Tianmen Cave, or the Door to Heaven to name in English, is a natural karst arch on Tianmen Mountain. Tianmen Mountain got the name from it and Tianmen Cave is the soul source and the principal attraction to the mountain. Tianmen Cave is magnificent. Seen from afar, the cave hanging in the sky looks like the gate to heaven. By way of the 999 steps and walk up to the Tianmen Cave, visitors feel like walking into the paradise. Surrounded by dense mists all year long, Tianmen Cave is so beautiful that it attracts countless visitors around the world.
☝ The Heaven's Gate in Zhangjiajie China
It has different versions on the origin of the mysterious Tianmen Cave.
One of the Chinese legends said that long time ago, there was a sudden burst of sound in the sky. When the locals went out to find out what's going on, they saw five auspicious clouds in the sky and the main summit of Songliang Mountain (the original name of Tianmen Mountain) suddenly opened up. Locals then heard the clear bell-like voice from the jade emperor, who is the first god in heaven according to Taoist theology. The jade emperor expressed concerns and delivered blessings to his people. Thereafter, Songliang Mountain changed the name to Tianmen Mountain (Heaven's Gate Mountain in English) and Tianmen Mountain has become a symbol of luck since then.
Another legend said that in the year 263 during the Three Kingdoms period, the stone wall in the east part of the main summit of Songliang Mountain suddenly burst into a cave, which seemed like the gate to heaven. Sun Xiu, the king of Eastern Wu state regarded this cave as an auspiciousness. Since the mountain was so high, he then changed its name to Heaven's Gate Mountain. Heaven's Gate Tianmen Mountain ever since became famous.
☝ Incense sticks are burnt by believers on the Altar of Tianmen to worship the Heaven's Gate
Tianmen Cave locates in the east part of the main summit of Tianmen Mountain, facing north and south, with the magnificent height of 131.5 meters, the width of 57 meters, the depth of 60 meters, and the altitude of 1,300 meters. It is the highest natural arch in the world. Best place to see the cave is at the Cave Square. Looking up from this point, travelers can find Tianmen Cave is just like the gate where people enter to the paradise. Sometimes, sea of clouds appears at the cave's opening, with bright sunshine glowing through it, forming the magical scenery. By witnessing this marvelous work of nature, visitors soon realize the insignificance of human beings.
It is said that beautiful scenes of the world are always met but not sought. In Tianmen Cave, the sky becomes clear and the air becomes humid after the rain. With the convective weather process, the cloud and mist surrounding the summit of Tianmen Mountain are spewing out from the cave in the shape of a huge dragon. This weather phenomenon called "Tianmen Spewing Fog" (天门吐雾) is very spectacular.
At sunset, travelers sometimes can see seven colored evening sunlight spurting out Tianmen Cave where the clouds meet the sky and purple auspicious clouds covering an entire mountain, as if the holy lights of Buddha are shining all over the world. When such scene appears, the local people generally interpret it as the auspicious blessing from the god, and how they would react to it is to kneel down and worship. This scene is called as "Sunglow of Tianmen"(天门霞光).
Noticeably, "Sunglow of Tianmen" and "Tianmen Spewing Fog" are all rare things to see in the world.
In Tianmen Cave, the water drops all year round, and the shape of the drops are like plum blossoms. Thus, the locals call them the plum flower rain. The water drops in the cave taste like the honeydew. It is said that anyone who are lucky to collect 48 drops of the plum flower rain with his or her mouth can live forever like a fairy.
Another interesting fact about Tianmen cave is that in 1999, a world's famous aerobatic pilot successfully flied through Tianmen Cave which caused global attention.
Today, Tianmen Cave is well known as a good place for wingsuit flyings. Lucky visitors to Tianmen Cave even have opportunities to see wingsuit performance competition on the spot.
☝ Mist and Fog are being sprewed out from the Heaven's Gate which is a rare seen weather phenomenon to many people
Decades ago, people could still see the tall and magnificent Tianmen Cave from Zhangjiajie South Wharf. However, as time passed by, water transport has been overtaken by land transport, the South Wharf has become desolate; While Dayong Bridge, an unknown place before, has become prosperous. Nowadays, to be able to watch the Tianmen Cave from the far, people have to go several kilometers from the South Wharf to Dayong Bridge. Tianmen Cave was changing direction with the flow of the Chinese Feng Shui! The direction that Tianmen Cave faced always has the best Fengshui. This is the "Direction Changing Mystery" that Tianmen Cave left to us.
Another interesting fact is that in the Tianmen Mountain area, whenever there is a great person passing away, no matter if the weather is originally bright with the sunshine or quite with the moon, it would suddenly turn into thunderstorms. The rains are interpreted as the grieving tears from the Tianmen Mountain. This unexplained phenomena is called as "Tianmen's Mysterious Connection to Heaven"
The mysterious heaven's culture around the Tianmen Cave is like a giant magnetic field that attracts tourists from all over the world to come and worship.
☝ Travelers are climbing the 999 Steps to visit the Heaven's Gate
Under the snowy weather, roads are frozen, slippery and difficult to walk on. Therefore, for safety purposes, Tianmen Cave may be temporarily shut down.
When it is rainy or it is densely foggy, the visibility on Tianmen Mountain would be very low. Therefore, travelers are not advised to come here under such weather.