Qiyun Mountain was known in former times as Baiyue (White mountain). The name qiyun (literally “as high as clouds”) derives from these lines of verse: “One stone sticks into the sky, / And directly enters the clouds; / It is as high as the deep-blue clouds.” The mountain has five unique features: Daoist culture, cliff inscriptions, spectacular Danxia landforms (which result from red-colored sandstone), a natural taiji (supreme ultimate) diagram, and the scenic view “celestial street in moonlight.” Since the Wanli reign (1573–1620) of the Ming dynasty, Qiyun Mountain has been known as one of the Four Sacred Daoist Mountains along with the Wudang Mountain, Long-Hu (Dragon-Tiger) Mountain, and Qingcheng Mountain. These are all places where the Grand Emperor of the Perfected Warrior is worshipped. These sacred mountains are revered as imperial Daoist sites, and Daoist rituals have been performed at these places since the beginning of the Ming dynasty. Several Daoist temples are situated here, including Taisu Temple, Yuxu Temple, Zhenwu (Perfected warrior) Hall, Caishen (God of wealth) Hall, and Zhongmiao (Innumerable marvels) Gate.
The mountain is replete with Daoist temples, stone inscriptions, as well as legends and stories. Many famous literati and writers have visited here—the philosopher and Ruist scholar Zhu Xi (1130–1200), the famous traveler and geographer Xu Xiake (1586–1641), the literati painter Tang Bohu (1550–1616), and the modern writer Yu Dafu (1896–1945) have all left their footprints here. Natural scenery that is simple but elegant combined with a magnificent and powerful cultural landscape creates a beautifully integrated picture. In a certain sense, Qiyun Mountain is the synthesis of both Huizhou and Xiuning cultures. It is a mountain with true cultural meaning. The poetic writings left by previous literati not only reflect the characteristic style of the mountain, but also form part of its cultural heritage.
In recent years, the environment of the mountain has been protected and ecotourism has been developed. The park has earned honorary titles and awards such as “National Park of China,” “National Geopark,” “National Forest Park,” and “4A National Tourist Attraction.” The Daoist music and cliff inscriptions have both been inscribed on the lists of National Intangible Cultural Heritage and Major Historical and Cultural Sites Protected at the National Level.
Typical Danxia landforms can be seen at the Qiyun Mountain National Geopark, where dinosaur fossils, Daoist culture, and cliff inscriptions are blended into one fascinating view. The park combines unique scenery with a beautiful elegance. The towering cragged peaks, rugged unusual rocks, precipitous red cliffs, cinnabar-red precipices, and range upon range of mountains represent a landscape pattern that has been developing since the late Cretaceous era (ca. sixty-five million years BP). There are many sites that reveal interesting geologic strata: from the Mesozoic era of the Cretaceous period; it is also the site where the geologic formation of the Himalaya mountain ranges occurred as well as the site of the neotectonic movement. The park is rich in fossils, and fossilized remains such as footprints, eggs, and even a tail trail, all from dinosaurs; these are dated to the Cretaceous strata and were found in the late twentieth century. It is quite rare that fossilized groups of dinosaurs, their eggs, and footprints can be found all together in one national geopark.
The Qiyun Mountain National Forest Park covers an area of 6,547 hectares, of which the forest proper takes up 5,447 hectares (or 83.2% coverage). The major scenic sites include the mountain scenic area, Fenghuang (Phoenix) Mountain, Wannan Wildlife Rescue Center, Lingnan Forestry Farm, Xitian Forestry Farm, and Zhongtang Seedling Nursery.
The forest landscape is beautiful. The natural scenery and cultural sites make it an ideal place for people to visit, relax, and engage in scientific, cultural and educational activities. The scenic area is characterized by the forest ecosystem including plants, weather, rocks, and caves, and the cultural landscape with cliff inscriptions and Daoist relics. The secluded resort produces a feeling that is spiritual, ancient, wondrous, and profound. Visitors are known to find the scenery so beautiful that they are reluctant to leave.
The scenic area of Qiyun Mountain begins at the ancient Landu Bridge in Xiuning county to the east, extends to Zixi River in Weiqiao village in the south, borders on the Wanshou Mountain in Yixian county to the west, and adjoins the Hengjiang River (upper reaches of Xin’an River) in the north. It covers 9 mountain ridges and peaks, including Baiyue Mountain, Qiyun Mountain, Qingshi Mountain, and Baixiang Mountain. It stretches 16 kilometers east to west and 6.9 kilometers south to north. The total area, which occupies 110.4 square kilometers, is divided into four scenic sites—Yuehua Street, Loushanglou, Yunyan Lake, and Hengjiang River, each has distinctive tourist attractions.