We all see them, the old Chinese scroll paintings depicting soaring, foggy, peaks with ancient pines, waterfalls dropping into mountain lakes, and we know it is the exaggerated fantasy allowed in art. But it’s not — it is real, and China’s Yellow Mountain, Huangshan, is the source of much of it. It is China’s most popular national park, and to visit is to know the country’s culture in a new way. For one thing, China’s engineers know how to build scary-but-safe trails on the faces of huge cliffs, and dare you to walk on them.
The overnight visitor learns that every pinnacle, crevice, cliff and promontory has its own weather. The wind and cloud that careens through the mountains interacts with every feature differently. Thus, when I went out early one morning into the storm covering the dramatic Huangshan gorge known as the West Sea, I knew not to give up. As I hiked along a narrow ledge, conditions got lighter but not better, and I began to think about turning back to a warm cup of tea. But Huangshan had other plans. I rounded a bend at a canyon overlook and the clouds swirled in the wind, allowing brief glimpses of one of China’s most fantastic landscapes. (Price Schedule B)