The Eighth Original Writing Competition

Junior High School Group

Platinum Award


Written by Ruan Banpeng,
Jiangkou Middle School, Ankang City, Shaanxi Province
Date: October, 2020


Waning moon, distant hills, headlights, and gossamer mist.

My father and I wove steadily northward on Highway 210 toward the Qinling mountains. Under a sky still brimming with stars, following a mountain road peaceful and quiet, the dark outline of distant mountains loomed ahead.

At this hour, aside from the ephemeral light of passing cars, only ancient stands of Shensi fir on those mountains could be clearly seen. I watched them in their distinctive coats of yellow swaying in the wind, their soothing rustling resonating with my soul, seemingly inviting me to lose myself too in the brisk autumn breeze. In our headlights, these majestic fir trees seemed unapproachably pure and flawless, like reclusive poets sequestered in their mountain hideaway, reveling in wine and deep discussion – happy and free.

As dawn slowly broke, I saw through the window the light of day begin to brighten the surrounding landscape. The cloudless sky overhead was still tinged in inky black – a lingering memory of the dark night only just swept away by morning’s cerulean glow. The surrounding forests, carpeted in golden-yellow leaves, swayed in the breeze, their leaves shimmering under the morning sun like ripples on a choppy sea.

Progress along the road, now crowded with cars in both directions, began to slow. My father, seeing our journey joined by so many happy travelers, let out a resigned chuckle. “Looks like the early bird doesn’t always get the worm!” he said. In the fir forest, people were everywhere, resting in its welcoming shadow and engaging in outdoor fun. People had come from far and wide, and the fir forest was playing an elegant, graceful host. The fir trees today were anything but ‘cold’. They were like doting elders joining in the fun with their children. How silly people can be, constantly searching for beauty in faraway places. No! Home is where beauty shines brightest!

We leave the crowds behind as we press forward through the morning. The Xun River snakes through this mountainous land, appearing in the sunlight like a silver dragon, at one turn cagily placid, at another bursting with untamed energy. The giant stones that fringe this river appear as sleeping giants – stolid guardians of the Xun. When I finally pry myself away from the passing scenery, I notice that our once-straight highway has morphed into a twisting, turning mountain road and that forests have begun thinning out. I’m not even sure when we left the Xun River behind. We are now in a landscape capped by sharply peaked ridgelines. A chill shoots up my spine. These jagged peaks look as if they could have been hewn with a mighty sword. Truly, a warning to all who dare to trespass.

We finally arrived at 10:00 at the summit of Nanshan. A brisk wind greeted me as I opened the car door, sweeping away my travel fatigue in an instant. Dad dove right into the task of setting up camp, while I, camera in hand, walked up to the Qinling ridgeline.

Gazing into the distance, the ephemeral mists cloaking the valley remind me of a bashful maiden wearing a diaphanous veil to conceal her beautiful face. In my mind’s eye, the ever-changing sea of clouds below forms successive images of a slithering dragon, a roiling sea, and a 1,000-strong cavalry heading into battle. Turning around, a wholly different scene greets my eyes. A golden sea sparkles under the sun, cut placidly down the middle by a silken thread bounded by a sprinkling of houses along each side – dreamily picturesque! Two valleys, so close yet so different. Truly “A marvel wrought by the hand of nature, dominating both light and shade.”

I photographed these scenes and securely stored them in my camera. My father approached, showing me several ‘red beans’ in his open hand. Dad laughed at the surprised look on my face, saying “These are fir tree seeds. Taste them.” I took the ‘red beans’ from his hand and popped them into my mouth. They lit my tongue up with their crisp sweetness and lingering flavor of contented happiness. Emotion welled up inside of me. Such a wonder is Qinling! However, upon deeper reflection, mountains, forests, and scenic vistas abound in this world of ours. There are simply too few who take the time to notice!    

Reviewer 1

The author’s fluid writing style captures and presents the finer points of the mountain scenery that is at the center of this narrative. The work reads like a beautifully scenic postcard.

Reviewer 2

The author adopts an introspective perspective on a journey into the mountains in this essay, describing richly and clearly the diverse scenery and fellow travelers encountered along the way. Elegantly refined prose and details abound. Truly a boldly written and deftly executed work.