Mount Heming

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Mount Heming (鹤鸣山Singing Crane Mountain), also called Singing Swan Mountain (Huming Shan 鹄鸣山), is in the village of Sanfeng in Heming Town, Dayi County in Sichuan Province. It is similar to a crane in shape, as if a stone crane were hidden inside it, and red-crowned cranes perch on it, hence the name.

According to historical records, Zhang Daoling studied Daoism on Singing Crane Mountain during the Eastern Han Dynasty Emperor Shundi’s reign (AD 126-144). The Supreme Master descended into the world to teach Zhang Daoling Daoist tenets and named him a Celestial Master. Zhang Daoling then wrote a 24-chapter Daoist book, founded Five Pecks of Rice Daoism, and preached his religion in Sichuan. Therefore, Singing Crane Mountain became the birthplace of Daoism. Many famous Daoists used to lead secluded lives on the mountain, such as Du Guangting of the late Tang Dynasty, Chen Tuan of the Five Dynasties and early Song Dynasty, and Zhang Sanfeng of the Ming Dynasty, leaving behind a great number of famous historical sites.

Surrounded by water on the east, west and north, and facing Chengdu Plain in the south, Singing Crane Mountain is covered with green pines and cypresses and is unsurpassed in its magnificence, with beautiful scenery. The pavilion on the east at the mouth of the mountain is called Jieyuan Pavilion (Jieyuan Ting 解元亭). (During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the jieyuan was the scholar who won first place in the provincial imperial examinations.) Legend has it that, after failing to obtain any scholarly honor or official rank, a jieyuan scholar surnamed Wang realized the truth and went up to the mountain. He provided funds to build a pavilion called the Crane-Watching Tower to give himself calm. Later generations called the pavilion Jieyuan Pavilion because a jieyuan scholar built it. The Temple of the Three Officials stands under the pavilion. The Three Officials are the Heavenly Official, Earthly Official, and Water Official. The Heavenly Official was said to be able to bless people, the Earthly Official to absolve people from guilt, and the Water Official to relieve people from disaster.

After Bidding Farewell to Immortal Bridge, there is a huge tablet by the roadside, engraved with the three big characters Diyi Shan (第一山 First Mountain) written by Mi Fei, a Song Dynasty calligrapher. The vigorous, bold and unconstrained characters are unique in style. Climbing the stairs along the walls of Wenchang Palace, you will reach the Palace of High Purity -- that is, the ancient Singing Crane Temple, which was first built in the Eastern Han Dynasty, rebuilt in the Song Dynasty, and expanded during the Yuan and Ming dynasties. It is said to be where the Supreme Master descended and where the Celestial Master received a Daoist talisman. The palace’s main hall is a Ming Dynasty building with a complete bucket-arch (dougong) timber structure and there is a golden statue to worship the Supreme Master. The stone strip inlaid at the edge of the steps in front of the hall is inscribed with “Staying Overnight on Singing Crane Mountain,” a qilü poem by the patriotic poet Lu You. (A qilü poem is an eight-line poem with seven characters to a line and a strict tonal pattern and rhyme scheme.) The Pavilion to Welcome Immortals is several hundred meters behind the Hall of the Supreme Master. It is said that in 1404, the second year of the Yongle reign period of the Ming Dynasty, the emperor ordered an envoy called Wu Boli to invite Zhang Sanfeng to court, holding an imperial edict. Not wishing to become an official, Zhang Sanfeng went off with a swagger. Later generations built a pavilion there to offer sacrifices to Perfect Man Sanfeng. The ancient cypress on the cliff behind the pavilion is said to have been planted by Zhang Sanfeng. Legend has it that a pair of black cranes used to perch on the fourth branch at the top of the tree, standing firmly on one foot despite the wind and rain. Later, when someone wanted to shoot the cranes, they left without a trace and never returned to perch on the tree. The magnificent Three Sages Palace was rebuilt on the site of the Pavilion to Welcome Immortals. In the palace, there are shrines for the worship of the Supreme Master, Patriarch Lü Chunyang and Perfect Man Zhang Sanfeng.

Many beautiful and touching stories about Singing Crane Mountain have been circulated among the people. It is said that a crane might be seen on the mountain’s Singing Crane Stone by rubbing the stone. However, only sincere people can see a crane by rubbing the stone. According to another legend, when tea from a kind of tea plant on the mountain is infused, the steam rises in the shape of a crane, and the tea has a good color, smell and taste. It is also said that there was a stone crane bred by the best of heaven and earth and that it did not ordinarily sing. Every time it sang, an immortal would fly up to heaven. People are always enchanted by these stories.