A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

Chen Xian
When New Year arrives, Chinese people generally climb mountains as a traditional and relaxing activity for blessings and good health. 
Chen Xian

When New Year arrives, Chinese people generally climb mountains as a traditional and relaxing activity for blessings and good health. Xuedou Mountain in Ningbo provides the perfect destination for this activity with its refreshing air, natural vegetation and historical scenes.

Home to the world’s tallest bronze statute, Maitreya Buddha, the 800-meter-tall mountain has also developed into one of the five most dominant mountains, featuring Buddhist culture in China.

The local government is trying to enhance its influence by organizing several cultural events related to the statue every year.

The 2017 Maitreya Cultural Festival was held in August, which marked the 10th time of the carnival under the theme of “mercy, harmony and joy.”

“Xuedou Mountain is a magical mountain and it is a good experience to enjoy the soul’s tranquility and touch Chinese Buddhism culture here,” said Gao Haomeng, Party secretary of Fenghua District under Ningbo, at the opening ceremony of the festival this year.

Now is the perfect time to take a trip to the mountain as the plants are at their best in the early winter months. It is also the quiet season which combines well with the ambient feel of the mountain.

Starting from the foot and ending at the top, it is an opportune moment for climbers to ascend the mountain. In Chinese traditional culture it leads to success and progress.

Making a journey up to the Xuedou Mountain can be done in one day. It is a cathartic feeling, appreciating the amazing natural landscapes, waterfalls and cultural relics, including ancient temples and historical places left by former Kuomintang’s leader Chiang Kai-shek, who was a native of Xikou Town.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

Xuedou Mountain in Ningbo, a picturesque area, is known as one of the five mountains featuring Buddhism culture in China.

Qianzhangyan Waterfall


At the foot of the mountain, the waterfall is famous for its large gap from top to bottom, which ascends 186 meters.

Its spectacular scenery has attracted intellectuals and artists from both the ancient and modern China to create works featuring the waterfall.

Three red Chinese characters “千丈岩 (the name of the waterfall referring to its tall rock behind)” were carved in the rock at the right side of the waterfall in 1992, which is the work of Huang Qi, the former vice chairman of China Calligraphers Association.

One of the most famous poems praising the waterfall is by Wang Anshi (1021-1086), an outstanding litterateur in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

He wrote a short poem extolling the largeness and straightness of the waterfall.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

Qianzhangyan Waterfall

Xuedou Temple


It is a historical temple dating back to the Jin Dynasty (AD 265-420) and is the most significant temple worshiping Maitreya Buddha in China. The temple is at the same altitude as the Qianzhangyan Waterfall and is only 200 meters away from the cascading natural wonder.

Occupying 85,847 square meters on the mountain, the existent temple was rebuilt in 1985. There are six main halls arranged in tiers, all in a traditional style with a tiled roof, overhanging eaves and wooden furniture.

The temple’s icon is a 56.74-meter-tall bronze statute of the Maitreya Buddha, which is the tallest of its sort, in a sitting position, in the world. Completed in 2008, the statute was made from 500 tons of tin bronze and is celebrated for its amiable and joyful image. The Buddha, with a bag in his left hand and beads in right hand, is smiling with his belly and breasts exposed.

This image was derived from local historical records, which revealed there used to be a strange monk in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), who carried a cloth bag, traveled around with a smile on his face and frequently gave sermons in the Xuedou Temple.

Just before he died he revealed to people that he was Maitreya Buddha. That is why local people also call Maitreya Buddha as the cloth-bag Buddha.

Now is a good time to visit the temple as the leaves of two 2,200-year-old ginko trees have turned to yellow in front of the Mile Hall.

The trees, stand as tall as two small towers, like a couple with different genders, and the yellow leaves are scattered around the ground, almost covering the whole yard.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

Xuedou Temple

The house-arrest place of Zhang Xueliang


This mountain villa is known as the first house-arrest place of Zhang Xueliang, one of the best known generals in Kuomintang. It takes around three minutes to drive to the dwelling from the temple.

Zhang launched the Xi’an Incident in 1936, which united the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China, to fight against Japanese invaders. However, Zhang lost his freedom for this incident and it is in this mountain villa, in Chiang’s hometown, where Zhang spent the first year of his house-arrested life.

Occupying 438 square meters, the villa was rebuilt in the 1980s, according to its original appearance, which is in the Western style with six guest rooms and a dinning room, all decorated with glass windows. Zhang lived in three rooms facing south while the others were for soldiers and nurses.

A bronze statue of Zhang stands in the courtyard, dressed in military uniform with a hat and a cape. Under the statue is a cubic stone, on which a Chinese traditional idiom “千古功臣 (moritorious minister forever)” was carved by Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People’s Republic of China, in order to praise Zhang’s great contribution to the country.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

The house-arrest place of Zhang Xueliang

Miaogao Terrace


This natural terrace in the middle of the mountain is known for its hidden location. The terrace is surrounded by cliffs and can’t be seen from the foot of the mountain. Chiang Kai-shek built a mansion on the terrace, which used to be a secret political center of Kuomintang during the Republic of China (1912-1949). The two-story mansion was rebuilt in the 1980s, according to its original appearance, covering 436 square meters, and has Western-style appearance with six rooms decorated with glass windows and a square balcony, circled by small stone pillars. A horizontal tablet hangs above the front door on the second floor, on which the terrace’s name was written by Chiang. In front of the mansion is some open land where people can see Tingxia Lake surrounded by small hills below.

Chiang spent three months in the mansion in 1949, during which he secretly received over 30 politicians and military personnel.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

Miaogao Terrace

Three Hidden Waterfalls


It is an amazing natural landscape, split by three waterfalls arranged in tiers and is around a 25-minute-drive from Miaogaotai. The journey from the first waterfall to the third totals around 1,600 meters, through hundreds of stone steps. Each waterfall differs in style, some grand and some delicate.

The first waterfall, Shangyintan, is the grand one, which is 40 meters tall and its running water splashes loudly in all directions.

There is also a small temple near Shangyintan, covering 160 square meters, where there are three dragon kings (Chinese traditional gods for water and weather). People paid homage to each king for different wishes: The left king for good scores in exams, the middle for social stability and harvest and the right for good fortune.

A 20-minute walk and you arrive in Zhongyintan at the second waterfall. It features delicate scenery along with different forms of rocks and green plants. There is a pavilion near the waterfall and people can cross the pond under the waterfall by stepping through the stones.

Another walk of around 30 minutes will see you arrive in Xiayintan, for the third waterfall.

It features a misty ambience and a big stone in the pond below of about 10 square meters.

Near Xiayintan is a small railway station where people can take small trains to Qianzhangyan. The journey takes only seven minutes through a 3,118-meter-long railway.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain

Three Hidden Waterfalls



The last stop on the top of the mountain is Shanglianggang, a leisure resort with sports facilities for climbing, fishing, running and skiing.

It’s also a historical place with a mansion built by Chiang. It takes around 15 minutes to drive from Sanyintan to the resort.

Thanks to the excellent air on the top of the mountain, the resort is an ideal place for outdoor sports. Now is an ideal time to go and have fun skiing there. It is the only outdoor skiing place in Ningbo with artificial snow covering 16,000 square meters.

Chiang also built a mansion here for him and Soong May-ling, where they enjoyed their summer vacation. The mansion is still well preserved there.

A spiritual journey up Xuedou Mountain


How to get there:

Starting at the western Expressway station in Ningbo, drive on to Ningbo-Jinhua Expressway for about 30 minutes and exit at the eastern expressway station in Xikou Town. Then drive for 15 minutes along the S36 Road and then the S213 to arrive in Xuedou Mountain Scenic Area.

For tourists starting from Shanghai, driving takes a total of three and a half hours through Hangzhou Bay Cross-sea Bridge, Shenyang-Haikou Expressway and the same route as that from Ningbo’s western highway station to the mountain.


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