Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/243

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187
OMEI SHAN, THE SACRED

between Omei-hsien and the foot of the mountain, wooded lanes and glens, little brooks rippling between flowery banks, fine stone bridges spanning the swift green Omei, red temples overhung by splendid banyan trees, and over all the dark mysterious mountain, lifting its crown ten thousand feet above our heads. Did ever pilgrim tread a more beautiful path to the Delectable Mountains? And there were so many pilgrims, men and women, all clad in their best, and with the joy of a holiday shining in their faces. There were few children, but some quite old people, and many were women hobbling pluckily along on their tiny feet; the majority, however, were young men, chosen perhaps as the most able to perform the duty for the whole family. They seemed mostly of a comfortable farmer class; the very poor cannot afford the journey; and as for the rich—does wealth ever go on a pilgrimage nowadays? All carried on the back a yellow bag (yellow is Buddha's colour) containing bundles of tapers to burn before the shrines, and in their girdles were strings of cash to pay their way; priests and beggars alike must be appeased.

After an hour or so we left behind the cultivation of the valley, and entered the wild gorge of the Omei, and after this our path led upwards through fine forests of ash and oak and pine. The road grew steeper and steeper, often just a rough staircase of several hundred steps, over which we slipped and