Mountain's legends and scenery draw tourists

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)


The Shennong statue on the top of Laoding Mountain is said to be the tallest of its kind in Asia. [Photo by Sun Bingbing for China Daily]

When talking about the origin of the Chinese nation, people would usually say that "we are the offspring of the Yellow Emperor and the Red Emperor".

The Yellow Emperor, or Xuanyuan; and the Red Emperor, or Shennong, are legendary leaders of the nation some 5,000 years ago. They are remembered to this day because of their achievements in governing the nation and teaching the people to farm.

The name of Shennong, which literally means the god of farming, is no doubt related to the Red Emperor's piloting efforts in agriculture. He is also said to be the pioneer of China's medical sciences.

Despite the lack of written records and material evidence, there are quite a few regions that claim an association with Shennong's activities.

Laoding Mountain, a scenic area in the southeastern Shanxi city of Changzhi, is one such region.

Local residents believe the city of Changzhi, which was known as Shangdang in ancient times, is closely related with the activities of Shennong.

"Shangdang is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization, with many stone farming tools discovered in the region," said Cui Xin, an official at the Laoding Mountain Scenic Area. "The tools have been identified as artifacts dating back to some 5,000 years ago, the period when Shennong lived."

Cui said many people believe that the plains in Changzhi were where Shennong developed the farming industry and the mountains, including Laoding Mountain, were where the legendary figure found and tasted herbs.

A household story about Shennong is that he tasted 100 herbs to judge the medical effect of plants.

The official said there are a number of memorial monuments in Laoding Mountain for people to worship Shennong. And the building of such monuments ranges from more than 1,600 years ago to the modern day.

Among the many monuments, the most spectacular is a huge bronze statue of Shennong, which stands 39 meters tall and weighs 150 metric tons. It was built in the 1990s.

This is the tallest statue of Shennong in Asia, according to Li Min, another official at the scenic area.

This statue is a must-see for many tourists to the scenic area, especially children who want to have a better understanding of Chinese history.

Under the huge statue, Wang Lei, a tourist from the Shanxi provincial capital of Taiyuan, told his child the tale of the legendary forefather of the Chinese nation.

"Laoding Mountain might be the location where Shennong tasted 100 herbs and might be the source of traditional Chinese medicine," Wang told his school-aged son.

Laoding Mountain is about 5 kilometers to the northeast of the city center of Changzhi. It covers an area of about 40 square kilometers.

As 70 percent of the area is covered by forests, Laoding Mountain is regarded by tourists in Shanxi and the rest of the country as a retreat from the frenetic pace of urban life.

Han Linfang contributed to this story.