Located in Dengfeng County of Henan Province, Songshan is called the Central Mountain of the Five Sacred Mountains. It has 36 peaks and stretches 60 kilometers, composed of Taishi Mountain and Shaoshi Mountain. The highest peak is 1494 meters above sea level.
The Central Mountain has rich forest resources, some of which are rare ancient trees with odd figures and literary quotations, such as the General Cypress in the Songyang Academy, the Fifth-rank Chinese Scholar tree in the Shaolin Temple, the Han (206BC-220AD) Maidenhair Tree in Fawang Temple, the Cypress Forest in the Zhongyue Temple, and the Bodhi tree in the Yongtai Temple, etc. The forest resources of Songshan are praised as “rare treasure” for their large quantity, antiquity, abundant literary quotation and vivid shapes.
The mountain also boasts a large number of showplaces and cultural relics. The most famous Shaolin Temple is located here, where Shaolin monks exercise Qigong, Qinggong and other Shaolin Kong-fu (martial arts).
There are some other temples in the mountain, such as the Zhongyue Temple, which is nicknamed “the Little Palace”; the Fawang Temple and the Huishan Temple, the oldest temples extant in China; two earliest and well-preserved astronomical observatories extant in China; etc.
Songshan abounds in stele carvings, totaling more than 2,000 pieces, left by famous calligraphers like Yan Zhenqing, Su Dongpo, Huang Tingjian and Mi You, etc.
-- Cultural Heritage
1. Zhongyue Temple
The Zhongyue Temple is nicknamed “the Little Palace”. The temple is one of the oldest of its kind in China, originally built in the Qin Dynasty over 2,200 years ago, and moved to its present site in the Tang (618-907). Along the center line of the temple lie about 400 constructions of various kinds including archways, pavilions, terraces, gates, halls, and towers, as well as many (over 300) tall, gnarled and weather-beaten cypresses, mostly in the large courtyard. It covers an area of 370,000 square meters.
2. Songyang Academy
The Songyang Academy, one of the most famous ancient academies, is also located here. Celebrities of ancient times like Sima Guang, Cheng Yi and Fan Zhongyan all gave lectures here. The building of the academy is old and elegant, but mostly broken. At the west side, there are two high and old cypresses named Great General and Second General, they are the oldest cypresses with over 4,000 years of history.
3. Tower of Songyue Temple
The Tower of Songyue Temple is the earliest Buddhist tower existing in China. It was built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (520). It has 15 storeys and a height of over 40 meters. With superb craft, it is the oldest polygonal tower in China.