Tianmen Mountains are in the northern Hunan Province of China, near thecity of Dayong. (Many people are confused by the name Tianmen that is similar tothe infamous Tiananmen Square, in Bejing, thousands of miles away)To reach the summit you can take the Tongtian (avenue toward heaven) highwaywhich has 99 sharp turns. At its end you have to climb the Tianti (ladder to heaven)stairs which has 999 steps. It is perhaps the Chinese way to reach heaven, scared todeath by the road and out of breath from climbing!But all the effort is worthwhile by the magnificent things at the top. You will find there a collapsed cave that is now a natural stone arch, a beautiful temple and breathtaking views. Dayong city (today Zhangjiajie) with Tiamen mountains nearby
The mountain is located only 7 miles (11Km) from the city.
…and startclimbing andturning.The road rises3600 feet (1100m)from an elevationof 200 m to 1300 mabove sea level.
The roadconstructionstarted in 1998and ended in2005, with a totalcost of onlyUS$13.2 million.
The road risessteeply accordingto the form of themountain. The 99bends link closelywith each otherand pile up inlayers, making apattern of acircling flyingdragon reachingthe skyline.
Are you already dizzy only by looking at the curves?Do not distract the driver, he may lose control!
Fortunately there is also another way to reach the summit. There is acable car that starts from the city and travels 4.7 miles (7.5 Km) raisingin elevation 4200 feet (1280 m) and reaching near the summit.
It costs $38 for around trip, but it isworth the money forthe great views enroute.
There are 98 cars, each for 8 persons.The cars areweatherproof, but stillyou will not want to beinside during a storm.
The cable car was designed to be safe even during an earthquake.
Tianmen Cave is the natural water-eroded cave with the highest elevation inthe world. Tianmen Cave runs south-north having a height of 434 feet (131.5meters), a width of 188 feet (57 meters) and a depth of 200 feet (60 meters). Itis much like a gate pointing towards heaven.
Tianmen Shan may be unique among the worlds great arches in that its formationis recorded in history. Documents from Chinas "Three Kingdoms" period reportthat the entire opening formed in one cataclysmic event when the back of a hugecave collapsed in 263 AD. Thus, Tianmen Shan is also one of the very few naturalarches with a precisely known age.
Cable car or bus, you still have to climb the upperstairs if you want to reach the bottom of the arch.
In modern times, TianmenShan has become a target forstunt fliers. This is due to itslocation close to theZhangjiajie airport, as well asits large opening.In 1999, international stuntflying aces piloted planes to flythrough Tianmen Cave for thevery first time. 800 millionpeople watched the livecoverage. In 2006, the RussianAir Force Aerobatic FlightShow was held in Zhangjiajieand many planes flew throughthe arch.
At the western side of themountain summit you canfind the newly builtTianmen Temple with anarea of 109,000 squarefeet (10,000 squaremeters).Before the new templewas built, there was asmaller temple in thesame location in whichBuddhist Pilgrims hadworshiped since the MingDynasty 400 years ago.
Hiking near the mountain rewardsthe visitor with great views.