Mount Tai

(Cont’ from Taian page)

Ever since, all emperors of China, with no exception, have followed in the footsteps of their ancestral royal line. Worshiping the Heavens at the top of Mt. Tai has become duty to legitimize emperors for mandating their governance as the sons of Heaven are in dialogue with their ancestors. At the mountain top itself, you will find the oldest and largest Taoism temple in Shandong. It dates back 1,000 years, from the Song dynasty. When stepping over Taoist temple thresholds, boys should use their left foot first and girls should use their right foot first.

You might already be familiar with the concepts of feng shui and yin and yang, which belong to Taoism. At this temple, a goddess is worshipped, to help young couples to have children. Steep in history and supernatural allure, Mount Tai – and indeed, Shandong province – is legendary. In ancient times, people in China believed that the sun began its daily journey from Mount Tai. Watching the awesome sunrise, from the summit, is still a popular experience today.

The summit of Mount Tai is the highest point in Shandong province, as well as being the picture on the back of the 5 yuan bank note. When travelling in China, a fun souvenir is taking a photograph of the real life scene from each of the bank notes. See how many you can tick off!

The “East Route”, spanning more than 7,200 steps, is the most popular way to reach the summit. This route was often taken by emperors who traveled many miles to reach the top of Mt. Tai. The route starts from Dai Temple, passing the Midway Gate of Heaven and finally reaching the South Gate of Heaven. Although the climb can be strenuous, prepare to take anywhere from 2.5 to 8 hours to finish your journey. Not only will you be blown away by the sheer beauty of the landscape atop the mountain, but also hundreds of poetic calligraphies from well-known philosophers from past centuries of China’s history have their work here, including Ten Thousand Immortals Tower, the Arhat Cliff, and the Palace of Goddess Doumu.  There are also Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian temples at the summit of the mountain, as well as a commercial street with cafés, shops, and hotels. There is a good mixture of both reasonable or luxury-type hotels to enjoy your stay.

As the eastern-most of China’s five great mountains, emperors, scholars, and pilgrims have been summiting Mount Tai’s 1,545m peak for over 3,000 years. In dynastic China, the emperor would pay homage to heaven at the summit and foot of Mount Tai. In addition to its sacred importance, Mount Tai is said to have four natural wonders: the sea of clouds, the heavenly aura (caused by light diffracting off clouds and mist), the glowing sunset, and the sun rising in the east the earliest. If you would like to see the sunrise, you will need to either hike up before dawn or camp overnight on the summit. Furthermore, Mount Tai experiences four distinctive seasons and no matter what time of the year you visit, expect to see seasonal beauties from the white snow in winter, the flowery spring, the warm summer sun on the mountain, all the way to being showered by autumn leaves.

Mt. Tai is nothing short of an encyclopedia of China’s history and literacy. Set foot onto the 6,666 steps beaten path towards the South Heaven’s Gate, a pilgrimage that everyone dreams of in China. You will find poetic remarks hanging from the cliffs on both sides of your walking path. For the Chinese leaving his name in history means that a piece of writing is carved on the cliffs of Mt. Tai. Many of these writings have been inscribed thousands of years ago. Whenever you stop to catch a breath, you will feel the calligraphies jumping into your eyes. What a treat to go through those steps. All writings have been elegantly autographed by emperors, fine scholars, and ranking officials. Of course, we never run out of fables and stories during our “historical” climbs.  Mt. Tai is truly a sacred land from which Chinese culture and literature mushroomed.

The most popular route to reach the summit is called the “East Route” with lengths of more than 7,200 steps. The route starts from the Dai Temple, traveling through the Midway Gate of Heaven, and up to the top reaching the South Gate of Heaven. Atop the South Gate, there are hundreds of well-known calligraphers who have their work kept on the stones. The journey to reach could take anywhere from 2.5 to 8 hours to climb. If you are unable to climb to the summit, you can take a bus to the Midway Gate to Heaven and then change to a cable car to the South Gate of Heaven. From the South Gate of Heaven, it is another short walk to the highest peak of the mountain, known as Jade Emperor Peak. People come here to pray to the God of Mount Tai for luck and good fortune.

Mount Tai was granted double titles of world heritage sites in history and natural beauty in 1987.  There are two ways to get to the peak – climb or by cable car. You will not regret an overnight stay at the peak to watch the first sunrise. There is a sky resort at Mount Culai adjacent to Mount Tai.

The puppet show, famous in Taian, is performed by a single person who plays many roles: singer, dancer, acting as the child and/or adult, and the percussionist.

One food you cannot afford to miss is the Tofu banquet. We recommend outdoor hot springs in the middle of snow over a beer on the mountain slope.

Mt. Tai’s foliage is like a painting glued to the sky, wiping all the greens into scorching red till the end of the season. It is your walking, virtual in person that uncovers and paints this landscape.

More info:

  • Tickets: Adults (100-125 RMB); Children (50-60 RMB)
    • Free for children under 1.2m
  • Hours: 24 hours
  • Average time spent: Varies by hiking time (typically 8-12 hours)
  • Transportation: Refer to the transportation tab for route options
  • Location: No. 7, Chaoyang Street, Tai’an City

Don’t miss – sunrise schedule

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山东省文化和旅游厅 Shandong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism

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Authorized agency for Shandong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism in the U.S.

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