Sanqingshan (Mount Sanqing, 三清山, Sānqīngshān) is a national geopark and sacred Taoist mountain, located in Jiangxi province, north of Yushan. It features spectacular rock formations and massive pillars, covered with twisted pine trees and ancient rhododendrons, and has several loops of broad concrete trail attached to it, in many cases attached to the side of a cliff. It's somewhat less crowded than similarly spectacular mountains, at least for now.
Sanqing means the "Three Pure Ones" in Chinese. Mount Sanqing is made up of three main summits: Yujing, Yushui, and Yuhua, representing the Taoist trinity. Yujing hill, at 1817 meters above sea level, is the highest.
The park's total area is 229 km². It became a National Geopark in 2005 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Flora and fauna
There are three main routes to the top of the mountain. The Shuangxi Cable Car (双溪索道) is at the south entrance and the Jinsha Cable Car (金沙索道) is at the east entrance. From the north entrance, only a hiking route is available. When heading to Sanquingshan, make sure the taxi or bus is taking you to the correct entrance as it is a long way to travel between them.
If you don't have your own vehicle, from Yushan South high-speed railway station or Yushan Station take a taxi to the Yushan bus terminal. There are regular buses (17 RMB) to the hotel villages at the South and East entrances. The bus timetable is available on the official website of the Sanqingshan Geopark.
Regular buses also leave from the Shangrao (上饶) bus station for the South Entrance. As of 2018, there is one bus a day in the evening for the East Station. You can also take a taxi directly to either entrance. This takes about 75 minutes along a toll highway (20RMB) and longer by provincial roads.
From the South and East entrances, a cable car is available to take you most of the way up the mountain. There is also a hiking trail under the south ropeway, and trail access from the north, but to reach the northern trails you'll need to take a motorcycle taxi from the east entrance. In particular, the entrance at Yuling Temple is not accessible by larger vehicles thanks to a gate several kilometers below the temple.
Park admission costs 150 RMB for most of the year. A one-way ride on the ropeway is 70 RMB, or a return trip is 125. Admission is discounted to 130 RMB in January, and there are discounts for children, students, and seniors.
Up-to-date information about ticket prices is available in English on the official website of the Sanqingshan Geopark.
The park has a counter for storing luggage at 10RMB a piece, but this is not always staffed. Alternatively at the tea shop near the Cable Car entrance at the East Entrance offers to keep your luggage in their back room for 20RMB a piece.
Walk around on the paths. If the stairs seem too difficult, you can pay to get carried up in a basic sedan chair. The stairs are pretty steep and uneven, so make sure to budget your time and energy to see the sights that most interest you.
Sanqingshan has a great number of strangely-shaped rocks and twisted trees. Many of the trees are ancient rhododendrons, so the mountain is covered in flowers in May and June.
There are two high walkways (高空栈道) that circle the three peaks and offer spectacular views on clear days, and on foggy days are surrounded by clouds.
There's also an ancient Taoist temple, Sanqinggong (三清宫), toward the north end of the mountaintop, with a series of sights arranged around it, and with various carvings and gates on the path up the mountain to its entrance. This has been a place of Taoist worship for over 1500 years.
To do a full loop of the park including both the West Coast Scenic Area (西海岸景区) and Sunshine Coast Scenic Area (阳光海岸景区) and to see the main attractions: Jade Platform (玉台), Oriental Goddess (东方女神), Python Out of Mountain (巨蟒出山), and Sanqing Temple (三清宫) takes about 7 to 8 hours, although shorter loops are possible if you're pressed for time. The cable car stops running at 18:00 in the summer and 17:00 in the winter.
The main activities here are hiking and admiring the rocks and trees.
Food is available in several places on the mountain, notably at the major hotels and some of the tenting areas, although near the tenting areas you may find little beyond snacks and instant noodles. There are mini restaurants about every kilometer on the paths that have drinks, snacks and fried chicken but at double to triple normal prices.
There are a few hotels near the top of each cable car line, and small villages of hotels at the base of mountain/cable car terminus at the South and East entrances. The hotels on the mountain tend to be expensive.
The most luxurious hotel in the area is the 5-star Hilton Sanqingshan Resort situated at the base of the mountain near the cable car terminus at the South entrance. The hotel opened in December 2016 after refurbishment.
A number of places on top of the mountain offer camping. If you don't bring your own gear, they'll rent you a tent and bedding for 120-150 RMB.
If you stay on marked trails, you should be fine. Be prepared for changing weather and colder temperatures than at the base of the mountain, particularly on the east side.
Consider visiting the small towns and terraced fields of Wuyuan.