Wutaishan has mixed reviews all over the internet and there certainly is a reason why. The natural setting of Wutaishan itself is stunning. The rolling mountains, agricultural terraces, tiny temples tucked away in the hills and separation from any major city gives it the rural weekend escape feeling many seek after spending time in China’s bustling urban regions. We were quite excited to make the journey through the mountains to visit and loved the views on the way in.
Once you take in all the beauty however, you begin to realize something here has gone amiss. After a few hours, one can unfortunately confirm that it has in fact been overrun with tourism and greed. There are monks everywhere, which is typically a joyous site with pleasant, positive interactions. These monks however, do not say hello just to greet you, they speak to you only to initiate a conversation regarding money. Nearly every one we passed on our first day, said “hello, money”, with the hand gesture of two fingers rubbing together.
I’ve visited a number of places with monks and temple filled mountains, but never have I encountered this. It was sad to say the least, but David and I chose to just ignore it for the most part, to focus on the beauty that does still exist in Wutaishan. There are gorgeous temples everywhere, but in line with the spoiled nature of the town, not all of them are authentic and simply exist to charge exorbitant fees to naïve tourists.
All that being said – here are the things you should know to ensure you enjoy your time in Wutaishan:
- There is a FEE to get into the city, it will be paid at a road blockade and there is no way around it. Currently the fee is 168RMB + 50 RMB, so a total of 218 RMB, $35 USD.
- Do not take a taxi within the town limits (many will stop and offer rides). You do not need them, as there are two FREE buses that run constantly up and down the entire city (numbers 1 & 3 – they are lime green and have obvious stops all over the main road).
- Here is a list of the temples that are authentic:
- Xiantong Si
- Tayuan Si
- Bishan Si
- Shuxiang Si
- Nanshan Si
- Longquan Si
- Jin’ge Si
- Foguang Si
- If you are a STUDENT show your card everywhere, most places give very good discounts, but there is nothing posted about it (at least nothing that we could read every), so just show the card and if needed a translation in Mandarin (on your phone or written) that you are a student.
- Do not give money to anyone that begs – you will only be feeding the problem.
- If you are operating on a budget, you can buy food from the “Green Grocer” in an alley off the main road close to the large pagoda. We got our veggies from her for $3/day. The restaurants in the town are quite over priced, so just be aware.
You can see from our pictures that the town really is quite lovely. Just take in these few tips and you should have a nice time. 1-2 days is plenty of time unless you are a temple buff, you can always book 1 day and extend, but be careful on the weekends and during the summer, as it can be busy with locals.
For additional honest information – a fellow traveler documented a similar experience and wrote about it on his blog – here.