China’s Wudang mountains have been shrouded in mysticism for thousands of years. Located in central China’s Hubei province, this sacred place has long been known for its traditional Taoist culture. Many people in the history of China, including some emperors, sought out secrets in Taoist alchemy on Wudang, hoping to discover and achieve the ever-elusive realm of immortality.
These days people don’t go to Wudang under the guise of finding immortality. Rather they go to find knowledge and practices that will improve their health, to see the ancient architectural complex still in existence, be awe-inspired by the towering cliff temples, spend time at limpid waterfalls and experience first hand how Wudang Mountain blends in with nature harmoniously.
Originally called the Taihe Mountain it was renamed Wudang Mountain in the Song Dynasty some 1000 years ago. In 1994, the Ancient Building Complex on the mountain was included on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Noted temples include the Golden Hall, Nanyan Temple, and the Purple Cloud Temple.
Construction of the Ancient Building Complex started in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). During the reign of Emperor Taizong, the Five Dragon Ancestral Temple was built on Wudang Mountain. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), about 33 palaces and structures including the Yuxu Palace, the Grand Purple Cloud Palace, the Yuzhen Palace and the Palace of Harmony were built. Then the grand and magnificent building complex was formed. At present, the extant building complex includes the Palace of Harmony, the Grand Purple Cloud Palace, the South Cliff Palace, the Yuzhen Palace, relics of the Yuxu Palace and the Five Dragon Ancestral Temple, Xuanyue Gate (a huge archway) and the Fuzhen Temple.
Wudang Mountain, martial arts, noted for its exercise of the internal organs, meditation and breathing techniques, developed along with Wudang Mountain Taoism. Taoist priests have always put equal emphasis on spiritual practice and the promotion of the health. They derived the principles of for martial arts from Taoist theories and applied Taoist practical approaches to martial skills, thus gradually developing Wudang Mountain Kung Fu, which integrates ancient Chinese philosophy with extraordinary martial skills.
In the Ming Dynasty, Wudang Mountain Kung Fu reached its height through the outstanding efforts of a Taoist priest named Zhang Sanfeng, and gradually became one of the major schools of Chinese martial arts. If you have trained martial arts, you might remember seeing in movies the depiction of Wudang martial arts versus Shaolin martial arts. Where the Wudang arts are based in Taoism, its counterpart Shaolin was predominately Buddhist in practice. While this tension between the Chinese areas and schools makes for entertaining movies, there is little if any factual information to declare the depiction accurate. If you have seen the classic fabled martial arts movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the new rendition of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan, then in the filming you will see some temples and landscapes of mysterious Wudang Mountains.
The Hall of Yuzhen is the Cradle of Wudang Kung Fu. In 1417, Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhudi decreed Wudang to be the “Grand Mountain” and ordered the construction of the Hall of Yuzhen for Master Zhang Sanfeng. On January 19, 2003, Wudang Mountain’s 600-year-old Yuzhengong Palace was accidentally burned down by an employee of a martial arts school. A fire broke out in the hall, reducing the three rooms that covered 200 square meters to ashes. A gold-plated statue of Master Zhang Sanfeng, which was usually housed in Yuzhengong, was moved to another building just before the fire and so escaped destruction.
With a subtropical monsoon climate, Wudang Mountain can be divided into 3 layers of climate zones: with 1200-1600 meters above sea level, the annual average temperature of 8.5°C; with 750-1200 meters above sea level, the annual average temperature of 12°C; and with an altitude of 750 meters and below, the annual average temperature is about 15.9°C, sharing the same weather in other places of Shiyan city.
With pleasant weather of neither too cold in Winter or hot in Summer, Wudang Mountain is suitable for any time visit, especially in spring and autumn.