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Western Hill Forest Park

Looking from a distance, Western Hill Forest Park looks like a giant sleeping Buddha or a sleeping beauty lying on her back along the Dianchi Lake. For this, it is also known as “sleeping Buddha Mountain” or simply “sleeping beauty”. It is a renowned Taoist resort area and is best known for the Dragon Gate.

Western Hill is located on Biji shan (Green Peacock Mountain), named for of its lush vegetation.  It lies on the west bank of Dianchi Lake, which is nicknamed "the Pearl on Plateau", and is 12 KM (7.5 miles) from the Kunming urban area.  As early as during the Ming Dynasty, about 400 years ago, Kunming Western Hills has been praised as one of the four most popular mountains with beautiful landscapes, together with mountains like Xiushan Mountain (Beauty Mountain) in Tonghai County Yuxi City, WeibaoShan Mountain (Treasure Mountain) in Weishan County Dali Prefecture, and Jizu Shan Mountain (Chick Feet Mountain).   

The main scenic spots from this area are Huating Temple, Sangqing Temple, Dragon Gate and the Tomb of Nie.

The Huating Temple is about half way up to Western Hill Dragon Gate from downtown Kunming and is 2,050 meters (6,725 feet) above sea level. The Buddhist temple building was designed and constructed by a local monk, Xu Yun, in 1920 following the typical so-called Buddhist architectural style of the “seven guardian buildings”. The temple is regarded as one of the most magnificent Buddhist monasteries in Kunming. 

Along the way up to Dragon Gate, the landmark of Western Hill, is the Sanqing Taoist Temple in a range of ancient architectural temple buildings constructed on the steep cliffs of the Luohan (Buddhist Arhat) Mountain. Sanqing is believed to the highest state of Taoism self-cultivation. In the Yuan Dynasty, about 800 years ago, it used to serve as a summer palace for the Lord Liang, a local war lord based in Yunnan. During the regime of Emperor Qianlong and the Daoguang period of China's Qing Dynasty about 200 years ago and after, it was gradually extended into the largest complex of Taoist temple buildings in Yunnan province.

Ascending narrow and zigzagging tunnels and passages on the cliffs, you arrive at the Dragon Gate, which stands here at an elevation of 2,414 meters (7,919 feet) above sea level.   From the vantage point on Louhan Mountain you can have a grand view of the Dianchi Lake. The whole project which enabled people to reach here from the bottom of Louhan mountain along the steep cliff  was completed by bare human hands and took a tremendous effort for 72 years, i.e. from the year of China's Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong’s regime (in 1781) until another emperor, Xianfeng, came to power in 1853. 

The fascination of this place lies in the vivid and delicate carving of Taoist deities in the cave of Datiange (reaching heaven pavilion) Pavilion. The legend tells us how precise and serious they were about their work. It is said that one of chief artisans who was responsible for carving the deity of literature, one of the main statutes of Datian Provision, mistakenly broke the tip of the brush pen in the hand of the literature deity when he had almost finished his masterpiece.  Regretful and ashamed for the mistake, he jumped from the cliff and died. 

The Dragon Gate of Western Hills explains the Chinese emphases on education. The statue of literature deity communicated this idea. He is believed to be a god responsible for intelligence and promotion. The idea of the Dragon Gate is that there are millions of carps trying to jump over this gate, and if they succeed, they become dragons. As an acknowledgment the literature deity would dot their forehead with his brush pen.  Actually this was the reflection of China's ancient empirical examination system. Back then, scholars studied for most of their youth with the hope that they would pass the examination and become one the few civil servants for the state. Like carp jumping over the dragon gate, they could become prominent figures which are symbolized by dragons in Chinese culture. So for a long time, Dragon Gate has been regarded as the pilgrimage site for students and their parents hoping that good luck would accompany them as they worship the literature deity.

Standing on the platform of Datiange Pavillion and looking forward from the steep cliffs, the panoramic view of Dianchi Lake is as beautiful as it can be.  It is as if the lake is seemingly emerging into the sky. This is the best scene of the Western Hills especially in the morning when the sun rises up from the horizon. 

At the bottom of Sanqing Taoist temple is the Nie Er Tomb. Nie Er (1912-1935) was a talented musician born in Kunming. He was the composer of the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China during China's war against the Japanese. The tomb was constructed as a memorial of his achievements. 

You can take buses number 6 and -6 to Western Hill Forest Park. You can take tourist buses at Yunnan which go to Western Hill. There are cable cars available for you from Yunnan Ethnic Village, which will cost 30 RMB. The admission fee for Western Hill, most of the time referred to as Dragon Gate, is 30 RMB.

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