Fortunately, contrary to the popular opinion, the North East of China has got its fair share of both dramatic mountainous sceneries as well as the human-made architectural wonders, showcasing some of the prime achievements of Chinese civilization. There is one particular spot where the outstanding natural beauty and the cultural legacy coexist together, forming what is one of the most fascinating and thrilling travel destinations the country has got to offer. This place is called Qianshan.
The full name of Qianshan (千山) – Qian Duo Lian Hua Shan （千朵莲花山) literally means Thousand Lotus Flower Mountains. The lush vegetation covering the mountain peaks might be one possible explanation beneath this flowery name. The main scenic spots are located within the boundaries of the Qianshan National Park, situated 17km away from the nearest city of Anshan (鞍山), a rather soulless industrial town.
Fortunately, Qianshan National Park is close enough from Anshan to make it an easy trip by public transport to get there and far enough to fully escape the pollution and crowds of the city. Despite its relatively low elevation (the highest peaks climb only slightly above 700m), the park provides some interesting daily hiking opportunities in a dramatic rocky scenery, slightly reminiscent of such natural wonders as Huangshan or Zhangjiajie.
The network of steep and narrow paths guides the visitor through the arrays of peaks, rocks, pine forests and finally, the temples. Qianshan is one of the very few places in the World where the Buddhist and Taoist temples share the same area. It is thus not uncommon to descend from the Five Buddha Peak, pass by a small Buddhist shrine just to strike the conversation with a Taoist monk an hour later, while he takes a break from working in the temple garden.
One particular rock formation Qianshan is well-known for is the one claimed to resemble the image of Maitreya Buddha. As the Chinese are generally heavily obsessed with numbers and claiming top spots on the lists of the biggest, highest, grandest, longest and largest things in the World in all sorts of sometimes bizarre categories, this particular mountain is known as the “largest naturally occurring image of Maitreya Buddha in the World”. I wonder when someone will find an innocent rock lying on the roadside of the Chinese highway and call it “the largest naturally stone-carved face of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara located within the immediate proximity of one of the grandest engineering projects in the World”.
Jokes aside, if you try a little harder, with a little bit of imagination you might actually see the Buddha here:
While hiking on the steep and narrow trails of Qianshan is generally a nice experience, usual annoyances related to travelling in China apply. If you visit in the high season, you will find it hard to find the peace of mind, with all those loud groups of poorly behaving domestic tourists. With the easy cable car access, some spots are also a bit too heavily developed and take away quite a lot from the overall peaceful experience. Fortunately the level of annoyance and development is nowhere close to Bingyu Valley, another popular destination in Liaoning province and arguably the worst scenic spot I’ve ever been to in China…
If you are fit enough and not afraid of heights, my personal recommendation is to dedicate a few long hours and cover the whole park on foot instead of taking cable cars and electric tourist cars. Some steeper climbs are a lot of fun and offer a truly rewarding experience. The knee-killing descends are also rewarded by the endless opportunities to rest within the temple grounds and indulge oneself in the tranquil atmosphere of Buddhist and Taoist shrines. Preferably in the company of friendly monks. (Chinese language skills required!)
How to get to Qianshan?
From Beijing: dozens of high speed trains link Beijing with the capital of Liaoning Province – Shenyang. From Shenyang North Station you can take another high speed train to Anshan West Station. From there you can take one of the buses (such as number 22 or 9) to get to the city center. If you arrive in Anshan in the afternoon, it is advisable to spend a night in the city before setting off for Qianshan the following morning. Take the bus number 8 to get to the National Park (around 1h ride). Note that there two separate routes for the bus no 8. One goes past the Jade Buddha Temple and is the quickest option. The other one makes a larger loop and takes slightly longer to reach the final destinations. However, both buses eventually reach the same destination – the entrance to the National Park.
From Shenyang (provincial capital): take the high speed train to Anshan West Station from Shenyang North Station. It takes approx. 50 minutes to reach Anshan. From there you can either take the bus K1 which takes you directly to Qianshan or use the combination of buses mentioned above.
From Dalian: numerous high speed trains link Dalian Station and Dalian North Station with Shenyang. Several of them stop in Anshan. The whole journey takes around 1,5 hours. Adding the time spent on the buses linking the Anshan West Station with Qianshan National Park, it is possible to reach the park gates in approx. 3.5 hours since the beginning of the trip at Dalian North Station.
The nearest airport is located in Shenyang. Use the public transport to get to the Shenyang North Railway Station, from which you can take a high speed train to Anshan.
Plenty of buses linking Anshan with Shenyang and Dalian. The trains are a much faster and a more cost effective alternative though.
Have you been to Qianshan or anywhere else in the North-east China? How did you like it? Leave a comment and share your experiences with us!