Sacred Mountains in Asia
In Asia mountains are the place where gods and demons reside. Although I do not believe in the religious facts about these places, I certainly do agree they are places of true magic. Walking to or on a mountain for some days and finally arriving on the summit, it surely is being close to heaven to me.
Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san), Japan
The most sacred of all mountains in Japan and a perfect conical vulcano. The name ‘Fuji’ refers to the fire god. Along the way to the top are Shinto shrines, with many little bells and coins left here by Japanese tourists and pilgrims. On the top there also is a shrine with a big bell to ring. On the mountain there are 10 ‘stages’ , each of them having a mountain hut. Many tourists buy a walking stick (with or without bells and/or flag) and have it branded at each stage. A lot of Japanese people do the hike in one day up and down, starting from the fifth station (2380 m), which is the terminal of the bus. An alternative is to stay overnight in one of the mountain huts along the way and to hike up at night and see sunset (goraiko) on the summit. Mt. Fuji is the highest point of Japan (3776 m). You can climb Mt. Fuji in July and August.
Mt. Emei (Emei-shan), China
Emei means in Chinese ‘the eyebrows of Buddha’. One says you can see the ‘halo of Buddha’ in the clouds when standing on the top and the light is dim enough. Along the way to the summit (many many steep stairs) there are macaw monkeys, which will grab everything and can be quite agressive. There are different monasteries, temples, sacred caves, … and tea houses(!) on the mountain – you can stay overnight in a monastery which is an authentic experience. On the ‘golden summit’ (3077 m) is a monastery and many ropes with padlocks attached by visitors. You can go up by bus most of the mountain and then continue to the top by cable car. If you want to go all the way on foot, count on one long day (13 hours or more) starting from Baoguo Temple (551 m) near Emei-town. Another alternative is to have yourself carried all the way up in a bamboo chair (yes, some people really do this !).
Mt. Kailash (Kailas), Tibet
Mt. Kailash (6714 m) is one of the most sacred places of Tibet. It is a holy place for Buddhists, Hindus and Jains. To Tibetans it means ‘the pillar of heaven’, to Hindus it is the place where Shiva resides. All of the pilgrims, which come still nowadays in great numbers, make a ‘kora’ (a walk around the mountain), which has the auspicious effect of ‘cleansing the sins of a lifetime’ (13 times or even 108 times are even more auspicious…). Along the kora are several monasteries, caves, buddha footprints, chörtens, sky burial sites, ‘sin-testing stones’, etc… The highest point is Drölma-la (5630m), a pass with an abundance of prayer flags. Pilgrims often do the kora in one (very long) day – a Westerner will need at least three days. Staying overnight in one of the ‘guesthouses’ attached to the monasteries is possible, although a lot of people do camp. It is forbidden to climb the mountain, something which has not been done till now. Trekking around the mountain is possible from mid-May till mid-October.