Mount Fanjing, in the Wuling mountain range of southwest China, is home to one of the planet’s most otherworldly sights: two small temples constructed on top of a split rock spire, connected by an arched bridge overlooking a breathtaking natural paradise.
The two small Buddhist temples, situated at the top of the natural rock spire known as the Red Clouds Golden Point, have a past that goes back over 500 years, to the Ming Dynasty.
How Buddhists managed to bring the requisite materials up the unstable rock formation without modern technology remains a mystery, but in order to withstand the strong winds and the overall harsh climate, the temple complex we see today was restored according to its original look, only using stronger materials such as iron tiles.
While often referred to as Fanjingshan Temple, this impressive human accomplishment is actually made up of two separate temples linked by a small arched bridge hanging over the deep Gold Sword Gorge.
Sakiymuni, which represents the present, is dedicated to the Temple of Buddha, and the Maitreya Temple is dedicated to Maitreya, the successor of Sakiymuni, which represents the future.
Visitors must first ascend more than 8,000 steps to reach the Temple of Buddha on the south side of the temple complex in order to reach this heavenly location.
To visit Maitreya Temple on the north side, they can then walk across the bridge, thus retaining the present-to-future comparison.
You will admire ancient inscriptions from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties as you ascend the thousands of steps along the cliffs, voicing the veneration of the holy mountain by the locals who made their way here centuries ago.
In Buddhism, the whole of Mount Fanjing is a holy mountain, and it is called the bodhimanda of the Buddha of Maitreya.
Historical materials suggest that in ancient times, Fanjiang was home to dozens of Buddhist temples, most of which were demolished during the 16th century.
Today, the mountain is home to around 50 Buddhist temples, not including the Golden Peak atop the two Red Clouds.
The two otherworldly temples atop Mount Fanjing are among the most popular tourist attractions in all of China, as you might imagine.
To enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, people from all over the world come to this magical spot and scratch this destination from their bucket list.
And it’s certainly one of those places, at least once in your life, that you should count yourself fortunate to experience in person.