– or is it the Eyes that Look at Heaven?
Two tall peaks, each with a pool of water at the top, gave the ancients the inspiration for the name of this mountain range in Zhejiang Province near Hangzhou. Then the mystery thickens, because it is for us to find out their meaning – if heaven is looking at us, or are we looking at heaven, or is this the portal where we discover our oneness in everything?
A note on the road
The road up Tianmushan has more than 200 hairpin turns, all with mirrors installed at the bend, which is more like a tight u-turn that turns upwards than anything else. Be prepared to hang on to something as you whirl your way up. Once you are in the nature reserve, the path is also tricky. The stones are not flat, and the stairs are steep and long. Be prepared for a workout. If you do wear out, there are mountain walkers who carry bamboo chair frames, and will carry you out for a fee.
If you are deep in the mountains and there are many stairs to climb it might cost a lot, so it is better to ask about the various turns in the road. At one the people coming back up from the lower areas told us that it was very very steep and not worth going. Now – that is all in the eye of the beholder. Our group tramped through it all. On the way up from the steepest set of stairs I praised my bamboo walking stick on each step. You can buy a lovely bamboo walking stick for one rmb in the parking lot at the entrance area. I couldn’t be parted with it at the end of the day – it had become an old friend. It now sits in the dining room and I send it love and affection every time I walk by it. The red painted character on the rock is “chan” – the Chinese name for Zen (Buddhism), which originated in China.
Here we are with the King of Trees, the oldest tree in the park, now very elderly and barely alive, and my Bamboo Staff, bless its heart. The King of Trees is an ancient Cryptomeria whose bark has been removed by years of pilgrims who believe that it will cure leukemia.
Fog and Mist
A famous poet wrote “there is no way to know the mountain’s true face!” The mountains south of the Yangzi are often in the mist, floating in and out, clearing a little, then closing in. There is no way to know the true face of this mountain either, and I wondered if there would ever be a clear day when you could gaze into the eyes of heaven. This weekend we had thick mist and clouds so dense that we came out of our walk as if we had a shower in spite of the fact that it wasn’t raining. I want to see the eyes-of-heaven ponds, so I am going to have to go back. This trip was spent getting acquainted with the mountain face itself, but we must have been crawling on the chin, cheeks and nose! Next time I will climb up to see the mountain’s eyes in person.
Haven for endangered species
The Eyes of Heaven mountain range is a glorious mix of rare and unusual species all thriving together in one luxuriant span of mountainous verdant green. There are 39 “endangered and protected” animals in the range, 3 varieties of plants with the highest level of state protection, as well as 15 other varieties at the second level of protection.
For in the true nature of things,
if we rightly consider,
every green tree is far more glorious
than if it were made of gold and silver.
– Martin Luther