Last weekend I went to Xi’an with ten other students on my program for spring break. Early Friday morning, a few of us journeyed to Huashan Mountain (华山, Huà shān, shān meaning mountain in Mandarin). Huashan is located in the Shaanxi province of Xi’an and is considered to be one of the Five Great Mountains of China. Huashan has five different peaks that overlook various surrounding mountains and cityscapes.
We boarded our bus to Huashan, bright and early, at around 7am. Our spring break lined up with the Qingming Festival, a public Chinese holiday, therefore many people were traveling. Because of holiday traffic, we arrived at the base of the mountain around 12pm, although the drive should only have taken around 2 hours from Xi’an. Once we got our tickets at the base, we boarded another bus, which took us 45 minutes up the mountain to where we could get a cable car to get to the top of the peaks. We traveled along winding roads, curving between the peaks. The views were amazing, but nothing like what we were going to experience once we reached the top.
When we arrived at the base of the cable car, we thought that the holiday traffic was over, however we were VERY wrong. We were greeted with extremely long lines, which are common in China. There is no real way to portray our experience through words; it was definitely a “had to be there moment.” I have never been so squeezed, prodded, squished, and pushed in my life. The only thing I could compare this to was going to a sold out concert and being in the front row of the pit, while having every other concert-goer at your back, pushing to get into the front row, and then multiply that feeling by ten! We joined this long line at around 1:30pm and did not make it up to the top of the mountain until about 5:30pm.
The way that people say “waiting in line” in Chinese is 排队 (pái duì). My professor was explaining to us that usually if there is a line outside of any place, Chinese people think that means it is something worth waiting for. Whether it’s to get a table at a restaurant, catch a ride, or simply take a picture, they will wait for hours in line to be part of this experience. Well, on Friday, we were certainly part of the experience and there was no other way to react than to laugh at how insane it was that we didn’t really even need to hold up our own body weight because everyone was so crammed together. Even when we got a break from the crowds and thought that we were done waiting, we would turn the corner and be filed into another long line of people.
Despite the long commute and massive lines, when we got into the cable car, it was all worth it. We took a twenty-minute cable car ride to the top of the mountain as we rose through the mountains and gawked at the extensiveness of the sheer slabs of rock on either side of us. Trees were growing out of the sides of the mountains and views of other mountains peaked through the gaps as we ascended far above the city. I would be lying if I didn’t say that my heart jumped a little every time a gust of wind blew through our cable car and rocked us back and forth a little.
When we unloaded from the cable car we first headed to the West Peak. I was completely mind blown; it was unlike anything that I have seen so far in Shanghai. The mountain was just fantastic. We weren’t left with too much time to explore by the time we reached the mountaintop, but we were able to go to two peaks: West and South. The West Peak is known for being the most beautiful of the peaks; it’s supposed to look like a dragon’s back. And the South Peak is known as being the highest of the peaks.
Vendors sold locks and keys, which you can purchase, engrave your name onto, and lock to the many railings throughout the mountain. We didn’t buy locks, but we were given red ribbons before we reached the peak, which we tied onto the chain fences. It’s said that when you reach the top of a mountain in China, the dragon blesses you. The dragon is a sign of luck and fortune in China so tying our ribbons at the top of the mountain with blessings written on them such as “healthy lifestyle,” “success at work,” and “happy family life,” will hopefully bring us luck in those areas.
Overall, we spent about two hours at the top, admiring the view, taking pictures, walking around, and exploring. It was one of the craziest and most amazing experiences. Although the altitude of Huashan wasn’t the highest I’ve ever climbed, it was still an unbelievable experience. When we “hiked” from the West Peak to the South Peak, we really mean, “climbed stairs.” Needless to say, my legs were definitely sore the next day. Although we were exhausted by the time we got home and wished that we had been able to spend more time at the top of the mountain, I would highly recommend visiting Huashan if you ever get the chance (and going on a non-holiday weekend is probably a good call)!
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<p>Ever since I was a child, my life has always been linked to helping other people. I founded Kids Helping Kids when I was in sixth grade after I was in a serious car accident. While in the hospital, I heavily relied on the support of my friends and family as I had recovered. As I reflected on my accident and the serious injuries I had suffered, I saw the incredible power that I was shown as everyone came together to help me heal. The idea to start KHK was inspired by the small acts of kindness I witnessed from so many. I was so moved by the generosity of my peers that I wanted to harness that energy and share it with others, who may not have the same access to support. Kids Helping Kids has changed the way I view the world and others around me. I love volunteering because of the experiences and lessons I gain. It has shown me the power I have to make a difference in another person's life, and the impact that the people we serve have on my life.</p>