Nuffnang Space

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Poet's Inspiration - The Yellow Mountain of China

I had often assumed that Chinese paintings depicting mountains and rolling clouds were borne out of the artists' imagination. Then, when I saw the Yellow Mountains of China with my own eyes, I couldn't believe how nature had imitated art! Of course it dawned on me after a while, that art had sought to imitate nature, but how glorious Nature is , seen in reality, and not depicted on rice paper or canvas.

It was foggy all the way up the mountain. I was afraid that the journey would have been futile if the sun didn't shine that day. Then in the afternoon, the sun smiled down on us. It was a revelation ...everyone had that moment of awe at first sight. After clicking maniacally away at every angle and climbing higher and clicking furiously in case the mist engulfed all that beauty again, I realized that this was what made Man climb high mountains - of course, modern man had only to pay the price of a cable-car ticket - but  this was inspirational. We've all viewed mountains from afar, from the ground. However, this time, here, we were, on the cliff-sides, looking down at the sea of clouds below us. I had often marveled at the beauty of many World Heritage Sites, but I must admit, this one left me breathless!

Ancient Taoist writings have it that the Yellow Emperor Huang Di created his elixir of  immortality here on Huangshan. The Emperor achieved immortality and flew to Heaven. How could I not be swayed by this association with the legend, to think that there is an affinity between man and mountain here.

 The Yellow Mountain is among the four great symbols of China, the other three being the Great Wall of China, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. 

This mountain has been acclaimed by Chinese poets throughout history, to be the most beautiful mountain in China. Among the poets is Li Bai, also known as Li Po, a poet from the Tang Dynasty.

 My favourite Tang poem is this one Li Bai wrote, entitled "Alone Looking At The Mountain" :

All the birds have flown up and gone
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by
We never tire of looking at each other - 
Only the mountain and I

The four supreme features of the Yellow Mountain are the sea of clouds, the pines, the rocks and the hot springs, I am told. Just look at the pines - you wouldn't be able to tell, but they are ancient! Some are hundreds of years old, having grown out of barren rocks. They are the Huangshan pines, and from the shape of their trunks and branches, they have been given names like "Lovers", "Pine Greeting a Friend"...isn't that enchanting? What's this pine's name, I wonder?

Not to be outshone are the rocks. The granite peaks have names like Lotus Peak, Celestial Capital, and Apex of Brightness! The spectacular shapes of the rock formations and cliffs like the ones in the photograph below are an artist's inspiration. I have declared that I shall learn to paint - these magnificent mountain vistas might just be the inspiration for me - lofty dreams, I know, to want to paint these lofty mountains!

Oh, and the rolling clouds...they're just incredible.

I think most people are aware that director James Cameron had Huangshan in mind when he designed the Hallelujah Mountains in the film, Avatar. I half-expected to see winged creatures swooping among these rocks below!

I'm no Tang poet, but my haiku this week is a humble tribute to the mystical, mist-covered mountains of Huangshan.

 For Poetry Picnic, Sensational Haiku Wednesday, Haiku Heights, Haiku My Heart:

sea of clouds cover
secrets of eternal life
voiceless mountains hushed

can happiness be 
if there's life everlasting 
empty echoes sigh

perpetual life
warmth or frozen in limbo
storms lash ancient pines 

Linking to:

Sensational Haiku Wednesday
Poets Rally
Watery Wednesday
Outdoor Wednesday
Share The Joy Thursday
Skywatch Friday
Haiku Heights
Haiku My Heart
Poetry Picnic