Early start! We’re leaving early to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic. We may still get stuck in a traffic jam at some point, and we recommend you don’t make fixed plans for the evening. Bring a book or something to keep yourself entertained, just in case!
Take a long walk through the Pinggu District countryside, hiking the hills and valleys on the way to Yaji Mountain. Save some energy for the end, though! We’re going to climb up the steep stairway to the temples atop Yaji Mountain!
Our hike starts at the entrance of a small village, and we’ll take a short stroll through its streets before following a field trail that leads out into the hills.
The trail leads up and over a ridgeline, and this is the first big climb of the whole hike.
Because there’s a lack of water in the area, the hills above the villages are not actively farmed, and all that grows on them are thorn trees and tall, wavy grass. The grass is nice to walk through, particularly in the spots where it has grown hip-high; the thorns not so much!
We’ll make our way down the other side of the ridge and head for a mostly-deserted village.
Back in 2004, there were only around 40 people living in the village. Since then, the population has dropped further – young people would move out, looking for work in the city, leaving only the elderly.
There were plans to build villas and an equestrian facility by the village, but in the end only a few villas were built.
We often spot chickens and geese wandering about the village, and occasionally a big pig. As well as farm animals, we’ll also see one fellow’s impressive collection of junked cars, buses, and other machinery.
It’s a quirky little village.
We’ll walk through the village and down and out a long, flat valley, escaping by ducking below a big gate in a wall that seems almost like a fortification. There’s a lookout tower and everything. We said it was a quirky village.
The temples at Yajishan
Note: in some of the photos you’ll see shots from the temple fair. The fair is only once a year … and it’s not until next year.
Our trail through the hills brings us to the foot of the steep stairs that lead up to the temples at the top of the mountain. On the way up to the top, we’ll catch our breath by stopping to look about the various temples and shrines either side of the stairs. After a look about the temple right at the top, we’ll take a walk through the hills behind the temples to complete the circuit.
If we time it right, we’ll be able to have our quick lunch break in the courtyard of the temple at the top of the mountain.
The first temple is at the foot of the mountain and was originally built in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD). This temple was destroyed by the Japanese army during the war, and since been rebuilt.
There are another two temples at the top of the mountain – one built during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), and the other built during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911 AD). Both of these temples had to be rebuilt after the war as well. Right now only one of them is open to visitors, but it looks very impressive perched on top of a peak.
The Qing Dynasty temple has quite an interesting story. It was used by Qing royalty, and the funds for its construction were raised by an old lady who lived in the nearby area. The old lady also helped out in the construction of the temple. There is a shrine to her in the temple, as well as records of visits by Qing Emperors.
The temples here are a popular religious attraction for people in the Pinggu district. It is quite common to see people burning incense, and sometimes it’s possible to see a full religious ceremony.
In one of the temples on the way up, there are two side halls with dioramas of Daoist hell, complete with horse-headed guards carrying axes and models that depict the several hundred ways that you will be tortured if you are not a good Daoist.
Yaji Mountain is named for its similarity to a hairstyle that was popular for young girls a long time ago. If you see the mountain from the right angle (and use a little imagination) you will be able to see the resemblance – think of the mountain as the head, and the two temples at the top of the mountain as the two cute pigtails sticking out from either side.
After we’ve looked about the temples, we’ll follow an old trail that will take us around the back of the mountain, walking a path that winds through the peaks. We’ll stop for a break at a nice lookout point and then follow steps down past the hotel and out on to the flat land at the foot of the mountain.
Every year there is a fair in a field below the mountain, and it’s a lively and busy time to visit. We’ll have time to get a good look at what’s going on – fortune telling, street food and snacks, fireworks and incense burning, and various performers.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- Warm clothes in case it gets chilly
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- The stairs up to the temple on top are rather steep, making it a fairly tough climb!
- The old trail around the back of the mountain was blocked off for a while and hasn’t seen much maintenance recently. It may be overgrown in places, and we may need to skirt what’s left of the fence the construction workers used to block the trail.