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Wushan Introduction

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   Wushan County is situated above the Yangtze on the north bank and embraced by lovely mountain peaks where flourishes the tung tree, whose oil was used for the caulking, oiling and Yangtze Rivervarnishing of junks and sampans. The small town of Wuxia,with l5,000 residents, is the county seat. Wuxia is the starting point for boat trips up the Daning River through the Three Little Gorges--the main reason for making a stop at Wushan.


  The town has existed since the latter part of the Shang dynasty (c. l600--l027 BC). ln the Warring States period (475--22l BC), the King of Chu established a palace west of the city. During the first century, the faith of the Buddha had reached China and many temples were built here, almost all the temples have been destroyed over the years. The name of the town originates with Wu Xian, a successful Tang--dynasty doctor to the imperial court, who was buried on Nanling Mountain, on the south bank opposite Wushan. A winding path with l08 bends--leads from the foot of the mountain to the summit where there is a small temple. This path was an official road through to HubeiProvince in ancient times.


  The streets of this long and narrow town are named after the 12 peaks of the Wu Gorge. The old houses are mostly two-storeyed, with central courtyards on whose walls hang baskets of dried medicinal herbs. The markets supply the essentials for mountain living--back-baskets, broad--brimmed woven hats with plastic or waxed paper crowns to keep off the frequent summer rains, plastic and straw sandals (best for coping with the slippery mud after rain) and agricultural tools. Several street dentists with pedal--driven drills await customers. Some house-holders still use traditional stone grinders and pounders to make their wheat-- and rice-flour. Although there is little Ieft of the many temples here, one may visit, weather permitting, Gaoqiu Mountain, to the northwest of the town. This was the site of the King of Chu's palace and of Gaotang Temple, built to commemorate the fairy goddess Yao Ji and Emperor Da Yu, Controller of Rivers. According to the Daoist (Taoist) legend, it was on this site that Da Yu camped while cutting the three Yangtze River Gorges.

   The energetic visitor may climb to the summit of Wushan (Witches Hill), a two-hour hike. Worshippers still come to a small shrine here, built within the ruins of an old Buddhist monastery. From the summit the views of Wu Gorge and the river are spectacular. A less strenuous outing may be made to the newly opened limestone cave complex in Wu Gorge high up on the cliff face above the north bank of the river. This involves a short boat ride from Wushan town, an easy scramble up the rocky slope and then a walk along the old towpath. Around the cave complex there are the usual teahouse and ornamental pavilions. The cave complex, Luyou Dong, is named after a Song-dynasty official who visited Wushan and left an appreciative record of his stay.