yicui Lake Park, Jinggangshan Revolution Museum and Martyrs' Mausoleum.

You can well pay for a trip covering all the scenic spots with a 100-yuan note. But, alas, the old banknote is hard to find.

As bamboo covers the mountain, no wonder the plant is made into souvenirs ranging from a massage hammer to pen holders. As for local food, small restaurants prepare dishes cooked from home-grown vegetables. A specialty is pork stewed with slices of dried bamboo shoots. The dishes are strongly flavored with red chilies, a popular ingredient to ward off chills since the mountain experiences rain nine out of 12 months of the year.

Part of the green and red place, the local green tea "Jinggang Cuilu" (Jinggang greens) was savored by the late Marshall Zhu De back in 1962.

Take the Beijing-Kowloon Railway to Taihe, then go by bus to Jinggangshan City. Direct train service will open at the end of this year. The city can also be reached by flights from major cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

Food and lodging can be cheap, with some small inns charging only 30 yuan (US$3.75) per person per night except on national holidays. At the other end of the scale, a double room in a four-star hotel costs as much as 600 yuan a night during Golden Week peak travel times.

Editor: Donald

By: Source: Szdaily web edition
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