Huashan is made up of five peaks, covered in snow in winter, of which the highest South Peak at 2,160 meters is also the highest of the Five Sacred Mountains of China. The mountain, 120 kilometers from Xian, is the site of several important Taoist temples and was traditionally a refuge for studying martial arts.
Xi'an – Fact Check

Getting high in China

Photo by Tao Ming

Xi'an – Fact Check Getting high in China

The 7,000-feet Huashan, near Xi’an, is the highest of the Five Sacred Mountains of China and well-known for its medicinal herbs

Sergi Reboredo
Sergi Reboredo Travel Photographer

The Five Sacred Mountains of China have long been places of pilgrimage and are strongly linked to Taoism, whose philosophy is based on a harmonious relationship between nature, humanity, and the divine. There is a mountain at each point of the compass, and its center. Huashan near Xi'an is the West Great Mountain, with Taishan in Shandong being East, and Songshan in Henan the Center. Hengshan in Hunan is South and Hengshan in Shanxi is North, less important than the others because it has long been hard to visit due to its remoteness.

These high peaks were seen in early belief as holding up the heavens, as well as a place to be closer to the gods. Worship at the mountains dates to at least 100BCE, long predating Taoism in an organized form, and has therefore been part of Chinese culture more than 2,000 years. Famous Taoist and Buddhist temples are associated with each, as monks were drawn to the remoteness and peace to be found there. Many places of worship were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and restoration has not always been sympathetic. They are also sources of medicinal herbs, with Huashan known for having 474 species of such plants.

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The Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show pays tribute to the time when Xi'an was at its height during the Tang Dynasty from 618 to 907. The city, formerly known as Chang'an, was the imperial capital during 13 dynasties and once one of the largest and most populous cities in the world.

How my hotel concierge helped me discover Xi'an beyond the Terracotta army

My hotel concierge, Xi Dan, is a convincing advocate for the charms of his home town. “Many visitors expect Xi’an to be an old and underdeveloped city,” he says. “In fact, it is very modern with good transportation. Compared with some other big cities in China, it is inexpensive and is comfortable, civilized and prosperous. It has four distinct seasons, but is not too hot or too cold.”