Mountain reveals secrets of our human ancestors

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)


The historical Renzu Mountain offers a startling landscape when the leaves turn red in autumn. [Photo by Lyu Guiming for China Daily]

When the Yellow River enters Jixian county in Shanxi province, it is embraced by a mountain and forms the most spectacular waterfall in its course of more than 5,400 kilometers.

Every year, millions of tourists visit the river and the renowned Hukou Waterfall.

The mountain, which is called Renzu, is a less popular site for tourists, who may not be aware that it has similar historical and cultural significance as the Yellow River.

Renzu, which literally means "ancestors of humans", was so named because locals believe the mountain provided a home for Fuxi and Nyuwa, the legendary ancestors of the Chinese people. Residents there have built temples to worship these figures.

The mountain's lesser-known legendary background was given a boost in 2001 with a major archaeological discovery.

In one of several sites that archaeologists explored, wall paintings with the images of Nyuwa were discovered.

Nyuwa is the mother goddess in Chinese mythology and is said to be the creator of human beings.

Also unearthed were stone tools pointing to a period between 100,000 and 80,000 years ago, a transitional period from the Old to the New Stone Age.

Geng Shiwen, a former boss of a local coal mine, said he has been enchanted by the mountain since the discovery.

In 2011, he signed an agreement with the county government, and invested almost all his wealth in developing the mountain into a tourist destination.

Renzu Mountain has an area of 203 square kilometers and the core area as a scenic spot covers about 45 sq km.

The scenic area includes a main peak that stands more than 1,700 meters above sea level and groups of ancient buildings.

The Nyuwa Temple is the major ancient structure complex in the scenic area. While the statue of Nyuwa sits in the main hall, the statue of Fuxi is in the side hall.

According Geng, Nyuwa and Fuxi are symbolically sister and brother and also wife and husband in Chinese mythology.

He reckoned that the temple was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), although there are not enough historical documents to support his judgment.

"I made the judgment according to the architectural styles and records of some preserved stone tablets," Geng said.

On every 18th day of the lunar calendar, there are grand ceremonies to pay tribute to Nyuwa and Fuxi, and the ceremony is currently a major cultural festival in the area, attracting tens of thousands of visitors, according to Geng.

Li Yali contributed to this story.