Qíyún Shān

Mountain in Tunxi

Qíyún Shān means 'mountain as high as the clouds' and it's an apt description: though not actually that high (just 585m) its peaks do pierce the low-lying, ghostly puffs of mist that regularly envelop the region. Long venerated by Taoists, the reddish sandstone rock provides a mountain home to temples, many built into the mountain itself, and the monks who tend to them. Qíyún Shān is a 45-minute bus trip west of Túnxī.

Most tour groups get dropped off at a back entrance, so if you arrive by public bus you'll likely be on your own for the 75-minute climb up stone steps to the ticket office. Just beyond, Zhēnxiān Cave (真仙洞府; Zhēnxiān Dòngfǔ) houses a complex of Taoist shrines in grottoes and niches gouged from the sandstone cliffs. Further on, seated within the smoky interior of the vast and dilapidated Xuán Tiān Tàisù Gōng (玄天太素宫) is an effigy of Zhengwu Dadi, a Taoist deity. A further temple hall, the Yùxū Gōng (玉虚宫), is erected beneath the huge brow of a 200m-long sandstone cliff, enclosed around effigies of Zhengwu Dadi and Laotzu.

A village – seemingly plonked in the middle of the mountain range – stretches along the poetically named Moonlight Street (月华天街; Yuehua Tian Jie). Most residents operate restaurants and snack stands from their homes.

The bus from Túnxī will likely drop you off on the side of the road, from where you'll walk through a village to Dēngfēng Bridge (登封桥; Dēngfēng Qiáo). Return buses sometimes hang around the bridge; otherwise wait at the side of the road for buses coming from Yīxiàn. The last bus from Yīxiàn to Túnxī departs at 5pm; the last tourist bus departs at 4pm.