On the top of Mount Hua, part of the Qinling mountain range just outside of Xi’an, China, there is a Taoist monastery where one million people come each year to take in the view and to try the tea. The mountain is 6,562 feet high, and the trail is not only steep, but also treacherous. Among the many visitors that come to the temple each day, there is also a group of porters that brave the trail carrying supplies like food and water to the mountaintop teahouse.
The teahouse has been sitting on top of the mountain for over 1,000 years. During that time, many people have fulfilled pilgrimages there to ask for blessings and counsel from the monks that reside on the mountaintop. In modern times, people continue to make these pilgrimages, but more and more people are coming to try the tea, which is reported to have many benefits—not the least of which is bragging rights to say that you completed the trip.
The tea can only be had after a two-hour trek up the mountain. The journey starts with a 20-minute cable car ride before you actually start the ascent. Many parts are pretty intimidating, with the trail being carved directly into the mountain or jutting out the side with beams holding up wooden platforms without guardrails. You can rent safety harnesses, though they aren’t required. If those narrow passages aren’t enough to intimidate you, then the section where you have to hold onto chains and slip your feet into holds chiselled into the rock face should.
Great Big Story chronicled a small part of this voyage. The video features one of the porters who daily makes the trip while carrying supplies up and down the mountain. That porter notes, “Drinking tea when I am on the top of the mountain is when the tea tastes best, because the mountain is high. The view makes you feel carefree and relaxed. It puts you in a good mood.” Of course, that good mood only lasts until you realise that now you have to climb down.