AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Mt. Qingcheng & Dujiangyan

For detailed information on how to do this trip see our tips section here.

Months ago, back in the UK, I’d looked up places to visit in China by going through the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. One place listed was Dujiangyan Irrigation System. It looked quite out the way to visit, and it’s also something that’s not so impressive to look at. It is basically an engineering masterpiece which can only be understood by reading about it rather than looking at it. However, I wanted to go. So, imagine my delight when I found that a high-speed train exists, direct from Chengdu to Dujiangyan. Excellent I thought, we must go! A bit of reading told me that it was also near a popular mountain and the two are best combined into a day trip.

So at 8:30am we were boarding the high-speed train to Qingcheng (in Chinese Q is pronounced like ch. So it’s pronounced like Ching Cheng). Almost the whole line was elevated above the trees and we glided in comfort at 200kph to our destination. A bargain at £1.50 each. We arrived an hour later at a glistening new station in Qingcheng.

We caught the bus to the base of the mountain. A group of people who spoke no English did their best to make sure we knew where we were going. They pointed at their leaflets which had the name of the mountain written in English. The bus was a flat rate 20p and as we found out later only went to the mountain by request, usually it went the opposite direction into town. Very helpful of them to make sure we were going the right way.

That morning it had been dark, cloudy and chilly in Chengdu so we’d taken our fleeces for warmth. We’d given no thought to the sun. That was a very stupid mistake for us to make. By the time we reached the mountain the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It’s the end of May and we are quite far south, the sun can do some serious damage here! We had the umbrella in the bag (which we bought on the Nepalese/Tibet border when we were unexpectedly caught in a downpour with no waterproofs) which Annemarie could use to keep the sun off her. I would have to buy a hat and let my arms take the punishment. My arms can take the sun without burning but obviously there’s other dangers than just burning, but that’s my fault. Suncream is impossible to buy. Many Chinese are now quite white (thanks to the whitening they have in every skin product), so I thought they’d burn too and would need sun protection too. Clearly not… You could buy water, snacks, hats, teddys, even shoes! Everything but suncream!

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Mount Qingcheng is one of most important centres of Taoism in China. It’s said that this is where Taoism originated and where a Chinese emperor came to learn Taoism. We paid the entrance fee and started making our way up the steps. For the £9 entrance fee each no map was provided and although there were lots of signs with some English text on it was still not clear where to go.

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Everyone else was heading for the cable car, we wanted to walk up. We found a path leading away from the cable car and followed two students who were also going to walk up. The path very rapidly became a mud track. Slippery, muddy, almost invisible in the bushes. We followed this path up the hillside for a while. It was obvious this wasn’t the correct path, but we might as well continue because it did head in the right direction.

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Luckily, after about 15 sweaty minutes the track joined into the proper path. From here it was an easy walk to the ridge where the cable car terminated. The two Chinese guys stopped after a while to get their breath back and the only other people we met on the path were a small group of daring individuals coming down. It appears the Chinese, like the rest of Asia, are not very fit and hate to walk for enjoyment’s sake.

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From here we continued up more steps. The mountain is dotted with many Taoist temples and we walked past many. The path was easy and well maintained. Surrounding us was the forest which covered the hillside. As walks go this was a very nice walk.

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At the top was the main temple. We looked around at the surrounding mountains and where we had walked up. It was hazy but still the scenery was good.

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In China you’re never far from food and the mountain was no exception. Food stalls and restaurants everywhere. We expected it to be expensive but surprisingly it was reasonably priced. Egg fried rice for £1.50. About the same as most restaurants.

By now it was early afternoon and we had to go and see the irrigation system. So we jumped on the cable car down to the near the entrance and a quick walk through the forest to the base of the mountain and the entrance. Then took the bus into town.

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The entrance fee was another £9 each. We had easily exceeded our daily budget today! Dujiangyan Irrigation System is an amazing piece of engineering. Built over 2,200 years ago to control the flood waters of the Min River. It was designed to achieve two goals, stop the river flooding every year and to irrigate the plains around Chengdu. Since it was built there have been no floods in the area, despite multiple earthquakes, and because of the irrigation system the plains became very productive.

We walked along the Fish Mouth levee, a massive man-made piece of land, created to spilt the river into two and divert 60% of the water into the irrigation system. The sun was boiling hot as we walked down the levee to the end which gives the levee its name. As we walked down the levee the size is truly impressive and it’s hard to imagine that this huge chunk of land is man-made and over 2,000 years old.

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The Flying Sand Weir is now replaced with a concrete weir. Looking at the force of the water roaring through it it’s hard to believe that the original weir was bamboo and stone.

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We crossed a suspension bridge, the Anlan Suspension Bridge. This is one of the 5 ancient bridges of China! Well… so we’re told, but the original is long gone and this is the 4th bridge to exist here.

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This took us to the foot of Mount Yulei, where we followed a nice path along the hillside and getting good views over the irrigation system. From here we could see the Bottle-Neck Channel which takes the water for the irrigation system.

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The path lead back to town and we wandered around the town. The streets are so clean and wide and the shops sold just about everything you could imagine (except suncream). We bought hot and sour noodles from a street stall and ate them before getting the bus to the train station back to Chengdu. A very good day!

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