Monday June 20, 2016

The Natural Beauty of China

As an adventurer on the quest to explore the natural beauty of China, it is easy to be blinded by the ever-expanding modern cities that can overlook what is at the core of the landscape. These beautiful sceneries range from forests to deserts to mountain sides. Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is among the top of many lists as being one of the best places to travel to when looking for nature within China. With accessible peaks reaching 1,864m above the world below, Yellow Mountain offers an omniscient feeling of mystery and grace. I was given the opportunity to explore the mountain first-hand through a planned excursion with the University of Dayton China Institute. The base of the mountain is surrounded by towering lines of mountains for as far as the eye can see. The mystery of the granite peaked mountain revolves around the never-ending mist that encompasses it over 250 days a year. The mist is so deep that at times you cannot see 20 feet in front of you! It sets a scene for being wrapped up in the mystery of what lies within the mist and leads to your own personal reflection on the serenity of what surrounds you. When the mist finally clears, even if it is for a blink of an eye, the never-ending valley below can now be seen. A beautiful, unbelievable sight that was there the entire time, only to be hidden by the mystery of the mountain once again.

The mountain is explored by constructed paths that are encompassed by never-ending pine trees, to paths that are hanging off the side of a cliff that may or may not have several hundred feet between you and the ground below. It provides a sensation of heart pumping fear that an explorer lives for. As the day went on, the mist started to clear out entirely, providing a completely different set of sensations. The traveled paths before were almost completely different, you could now see the extreme height of the peaks on one side and the never-ending drop to the ground below on the other. You could finally feel the warmth of the sun through the once impenetrable mist. The mountain now had a scenery that allowed you to respect the opposite spectrum of its draw to everyone who visits. I was given the opportunity to actually stay on top of the mountain among these sights at a hotel that almost seemed completely out of place as there was no obvious road or quick access to the top of the mountain. With this realization, you understand how impressive the hotels were and how the entire mountain was. Each path had stairs and concrete to support the never-ending visitors and had unexpected amenities, such as hot water. By staying the night at the mountain, the opportunity to experience the stories about the "sea of clouds" at sunrise was breathtaking. At 5:05am, the sun began to rise from beneath the very literal "sea" of clouds. It was like an oceanside sunrise, except with rolling clouds acting as the sea. All of this mixed with the surrounding mountain peaks provided a scene that will never be forgotten.

While the mountain is full of unbelievable sights, it is hard to truly understand its immense size until after one and a half days of hiking the paths, and then you realize you haven't seen more than ten percent of the mountain. Traveling to Huangshan provided me the capability to see the natural beauty of China. It was an experience that will change my overall thoughts about the vast amount of different scenery you can actually find within the country. Even as you make it down the mountain and travel back to modernization, you can see the effect of legends on the culture of China, even the legend of a mountain. All of the surrounding houses and buildings around the mountain are painted in a white and black color code to resemble the mist and mystery of the mountain itself. Some of the building even date back hundreds of years. A mountain with the capability of influencing a culture that survived the hardships of China's past and remained at the core of the people. A mountain that can inspire all who visit.

Matthew Martin, Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering

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