The Glass Walkway on Tianmen Mountain
Tianmen Mountain At A Glance
The Tianmen Mountain National Park, (also known an TianMenShan, or Tian Men Shan) is a tourist attraction developed in the Hunan Province of central China. Located within 10 kilometres of the city of Zhangjiajie, and rising 1.5 kilometres above sea level, Tianmen Mountain has lots to boast about.
One of the main attractions of Tianmen Mountain is Tianmen cave, which is technically not a cave. Rather, it is a water-eroded hole in the cliff face, with the highest elevation of it's kind in the world. It can be seen in the image above.
Tianmen Mountain is able to lay claim to the longest cableway in the world, spanning a distance of 7455 metres along, over a rise of 1300 kilometres. If the altitude wasn't enough to dissuade you, the adrenaline-junkies that likely run the development of the park have created 'The Walk of Faith', a journey consisting of several kilometres of glass walkways squared against the cliff face.
Fortunately, the area is naturally foggy, so it's difficult to see exactly how high above the ground you actually are!
Religious & Cultural Significance of Tianmen
Tianmen Mountain is an area of religious significance and also the subject of much lore.
A large temple exists at the summit of Tianmen, originally built in the Tang Dynasty, (618 - 907 AD, for those of you not familiar with your Chinese history). In more recent years, a 10,000 square metre temple has been built in it's place, designed to emulate the architectural style of the original.
The local population of the surrounding cities have many local stories surrounding the mountain. Some believe that the mountain can magically keep itself dry in times of heavy rain. However, should the cliff face of the mountain become wet, then this is a warning that droughts or floods are sure to follow.
Yet another story states that the mountain itself has actually moved itself in the past 30 years. In past decades, people in the nearby city of Zhangjiajie have noticed that the previously visible mountain now cannot be viewed from within the city walls. Geologists support this belief, explaining that it is possible that the mountain has shifted infinitesimally over this short space of time.
Local residents will also tell the story of the time the North Zhou Emperor chose this mountain as an area to pray, over 1500 years ago.
Believe It or Not!
Believe it or not, the Tianmen Academy is an educational institution atop the mountain. It remains an active senior high school, having existed since the 14th Century.
Apparently someone thought it was rather important, because it was rebuilt even after being destroyed in battle around 1352.
Tianmen Mountain As A Tourist Attraction
Tianmen Mountain has been described as a "primitive garden in the air" because of it's rare natural beauty. Tianmen is home to rare tree species and animals suited only to high altitude environments, as well as a bounty of medicinal herbs.
In 1999, three airplanes flew through the Tianmen cave as part of a daring acrobatic display. It is believed that the stunt drew an audience of approximately 8 million.
More recently, in 2011, a professional skydiver by the name of Jeb Corliss navigated his way through Tianmen cave using a wingsuit, a video of which can be seen to the right. Corliss can also add 'base-jumping off the Eiffel Tower' to his list of achievements.
Travel Tips for Hunan Province
If you've been inspired to test your nerves by traversing the Tianmen Mountain, remember some simple truths.
- If you weren't born with a basic understanding of Chinese, take a phrasebook (or a friend that does speak Chinese)
- This is a given: Don't try to fly through the Tianmen Cave. (Even Jeb Corliss had to make two attempts)
- If you have a weak stomach, feel free to bring a bag, or to reconsider your newly created desire to take on this mountain.
- Have fun, and comment your experiences below, of course.
Would You Be Game Enough To Take "The Walk of Faith"?
Thank you for taking the time to read my article on the Tianman Mountain, and it's religious and cultural significance. Feel free to comment below, and check out my other articles at My Homepage.