By Amy Priestes
We at Fuzhou Expat thought it would be a great idea to inform our readers about two unique, scenic historical sites in Fuzhou: Wu Shan and Yu Shan. (For those of you who don’t know, “Shan山” is the Chinese word for mountain or hill.) One very unique thing about both of these hills is that they are right in the heart of Fuzhou, among the restaurants, shops, and people. They also are in close proximity to one another, so a busy sight seer could visit both these spots in one day.
And, just to make sure we have our facts straight, we took a day to trip to visit both small mountains. Though we had been to these places before, this was the first time to take a truly meticulous look at what these two little mountains comprise. So here are the results of our thorough Wu Shan Yu Shan investigation, plus advice for planning a day trip of your own!
Of course the most important thing to know before going anywhere is how to get there.
Wu Shan –
There are a couple ways to enter Wu Shan, the larger of the two parks. The main entrance is to the north, directly at the end of Three Lanes, Seven Alleys (aka San Fang Qi Xiang or Old Street). Also one can enter on Wu Shan Road. From Wu Shan Road, you can walk to the black pagoda and enter there, or you can find the Wu Shan Road Star Bucks and there is an entrance directly behind it.
Yu Shan –
An easy way to enter Yu Shan is to simple go to Wuyi Square and enter through the Yu Shan Temple or anywhere behind the Chairman Mao statue.
Our Journey Begins…. So get your hiking shoes ready!
What’s the best way to start a day of heavy sightseeing? How about a bunch of caffeine! And so, our journey begins at our meeting point, which was Starbucks just off of Wu Shan Road. This Starbucks is special though, its decor is designed to resemble old China, with lattice windows and dowry chests used as tables; its wall-length windows, spacious interior, and surrounding greenery give a good ambiance to start the day.
Black Pagoda – The Leaning Tower of Fuzhou
It was a short walk to the black pagoda which we could see towering just behind the shopping center. Most every Fuzhou resident, expats included , has seen the black pagoda, if not up close then at least from a distance. But how many actually know it’s story? Nick had done some research before coming out to the sight and filled me when we got there.
Black Pagoda’s History and Facts
- It’s seven stories high. Pagoda’s are always built with an odd number of floors, this is for good luck. You’ll not see them eight or six stories, always five, seven or nine.
- The black pagoda was originally supposed to be nine stories high, but the builder died before it was finished. The builder was the son of the 1st king of the Min Kingdom, King Wang Shenzhi. The son was killed by his own men during a coup and therefore was not able to complete more than seven tiers of the tower.
- The word “Min” in “Min Kingdom” is another name for Fuzhou.
- There are 46 Buhdhas located throughout the tower.
How about those poles, what’s going on with the Black Pagoda these days?
As you might notice, there is one thin pole running along the side of the Black Pagoda. This thin, string like pole has been put in place to give support to this old relic because it has started leaning like the Tower of Pisa!
You may find yourself wondering how such a thin pole is meant to give support to such a massive structure. I suppose the constant pull in the right direction, the effect of a small effort over time, can make all the difference.
While looking at this tower with these tiny, but constant forces pulling at it, I begin to reflect on the people in my life. One could benefit from having friends are like those poles, always guiding you back in place when you start to lean the wrong way.
Exploring Wu Shan
Luckily Fuzhou has a lot of cool overcast days, perfect for hiking and climbing stairs, like the many stairs you will find in Fuzhou’s parks and mountains. I was happy we had picked one such day to explore Wu Shan.Walking around Wu Shan you will see many signs telling you things about the park and with arrows pointing in all strange directions. I found it interesting all the different names they gave to rocks, platforms and such: Highest Wisdom Plateau, Sweet Potato Pavillion, Stone Heave Scenic Spot.
So here’s a little tip if you ever go to Wu Shan scenic spot: Pay little heed to the signs! First off, the English translation is very poor, so poor that you often can’t make out the meaning. Secondly, if you do make out the meaning, the information that is written there is not always relevant. I mean that they will talk about super famous people that every Chinese person knows, and people no one has ever heard of and there is no specification as to which person is which. And on one occasion it seemed the sign referenced something that was not even there. Perhaps the writer of these signs just had a good sense of humour.
Here’s one example of sign:
Notice it talks about a pavilion and “why to build such a pavilion”, and the inscribed “Tranquil Environment” on the stone wall. Well, we looked all over for this pavilion or this stone wall, and couldn’t figure out why where it was. Then we came back, read the last phrase of the sign, and it all made sense. (In a joking kind of way, that is.) The last phase states, “which is lost today”. Perhaps that “lost today” refers to the entire pavilion!
And lastly about the signs, don’t trust the arrows! Arrows point in all kinds of directions but they can be very deceiving, what looks like it might be the right direction might take you out of the park into a residential area or some other direction you don’t intend to go.On a more serious note, we were able to find plenty of tranquil environments everywhere throughout the park! The Wu Shan scenic spot is a great way to escape the city for a moment.
Another sign mentioned an “81 Step Path” with an arrow that seemed to be pointing down to the base of the mountain. So, being a bit naive, I figured that the meaning was that there were 81 steps from that sign to the base of the mountain. Well there were 94 steps actually. I was, however, able to get a nice picture of the North, main entrance of the mountain, after climbing down, counting those stairs. It wasn’t till half way through our hike that the meaning of “81 Steps” came clear to us. It refers to the 81 steps to reach Nirvana or some meaning along this line. The Chinese are very poetic, and this is reflected in their style of writing, which is beautiful, but sometime confusing when translated to English.
The park is pretty expansive; it’s a good place to go one day when you want to skip your regular workout routine. It’s also shady, peaceful and has relatively fresh air compared to the urban surrounding. So this would be a good place to go with friends for a picnic, to read a book or for a peaceful walk to clear out your mind. There are also a few small museums located on this mountain as well, but if you go there, make sure you can read Chinese or bring a Chinese friend with you because there are not English translations.
Here is a summary of some of the Wu Shan highlights and a few historical facts (you can click the pictures to enlarge them):
The main temple on WuShan is a Taoist temple with somewhat controversial stories depicted on the front side. The temple was closed due to renovations on our trip to Wu Shan, but we could still see the stories on the wall. These stories are about extreme filial piety; what makes them controversial is the often extreme measures that sons should go through to make parents happy. Some stories of this nature have included things such as a child gauging out his eyes in order to use them as bait to catch fish. We didn’t see anything so extreme on this wall, but the pictures were still interesting. This picture below shows a son who is at the grave side of his mother. She used to be afraid of storms, and it is storming in the picture, so the son is by his mothers gave during the storm to keep her spirit from being afraid. These stories have Chinese captions written on them, but they are not written in modern vernacular mandarin, they are written using ancient characters and styles so that it is extremely difficult for even a very well educated Chineseperson to read.
Wu Shan Historical Museum:
In the Wu Shan museum, you can learn a lot about local history…that is if you can read Chinese, so if you can’t be sure to bring a Chinese friend along to accompany you.
You will see statues of Wu Zhu, who was actually an indigenous Fuzhou native. He is famous for developing Fuzhou during the Han Dynasty. Back in his time, during the dawn of Chinese civilization before the Qing Dynasty, Fuzhou was full of indigenous people, and because Fuzhou was surrounded by mountains, it was often left out of the political atmosphere of the time. This man was able to change the map of Fuzhou by cooperating with the main power in China at that time.
Then there is Wang Shang Zhi, 862-925, who was also responsible for major develope and the civilization of Fuzhou during the song dynasty. The man made major changes to relax the tax code, brought irrigation, developed ports, and of course cooperated heavily with the governing power in China at that time.
Then perhaps the most interesting thing you will find there is a little sky view model of ancient Fuzhou. It’s quite a surprise to see what Fuzhou looked like so long ago. Here you can see the two towers, and where the gate between the two towers is located. Where that gate is located is now the bus stop called Nan Men, which means South Gate. Also you can see Fuzhou’s three small mountains and the old wall surrounding the city.
We saw this sign with no arrows just saying toilet. Surely they can’t mean this bush? But we followed a few flights of near by stairs to find a well maintained toilet area as pictured below.
Fuzhou’s Banyan Trees
Fuzhou’s city tree is the Banyan tree; Fuzhou’s nickname is even called Banyan City. Here in Wu Shan you can see many of Fuzhou’s beautiful banyans!
Other Scenic Spots
You can see many other beautiful places and from some places you can get a view of Fuzhou’s skyline including Fuzhou’s tallest building. Below: a view of Fuzhou’s tallest building, the Looking Farm Plateau (I’m sure you can imagine where this may have gotten it’s name), and a few picnickers near the Plateau of Many Wisdoms. (Click to enlarge image)