And to round out our China trip reports for now, we’re off to the traditional first visit of every new Emperor, the “Chief of the Five Sacred Mountains in China” and “First Mountain under Heaven”:
Mount Taishan is the most famous sacred mountain of China, with exceptional historic, cultural, aesthetic and scientific value. Settled by humans as early as the Neolithic (a Dawenkou site is nearby), the mountain has been worshipped continuously throughout the last three millennia. A large and impressive rock mass covering 25,000 ha and rising to 1,545 m above the surrounding plateau, Mount Taishan is considered one of the most beautiful scenic spots in China and was an important cradle of oriental East Asian culture since the earliest times. The mountain was an important object of the cult worship of mountains even before 219 BCE, when the Qin Emperor, Huang Di, paid tribute to the mountain in the Fengshan sacrifices to inform the gods of his success in unifying all of China. On the mountain there are 12 historically recorded imperial ceremonies in homage to Heaven and Earth, about 1,800 stone tablets and inscriptions, and 22 temples, which together make Mount Taishan the most important monument in China, a world-renowned treasure house of history and culture.
The key monument, the Temple to the God of Taishan, contains the Taoist masterpiece painting of 1,009 CE “The God of Taishan Making a Journey”. Inscriptions include the Han Dynasty stelae of Zhang Qian, Heng Fang and Madam Jin Sun; the Valley of Inscribed Buddhist Scriptures inscribed in the Northern Qi Dynasty; the Eulogium on Taishan by Tang Xuanzong, and the Parallel Stelae of the Tang Dynasty. There is also a number of ancient and significant trees, including six cypresses of the Han Dynasty planted 2,100 years ago; Sophora japonica of the Tang Dynasty planted 1,300 years ago, and the Guest-Greeting Pine and the Five-Bureaucrat Pine, both of which were planted some 500 years ago. All the architectural elements, paintings, in situ sculptures, stone inscriptions and ancient trees are integrated into the landscape of Mount Taishan…
Now, if you’re into your hiking, you’ll do the Imperial Route which takes several hours; the common “Peach Blossom Ravine Route,” which we decided was quite sufficient, is even by Chinese standards of industriousness quite the assembly line process: You arrive at the marshalling point above where there’s a continuous stream of buses that deliver you to the cable car
and from there you have a comparatively much less challenging hike to join the main ascent route on the right there:
Yeah, when we got to it we decided that on this particular hot summer’s day, the time-imposed decision to take the easy way was one we weren’t going to second guess, the properly devoted pilgrims were in pretty rough shape!
This gate marks the top of the main climb,
Although if you want to continue to the very very top, yep there’s more stairs, and more stairs, and more stairs:
And your reward for doing that is magnificent views in every direction and holy writings carved into the stones. At least we assume they’re holy — couldn’t even find anyone who spoke English well enough to explain just what was being said here, but hey if they’re all taking photos it must be something important.
Taishan is easily reached by bullet train from Beijing as well, and if you’re up for a very long and tiring day you can just barely do what we did: catch the 5 AM train out to Qufu, be off on the bus to get to the Peach Blossom Ravine Route by mid-afternoon, and be done there just about when they’re rounding people up for the last cable cars down —
p dir=”ltr”>— however, if you have the time, we’d say the proper Imperial route up is worth spending a day’s hike on. However, we’d also say that if you’re there in a record setting summer heatwave like we were … yeah go ahead and take the cable car!