Mount Tai/Taishan (泰山), one of the 5 sacred mountains in China is considered the greatest (五嶽之首) as its location in the east is regarded as a sacred direction with the sun and the moon rise.
In history, it was said that there had been as many as 72 emperors including Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇) who came here and held the imperial cultic ceremony of offering sacrifices (封禅 fēngshàn) to pay homage to heaven on the summit (封) and earth at the foot of the mountain (禅) to pray and give thanks for peace and prosperity.
There are many cultural relics on Mount Tai which include ancient architecture, stone inscriptions, monuments and archaeological sites that are all of outstanding cultural importance and these masterpieces are found to be in perfect harmony with the aesthetic natural landscape. Hence, Mount Tai was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site in 1987.
We left Qufu (Confucius’ hometown) and travelled to Tai’an to stay for the night so that we could start our hike to Mount Tai in the morning the following day. The whole itinerary was well planned by our host Jung Hua and the pace was perfect for us.
Although we were excited to get to the top of Mount Tai, we did not have the time nor the stamina to take the thousands of steps on foot that wold take hours so we decided to opt for an easy route by taking the cable car to get close to the summit before we would continue the rest of the journey on foot.
First — a short walk
Second — bus ride
Third — steps!
Fourth — a breather after the steps…
Fifth — cable car ride
From thereon — more walking and more steps!
We took a break and had a nice lunch in one of the restaurants along the “Road to Heaven”.
We were blessed with beautiful weather on this nice sunny day with clear blue sky but it was still chilly with the strong wind. Although it was busy with many local Chinese tourists, it was not mobbed so the whole journey was pleasant as we took our pace slowly.
Mount Tai is not a tall mountain, it stands at only 1,532.7 metres (Mt. Kinabalu at 4,095 metres) and with the concrete staircases, the walk was manageable and was in fact, rather enjoyable.
We lingered for a while to absorb in the impressive view in front of us along with the history before we continued the last stretch of our journey…
The summit was just a short walk away from where we took the detour. There was a small temple at the top of the mountain but I did not go in and preferred to stay outside to enjoy the beautiful view in front of me!
When it was time to go, our guide took us to a short and unpaved trail round the back to get down to the Road to Heaven before we headed back to the cable car station.
Our walk was made easy with the cable car ride and the nicely constructed steps but I could not help but wonder how the emperors and their massive entourage made their trips to the summit for the fēngshàn sacrifices when there was no apparent trails thousands of years ago. Even with the steps in present day now it could take up to 6 hours or more from the bottom to the top of the mountain so it was mind-boggling to even imagine the emperors with their horses and carriages hiking through the wilderness to get to the summit.
It has been a amazing trip to go up to Mount Tai. Eventhough I personally do not subscribe to Buddhism and Taoism and the religious activities and influence of both on Taishan, I was very impressed by its sheer cultural and historical significance, and especially with the more than amazing stone inscriptions of writing by emperors of centuries past.
The walk and the fresh mountain air certainly had been beneficial to the body while the opportunities to explore a part of the world and be exposed to its rich culture and history was no doubt good for the soul.
望岳 – 杜甫 –
(End of Part 3 of 3)
Part 1 – a date with peonies at Heze
Part 2 – endless gates, ancient trees and Confucianism at Qufu