Moganshan is a compact hilltop. You can walk everywhere, from one sight to the next, and always find something interesting in between, be it a quaintly rundown old villa, a stunning view or simply a picturesque path to explore. The hillside is crisscrossed with numerous stone walkways and steps, some in very good repair, some sadly neglected. (The latter can be the best fun to explore.) Pagodas are scattered through the woods like sofas in an art gallery, perfect places to rest your legs and take in the vista.

You can ‘do’ Moganshan, in a rush, in a day. But much of its charm will be missed. Best take at least two days, even better three, to wander the old houses and museums at leisure, and still have time for a short hike into the surrounding countryside. And don’t forget to leave time for settling down with a good book in a pagoda, on a terrace…or, of course, back at the Lodge.

Note: for the official sights, museums etc. you must show your entry ticket, the one you bought for RMB 80 at the gate as you came in. If you somehow sneaked in without buying one, then the guardians will ask you to buy one on the spot.

 

Museums and Historic Buildings

The Mao Museum

Signposted from the start of the back road, just down from Yin Shan Jie, the Mao Museum is an empty shell. Painted floors, white walls, no furnishings, except for an iron bedstead, where Mao reputedly slept overnight. He did not. He came up for a day, with an old comrade who happened to live at the foot of the mountain, and during his walkabout had an afternoon nap in this house.

White Cloud Castle

Once the residence of a Kuomintang foreign minister, Huang Fu, this house in the Baiyun Hotel complex is the one where Chiang Kai Shek spent a few days on his honeymoon with Song Mei Ling, in 1927. Ten years later Chiang returned here to meet Zhou Enlai. They discussed how the Kuomintang and the Communists might co-operate against the Japanese. The museum is pretty Spartan in its artifacts, but compared to the Mao museum, it is positively cluttered. The walls of the ground floor display grainy black and white photographs of Zhou and Chiang, notably more of Zhou. There is a roped off study where “meetings were held” and a dining room where Zhou and Chiang “ate their meals”, and a bedroom where “they slept”… you get the idea. But at least there is some furniture, and house is pleasantly laid out.

Wulingcun

This spur of the mountain, originally named Mt Clare by the foreigners, was the site of some of the earliest houses in the very late 1800s. On the north side of the entrance to the Moganshan Shanzhuang is a gully which sucks up a constant draft. The prime plot, in those days before air conditioning, was right at the top of it, where the Moganshan Shanzhuang now sits. Of the buildings now scattered across the flat top of the spur, Number 550, the Songyue Ting, was the scene of Chiang Kai Shek’s last visit to and meeting on the mountain, to launch a new paper currency for China, in 1948.

 
 

 

Scenic Spots

The Sword Pond, Jian Chi

Rightly billed as the main tourist attraction of Moganshan – it is after all the reason the place got its name – the Sword Pond is set in a beautiful gully, lined with green trees and imposing rocks, and well worth the descent from the road and climb back up again. In the off season it really does feel like a fairy glen. In the high season on the other hand, there are crowds of tourists and local touts offering you rides on sedan chairs etc. Do not let that put you off. The local administration bureau has done a remarkably good job of building walkways, wooden pagodas and viewing points. You can always find a quiet spot to enjoy the serene beauty of the place, you’ll just have to look for it a little harder sometimes.

Luhuadang Gongyuan (Reed Catkin Marsh Park)

Why one had to lay out a park in the middle of such beautiful and natural surroundings, only a stuffy Victorian would know. But lay out a park they did, as if the only way to enjoy nature was to impose one’s own version on top of it. Reed Catkin Marsh Park leads up from the Administration Bureau Office Car Park (where all the sedan chair carriers hang out) up to the Baiyun Hotel. Where the foreigners stuck their gazebos, the new generation has put tiny pagodas. And sculptures are scattered among the small grassy clearings in the shrubbery. For all the manufactured greenery, it is actually quite a pleasant little park. At least there is no funfair in the middle of it.

Qingliang Ting

You pass this pagoda on your way up the steep road from Yucun, just as you enter the village proper. So it’s a long hike by foot back down, unless you are staying at the Radisson’s Du Yue Sheng Villa, right beside it. Views down to the plain and across the hillside are spectacular, on clear days. On misty ones you could almost imagine, if you try really hard, that you are on the top of Huang Shan, thanks to the rocky cliffs.

 

 
   

 

Scenic Spots contd.

Guai Shi Jiao “Weird Rock Corner”

At the end of a spur that leads off west from the top of the mountain, past Ta Shan, its highest point, Guai Si Jiao is a pleasant walk along the ridge (detour to the tea plantation if you’re thirsty, see Qingcaotang below). The place is signposted from the ridge road. If you can’t read Chinese look for the mocked up photograph of weird stones. You can’t miss it. Views are impressive, if plain. All you can see is green hills stretching into the distance. The rocks themselves are certainly pretty weird. Great photo opportunities. Look down to the left and you’ll see four tall but dead-looking pine trees poking out of the bamboo. They surround an old tomb. Take the steps down for a look. They start from the left of the small pagoda. (for more about where the steps lead, go to Roundabout Moganshan).

Dripping Green Pond

… does not drip so much as gently stagnate. So it is green at least. However, it is cleaned up regularly and if you slip your visit in between the coach loads of tourists who stop here on their way up to Wulingcun, you will probably enjoy a few moments of green peace. Do spend a moment to read the description on the board. If you are French perhaps you could get in touch please and explain how one quantifies “bonjour”.

Qingcaotang (Green Grass Soup) Tea Plantation

Just below the “Weird Rock Corner”, on its south side, Qingcaotang Tea Plantation is the only local one above 700 metres in elevation. This apparently adds flavour. It also adds value. When the new leaves are in season and just being picked, a pound of the finest blend will set you back RMB 500. But it is delicious. The fourth soaking is when the flavour really kicks in. The affable manager, Mr. Pan, is happy to show you around, demonstrate the process of making tea, and will even let you have a go, for a nominal fee. He can also lay on a rural lunch in the ramshackle but charming old villa for guests.

   
   

 

…Or just wander aimlessly

Moganshan is crisscrossed with a maze of stone pathways and steps. Some follow the contours of the hill, some climb vertically and at times precariously to secret viewpoints. You might stumble on a run down derelict villa, inhabited only by ghosts of the past, or a tumbledown still lived in by aged locals who still remember those ghosts. One old man we know recalls seeing Chiang Kai Shek up here. See if you can find the remains of the old public tennis courts, the weed-covered ruins of Moganshan’s first hotel built in the 1920’s, the Luyin Luguan, also known as the Railway Hotel. (No, there was no mountain railway). At every corner you will find a house with history. You do not need a guidebook, you can make the stories up yourselves. Much more fun.

Some specific places to try to stumble on:

The Assembly Hall. Halfway along Ridge Road, the old Assembly Hall, built in 1923, housed the Summer Resort Association meeting rooms, a kindergarten, concert hall and on the second floor the village church. Today it is a carpentry store and workshop. If the workers are inside you can ask to be let in for a look see. Without the dividing floor the place really does feel like a cathedral. Before a workshop, it was used to grow mushrooms, which somehow spontaneously combusted in 1999 and burnt the place down. Hence the new stonework visible on the walls.

The Tennis Courts. Right beside the Assembly Hall, the tennis courts are covered with short bamboo and weeds. But the stone foundation of what was the main spectator pagoda still stands. The other viewing terraces up the side of the hill have become the retaining wall for a large water tank. The pleasant avenue of trees is a post ’49 addition. They run right through the old courts.

The Swimming Pool. Just up from Yin Shan Jie, the village street, opposite the Post Office, the swimming pool is still full of water, not that you’d want to swim in it. The original poolside buildings have been replaced a couple of times. In 1922 the pool and buildings were swept away by a landslide. One missionary was killed while a young boy, who survived, ended up in the wreckage of the ladies’ changing room. Must have been traumatic.

Baotai Shan. The “Gun Platform” which never had a gun emplacement. What looks like the foundation of an old fortification is in fact the ruins of the mountain’s first hotel, Luyin Luguan, also known as the Railway Hotel. Turn off the back road down the mountain about halfway to the Zhu Xiang Cun Hotel.