Unrestored stairway to heaven

( China Daily )

Updated: 2009-11-12

Unrestored stairway to heaven

Purple Cloud Palace's appeal is primarily colored by fantastic feng shui.

The compound's geomantic exceptionalness is centered on the fact that it is smooshed between a canal and an alp.

Bounded by the Spread Flag Mountain and Jinshui Moat is a slew of Wudang's best-preserved ancient buildings, none of which have ever been restored.

For centuries, this sacred spot has been a place of pilgrimage for devout Taoists.

Thousands of believers pass through its gates on the third day of the third month of the lunar calendar - the date Zhen Wu is said to have first come to Wudang Mountains - and the ninth day of the ninth month - the date he is said to have become an immortal.

Chaobai Palace was constructed for common wayfarers in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

During this time, only the emperor and ministers could proceed past this holy structure to Zixiaodu (Purple Cloud Palace), the largest surviving edifice of its kind from the period.

An inscription above the building reads: "The Purple Cloud Palace is the place nearest to heaven".

After the Ming Dynasty, commoners could enter a smaller side door, while the massive main gate remained reserved for the imperial order.

Both sides of Zixiaodu's rooftop are beset with ceramic statues of the Taoist god Jian Ziya's two sons.

Legend has it that he forgot to give his offspring immortal names, so he entrusted them with the task of guarding the sacred vase precariously perched atop the roof's vertex. As long as the vessel remains balanced and stable, Wudang Mountains will not experience war, the folklore says.

The Purple Cloud Palace is located near Jing Le, the kingdom of which Zhen Wu was a prince before he foreswore his crown in favor of spiritual self-cultivation.

Aside from this, there's little history in Jing Le.

But since opening to the public in 2007, it has lured both travelers and filmmakers, who come for its stunning scenery and to catch glimpses of the more than 500 Tibetan macaques roaming these forests.

Jing Le also hosts daily performances of the indigenous kungfu taijichuan.

Visitors can stroll through the set of popular kungfu TV drama series Tulongji, which is also where celebrated American actor and film producer Will Smith last month finished shooting Kung Fu Kid, a remake of the 1984 epic Karate Kid.

Erik Nilsson

(China Daily 11/12/2009 page19)

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