Huangshan, known as ‘the loveliest mountain of China’, was acclaimed through art and literature during a good part of Chinese history (e.g. the Shanshui ‘mountain and water’ style of the mid-16th century). Today it holds the same fascination for visitors, poets, painters and photographers who come on pilgrimage to the site, which is renowned for its magnificent scenery made up of many granite peaks and rocks emerging out of a sea of clouds.

Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province was never classified as a sacred mountain, but in recent years it has become one of the most popular destinations in eastern China, largely due to its proximity to Shanghai. That should serve as a warning. The mountain is a favourite with Chinese holidaymakers, and therefore the summer months should be avoided—unless, of course, you like crowds

Unlike the smooth-topped Taishan, Huangshan rises in a series of craggy peaks which inspired a whole school of painting in the late Ming period. The peaks themselves have literary names which reflect the traditional reverence Chinese scholars feel for mountains—Lotus Flower Peak, Bright Summit and Heavenly Capital Peak, for example. Between Purple Cloud Peak and Peach Blossom Peak are hot spring pools which are a pleasure to bathe in after a stiff walk.

Huangshan, at just over 1,800 metres (6,000 feet), does not offer easy hiking, and a good pair of thick-soled shoes should be worn, since the granite trails are tough on the feet. Overnight guesthouses on the summits offer basic accommodation, but hikers should remember to bring warm and waterproof clothing (those swirling seas of clouds look wonderful from a distance, but walking through them can be damp and demoralizing without proper protective clothing), and some supplies of high-energy food such as chocolate and dried fruit.