Way up in northwestern Hubei, the 72 peaks of Wudang Shan, the Military Mountain, are steeped in legends surrounding its Taoist temples and fighting style. Wudang is associated with Zhen Wu, a martial deity whose portly statue graces many local temples, and whose birthday is celebrated on the third day of the third lunar month – a good time to visit the mountain. Wudang’s martial arts would have come in handy considering the vast number of outlaws who’ve inhabited these mountains over the centuries, not least the rebel peasant Li Zicheng, who amassed his forces and eventually deposed the last Ming emperor from here.
Many temple buildings here date to an imperial building frenzy during the fifteenth century – the work took three hundred thousand labourers ten years to complete – and the mountain is currently enjoying a bloom of tourist-funded religious fervour. A relatively easy ascent, coupled with the mountain’s splendid scenery and the availability of transport connections, makes this an appealing trip.