Driving to the base of Lushan (Mount Lu) from Wuhan takes about two and a half hours. Buying your ticket gives you a happy opportunity to stretch your legs, but then it is back into the car for another hour of twisting roads to the top of the mountain.
As you rise it begins to rain. Rain isn’t quite accurate. You are entering into a cloud, and the cold dampness will follow you for your entire stay. On top is a cute village with shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as the villas of China’s rich and famous.
The mountain has a storied past. It is the place where Pure Land Buddhism was founded in 402 CE. Kung Fu lovers will recognize their invoking of “Amituofo.” Christian missionaries used to take their summer retreats here in the Qing dynasty period, and were the first to actually settle and develop the mountain. Before it was home to mainly Buddhist monks.
Lushan is also famous for being the desired vacation spot of the communist leadership, and for hosting the Lushan Conference, or the 8th Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee in 1959, where one of my favourite actors in Chinese History, Peng Dehui, denounced the failures of the Great Leap Forward. Perceived as a personal attack on the Great Helmsman, Mao denounced Peng and threatened to return to the countryside and raise a new revolution if the Party betrayed his leadership. Members quickly sided with Mao, and he rode this new-found confidence to eventually launch the Cultural Revolution in 1966.
As we walked around in the mist our family encouraged us, for health reasons, to yell at the top of our lungs, “Lushan women lai le!” — Mount Lu, we’ve come!