Cangyan, the balancing temple of Tiger and Dragon (and Yujia)


Each day of this trip to Tibet brings a surprise and that we have not yet approached even its skirts. If yesterday we were privileged to enjoy the experience of sleeping in a Zen temple at the Bailin Monastery, today we have reached the best example of rural population of northern China, the beautiful town of Yujía, with more than 4,000 houses, a paved street of 3700 meters long slabs, more than 1000 stone wells and pool, and 200 steles, ALL STONE! Though the best was yet to come in the Cangyan mountains ... . Did anyone know the location of stage of the famous Ang Lee Tiger and Dragon movie where a temple-bridge seems to play balance over 50 meters above the ground on a cliff?

The fast train has literally "flown" to leave us already in the heart of Xi'an where we will go to sleep in a little while, now if, in what will be (and should be) the starting point for our "Tibet target" .

Yujia village, the stone city of China

We talked yesterday about our little "dive" explorer through this China of Hebei province that barely appears on tourist routes. Today more than ever we can say with conviction that, if your trip passes through Beijing and you are looking for authentic experiences like the ones Irene de Youlan Tours advised us, these 2 days / 1 night (and what night) between the Bailin and Yujia Monastery / Cangyon Mountains They will be the best investment of your trip. To Yujia, after breakfast, we have set a very early course to take advantage of the day.

ALTITUDE 131 m Yujia Village or Shitou Village (or sometimes Yu Family Stone City) is located in Jing Jing County, 80 kilometers from Shijiazhuang and is the only nationally protected old town in Hebei. But Yujia It is not a charming town in China anymore like the ones we can find in old municipalities of Beijing, Shanxi or Yunnan, Yujia it's a really unique population and it is barely 1h15 min from where we started

Definitely the time we are in Shanghai It was an exception and the sun does not leave us (and it seems in the forecasts, it will not) for these days. So, we started our walk throughShenxiange (also called Qingliangge), the most important monument of the village dated from 1581.

Legend has it that this 3-story building was intended to be the largest, architecturally speaking, with 9 floors but the villagers could never be finished, completing a third wooden floor. The flag of Qingliangge is original because it has no foundation, it is simply based on large rocks.

The life and customs of Yujia have remained completely intact and far from mass tourism (it is rarely visited) and preserve the "old china" that we are looking for, that where the farmers settled more than 500 years ago in one of the most remote areas of the country and take care of their flock and their vegetable fields. The best view is obtained from the upper floor of the same Qingliangge.

We are in a true "stone city" with its 4000 stone houses, its paved stone slab street of 3,700 meters long, more than 1000 stone wells and pool, and 200 stone steles, in addition to many more details that we observe as we go through the interior of the Heaven Gods Temple or the Zhenwu Temple, which are still preserved

You can also see other small shrines and ancient monasteries that survive the times with more than 1,000 years

Another of the most impressive buildings is theSihelouyuan (set of 4 buildings). It is an immense stone construction dating from the late Ming dynasty and includes about 100 pieces in almost 1,000 square meters. It also stands out especially the roof of the second floor of the Guanyin Attic, endowed with mysterious and magnificent holes in the stone object of devotion by the locals.

It's around 10'00 when the town has run out of time and it's time to head to our next destination. That if, for those who want to deepen, also has a museum at the top of its west entrance.

The Cangyan mountains and the temple-bridge in balance of Tiger and Dragon

Today, in that 1h15 min that separates Yujia from Cangyan Shan, I remembered with love one recurring conversation with my parents (since his trip to China a few years ago) in which we talked about "How much China unknown to foreigners" remains to be discovered. Every time a new documentary appears on the Travel Channel or new images of areas so far forgotten appear, we put our hands to our heads and release a "we have to go". Those of us who have seen movies like Tiger and Dragon of Ang Lee were already hallucinating with the scenes chosen for filming such as the Anji Bamboo Forest in Jiangsu or others that took the hiccups of the Anhui and Hebei provinces in which we are these days.

It's 11:15 when we're sure that We will take the "Indiana Jones hat" of the Keys logo to undertake that visit with an adventurous soul full of mysticism and mystery

exist 2 ways to plan a visit to the Cangyan mountains in search of that famous temple-bridge resting on the cliff with an arc that seems to make impossible balances (and that is the scene of Tiger and Dragon): by cable car and / or up stairs(and the combination of both). We, almost blindly, have succeeded in pure chance in which we believe is the best way: going up by cable car where you will have the best views of what awaits you (and you will contextualize the environment) to make the path along the edge of the cliff, really spectacular and scenic, and then descend to the temple and another 360 steps to the base again

But where are we?the Cangyan mountains, which have the literal name of "green cliff", are an extraordinary combination of Buddhist spirituality, nature and cliffs at the eastern end of the Taihang mountain range.


It is important to know that this place, despite not appearing on the traditional routes for foreign tourists (in fact, we have not seen the first) if it is famous among the Chinese themselves so it is convenient avoid weekends, holidays and annual events because it can become very crowded. Today we were lucky and there are hardly any people, we were even the only ones getting on the cable car.

These ingredients provide the setting for a truly magical atmosphere from the moment you "float" in your cable car and begin to see the impressive buildings embedded in perfect harmony with the mountain on a 1,000-meter peak where 3 Buddhist temples stand out above the others.

In this high part they are the most renovated temples among which the Temple of the Lying Buddha or that of the Tomb of the Princess stands out, to which you still have to ascend from the station where the cable car leaves you (and with this heat),

From this moment, one is lost by the road that borders the cliff among the most visited buildings to get one of the most impressive views of the valley

Though the best moment comes when we begin the descent along the cobbled path that takes us to that great temple in balance that we are looking for and that, at times, makes its way into the rock itself

The smell of incense becomes more noticeable throughout this circular route through the gorges, wrapped in a halo of mystery, dotted with pagodas that are part of the landscape and full of temples dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties They still retain their old frescoes.

This area is really amazing. The structures make impossible balances with the gorge embedded in rocky walls. We are touring that image that we saw from the cable car when we climbed

A last staircase carved in the stone it separates us from that iconic image that we had in our head when we met the existence of this place

Its about Exact place from where they recorded the final scenes of the famous movie "Tiger and Dragon" that brought this place to fame, something like what happened with Petra after "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". In the distance we begin to intuit the famous and historic Fuqing Temple

We still have a tour of the rock walls so, after seeing a stand, we decided to replenish energy.

The last part of the road is to enjoy and not stop taking photos, surrounded by white sandalwood trees, waterfalls, mountain streams, cliffs and springs.

We even see ancient cypresses of about 2,000 to 3,000 years old who have lived the longest history of the place

Temple of Fuqing and the Qiaolou built on a unique stone bridge

If I'm already convinced, every trip that goes by reaffirms me more than when you don't have many expectations of a place, it ends up being that wonder that you don't forget (and when you wear them very high, you usually disappoint with rare exceptions). To the Cangyan mountains we could have come perfectly to travel a path of mystery, to enjoy the spirituality of this complex of temples embedded in an area that is a true natural wonder but a beautiful temple over a stone arch bridge has insisted on eclipsing all of the above

We are in the historical Fuqing Temple or also called Temple of Fortune Celebration It is made up of Dafo Hall, Yuanjue Hall, Lingguan Temple, Guandi Temple, Cangyan Tower, Princess Memorial Hall, Qiaolou and other structures.

However is that Qiaolou, a two-story building that houses the statues of Sakyamuni and eighteen arhats on a 15-meter light bridge (decorated with beasts, horses and humans) and "hung" over the cliff over 50 meters, which was initially built in the Sui dynasty (518-618) where Princess Nanyang practiced Buddhism. It is estimated that around 365 blocks of stone were used in its building.

Leaving aside the Princess Memorial Hall where the murals tell stories of Princess Nanyang with the cave where she is said to be sleeping, in the back 360 stairs descend that take us to the base where we started two and a half hours ago this journey and from where many begin their walk (inverse to ours and uphill).

There are experiences associated with hidden places, usually hermits, that have fascinated me greatly in my travels: The Monastery of San Jorge de Cobizain Palestine, the Byzantine set of “the Church of San Simeón"Stylite in the ill-fated Syria, the world center of Zoroastrianism in the world ofChak chak in Iran or even the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria The secrets of the Cangyan mountains are already part of that "particular collection" for adventurous souls I'm passionate

RESTAURANTS IN CHINA | CANGYAN SHAN: Danianfang, one of the many that is next to the large parking lot adjacent to the base cable car station, chosen by Zoe with great success

At this point of travel, and after ordering Sele as 5 or 6 dishes at the typical rotating round table (and I a good beer) I have to say that Chinese food has nothing to do with what they "sell us in Spain". I love it, very healthy and based on vegetables, noodles, rice, chicken and veal

1 hour separates us from Shijiazhuang so we can't get confused in case we catch some big traffic jam. It's around 14.20 when we take the road again, this time looking for the train station

Fast train from Shijiazhuang to Xi'an

ALTITUDE 405 m 16.05 and the huge Shijiazhuang Central Station (different from the one we arrived yesterday before going to the Bailin Monastery which was minor) makes us feel small. Luckily, with the help of Zoe (of which we already said goodbye - she returns to Beijing -, thank you very much for everything!) And that we have already done with the meaning of the tickets and the stations, we do not get nervous because It would be for it.

Are the 16'58 when the bullet train leaves for our destination, Xi'an, which for us is the perfect starting point for a trip to Tibet. There are more than 800 km traveled in just 4 hours and 13 minutes. That's how nice to travel

After 9:15 p.m., Ángela (Spanish name of an unpronounceable one, as they usually do) awaits us, introduces us a little in the plan to meet Xi'an, who had a great desire for a long time and takes us to our hotel ... IN FULL CENTER! Is the Bell Tower Hotel Xi'an and his name is no accident because it is next to the Bell Tower of the city.

We are exhausted! Although we can't complain since we came in the Finnair business, we had one good night on the night train from Shanghai to Shijiazhuang and the great experience of sleeping in a Zen temple at the Bailin Monastery, today is the first day we take a hotel (with hot water and amenities). He atmosphere that the city breathes is extraordinary although the forces give us for dinner and little else.

RESTAURANTS IN CHINA | XI'AN: Muslim Yang Dumpling Restaurant, in the opposite corner of the street to the hotel and A GREAT ACCESS. We had dinner for just 93 CNY of all-inclusive beer in a super-cozy terrace.

By the way, if someone drops down here, don't hesitate to ask for the tasty skewers they make (order 5 or 6, which are small)

Tomorrow I will fulfill another dream, finally knowing the Terracotta Warriors so many times heard and never visited. We say goodbye to a new day of great surprises, thatexample of rural population of northern China, the beautiful rural town of Yujía, the stone city and VERY SPECIALLY those Cangyan mountains and its temple-bridge in balance on the cliff and its mystery halo. To sleep! Chin Chin

Isaac (with Sele), from Xi'an (China)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 93 CNY (approx. 12.40 EUR)