on top of Mount Tai, Shandong

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

taishan, mount tai shandong china

it started with a short walk up the steps (with Mount Tai in the foreground) to the station where we would first get on a bus

Second — bus ride

taishan, mount tai shandong china

it took about twenty-minutes to get us to our halfway point

Third — steps!

taishan, mount tai shandong china

after the bus ride we were expected to do some exercise…

taishan, mount tai shandong china

it was not really that strenuous but apparently the steps were simply too tough for the unfit Amy — May and Yee Tsing had to wait for her to catch her breath on the steps!

Fourth — a breather after the steps…

taishan, mount tai shandong china

a nice little stroll after the steps and before we got to the cable car station

Fifth — cable car ride

taishan, mount tai shandong china

taishan, mount tai shandong china

bird’s eye view of the city of Tai’an

From thereon — more walking and more steps!

taishan shandong china (8)

“South Gate of Heaven” 南天門

taishan, mount tai shandong china

going up to the “Road to Heaven” 天街

taishan shandong china (10)

another view of the gate

We took a break and had a nice lunch in one of the restaurants along the “Road to Heaven”.

taishan, mount tai shandong china

for those fit and adventurous hikers they can take the steep steps on the right which would take them 2 – 6 hours from the foot of the mountain to the top.

taishan, mount tai shandong china

looked back at how far we had come… we took the easy way by taking the cable car but there was still some walking we had to do…

taishan, mount tai shandong china

looking ahead — more steps to go, but we are almost there!

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

after we passed the gate at the top of the stairs we were greeted by this Bixia Temple (碧霞祠).  We did not go in nor stop as “the smoke got in my eyes” with the heavily burning incense…

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.

taishan, mount tai Shandong china
something caught our attention…
taishan, mount tai Shandong china

it was this — amazing stone inscriptions!!! writings by famous people through the centuries have been carved on the rocks

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

writing by Emperor Tang Xuanzong Li Longji of the Tang Dynasty more than 1,200 years ago and was inscribed in gold on the rock face. Height of 1320 cm and width of 530 cm, presently with only 1,008 readable words left. 1,200多年前唐玄宗李隆基親筆書寫的銘文 – 《紀泰山銘》、亦稱《東岳封禪碑》、《泰山唐摩崖》 摩崖高1320厘米,寬530厘米,現存1008字。

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

another impressive inscription — the two words on top were written by Emperor Kangxi, and the two poems below were written by his grandson Emperor Qianlong “雲峰”乃清代康熙皇帝所寫;”雲峰”形容泰山的高峻。 “雲峰”下方有乾隆所作《夜宿岱頂》詩二首。

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…

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

a little bit more to go…

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

just a few metres shy of the summit the guide took us to a short detour on our right and led us to the cliff for a breathtaking view, and some photography opportunities…

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

being acrophobic (afraid of height) I said this was the furthest to the edge I would go…

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

a picture to show to Amy what she had missed as she refused to join us for this little detour…

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!

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

a view from the summit with a meteorological observatory in the distance

meteorological observatorytaishan shandong china (26)meteorological observatory

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.

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

望岳           – 杜甫 –
岱宗夫如何,齊魯青未了。
造化鍾神秀,陰陽割昏曉。
蕩胸生層云,決眦入歸鳥。
會當凌絕頂,一覽眾山小。

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

looking from a distance — the middle part of the mountain with the gate was where we had been…

taishan, mount tai Shandong china

(End of Part 3 of 3)

Part 1 – a date with peonies at Heze
Part 2 – endless gates, ancient trees and Confucianism at Qufu

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