Just as one thinks one has found the most extreme and impossibly situated monastery in the world (like the eye-catching Katskhi Pillar in the Republic of Georgia), one finds another that just beggars belief. The Fanjingshan mountain hosts a Buddhist temple that is so impossibly situated, many followers on Instagram will think it was photoshopped.

Fanjingshan is considered a sacred mountain in Chinese Buddhism and the Fanjingshan Temple at the top is actually two temples. The Temple of the Buddha and Maitreya Temple. For a completely different kind of temple experience in Asia, visit the "Lost City" of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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Fanjingshan: A Rich Biosphere Reserve and Holy Buddhist Retreat

Fanjingshan or Mount Fanjing is the highest peak of the Wuling Mountains in southeastern China. It was established as the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in 1978, became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1986, and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.

  • Elevation: 2,570 Meters or 8,430 Feet

The two temples are now around 500 years old having been built during the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty. There is also a bridge linking between the two temples above the heart-stoppingly deep Gold Sword Gorge. With the Maitreya Buddha, they are considered the bodhimanda (or daochang) - a place in which one reached enlightenment.

According to Chinadiscovery.com

"One is for worshipping Sakiymuni representing the present and the other is for Maitreya representing the future."

  • Name: An Abbreviation of Fantian Jingtu - "Brahma's Pure Land"

The relative isolation of Fanjingshan has ensured a high degree of biodiversity with a number of endemic species (like the rare Guizhou golden monkey). The area is also home to the largest and most contiguous subtropical primeval beech forest.

While Fanjingshan is not considered one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism it is ranking just below them as one of the most sacred. It was eventually listed as the “No.5 Great Buddhist Mountain in China” according to Chinadiscovery.com.

Since the 1980s (after the destructions of the Cultural Revolution and the banditry of the Republic of China era), many of the old temples in the region have been rebuilt as well as new ones constructed. These include Cheng'en Temple, Huguo Chan Temple, Great Golden Buddha Temple, and Longquan Temple.

While the site has been sacred since ancient times, many of the temples were destroyed during the 16th century in the Ming Dynasty. The later Qing Dynasty ordered the reconstruction of many of the temples and the building of new ones (including the ones up this mountain).

Related: 22 Images That Show Why Laos Should Get More Love

Hiking Up To The Fanjingshan Temple

The only way to get to Fanjingshan is to climb up the thousands of steps.

To get to the Fanjinshan Temple, visitors normally start at the entrance of the Fanjingshan Scenic Area and take the sightseeing bus for around 20 minutes to Yuao Station. Then one takes the cablecar for 20 minutes to the Cableway Station on the Top.

After that one needs to go on foot. There is a 45-minute walk through the Forest Hiking Road. This leads to the Mushroom Rock and with another 30 minutes hike, to the Old Golden Summit.

Finally, it is another 65-minute climb up to the Fanjingshan Temple. There is only one stone path up to the peak and everyone must be able to walk on the steep and narrow steps while holding onto the iron chains. Firstly one arrives at the Temple of Buddha on the south side, and then one walks across the bridge to the Maitreya Temple. The way may also be closed during periods of bad weather.

  • Caution: The Climb Up Is Considered Very Dangerous And Energy Intensive
  • Final Climb: 65 Minutes With An Iron Chain In Places
  • Duration: The Final Accent Requires At Least 1.5 Hours (and More In The Peak Season)
  • Acrophobia: Not Suitable for People With Acrophobia

Related: Sichuan, China: The Home Of Pandas And The Giant Buddha

Tours To Fanjingshan Mountain and Temple

Chinadiscovery.com offers a range of tours in and around the Fanjingshan region. These can be anywhere from 3 days trips to 9 days trips.

Their classic three-day Fanjinshan tour is tailor-made for those who want a classic exploration of Mount Fanjing's Buddhist culture and the natural wonders that have earned it UNESCO protection.

This tour covers all the top must-sees with at least seven tours hiking experiences in a full day.

On this tour, one will hike up to the summit and explore the Fanjingshan Temple on its pinnacle. One will walk to the landmark mushroom-like stone formation and enjoy breathtaking panoramas of the vast exchanging Mount Fanjing from the best locations.

  • Price: Quotes On Request
  • Duration: 3 Days, 2 Nights
  • Theme: Nature, Hiking, Buddhism
  • Type: Private Tour

There is so much to see and do in this (largely unknown) region of China. Read more about the region on their website.