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Mountain Tai

Mount Tai

The South Gate to Heaven at Mount Tai

Mount Tai is a mountain of historical and cultural significance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located north of the city of Tai'an, in Shandong province, China. The tallest peak is the Jade Emperor Peak, which is commonly reported as 1545 metres (5069 ft) tall, but is described by the Chinese government as 1532.7 metres (5028.5 ft).

Mount Tai is one of the "Five Sacred Mountains". It is associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, and is often regarded the foremost of the five. Mount Tai has been a place of worship for at least 3,000 years and served as the foremost ceremonial center for eastern China during large portions of this period.

Mount Tai Tourism

As one of the five most famous mountains in China, it is recognized as the head of the Five-mountain and defined to be East-mountain adoringly. Many emperors climbbed to the top for enthronement or other significant ceremonies in ancient China, for they considered it to be a symbol of Chinese power that given by master of nature. The earliest activities could go back to Xia dynasty and Shang dynasty, so it preserved a good many of cultural relics and historic sites. Famous literators, poets and celebrities were attracted here and thousands of poems and articles about Mount Tai are best-known nowadays.

Mount Tai

Mount Tai

Mount Tai is considered to be a cultural and historical museum. It is a famous place both of Taoism and Buddhism. There are four marvelous spectacles in Mount Tai, and they are sunrise watching on the peak, shine of sunset, Yellow River watching in sunshine and sea of cloud.

A flight of 7,200 total steps (including inner temple steps), with 6,293 Official Mountain Walkway Steps, lead up the East Peak of Mount Tai, along its course, there are 11 gates, 14 archways, 14 kiosks, and 4 pavilions.

In total, there are 22 temples, 97 ruins, 819 stone tablets, and 1,018 cliff-side and stone inscriptions located on Mount Tai. These include the Jade Emperor Temple, the Bixia Temple or Azure Clouds Temple, the Qingdi Palace, a Confucius Temple, the Dou Mu Hall and the Puzhao Temple.

Among the tablets and inscriptions on the top of Mount Tai, the inscription that declares Mount Tai the "Most Revered of the Five Sacred Mountains" on the "Sun Viewing Peak" is particularly renown. It was written by a member of the Aisin Gioro clan in 1907 and is featured on the reverse side of the 5 yuan bill of the 5th series renminbi banknotes. Another inscription marks the "Lu-Viewing Platform" from which Confucius took in the view over his home state of Lu and then pronounced "The world is small".

Mount Tai

Mount Tai

The Wordless Stela stands in front of the Jade Emperor Temple. Legend has it that the emperor who commissioned the stela was dissatisfied with the planned inscription and decided to leave it blank instead.

Jade Emperor Peak
Jade Emperor Peak (in Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor is the most powerful god in the heaven) is the summit of Mount Tai. The city of Tai'an, at the foot of Mount Tai, is 153 meters above sea level, while the Jade Emperor is 1545 meters above sea level, with the sharp altitude difference of 1392 meters offering tourists a breathtaking bird's eye view of the entire area. It is also called Taiping Peak (Peace Peak) and Celestial Pillar Peak, and has long been known as the First Peak under Heaven.

It is located to the north of Bixia Temple and there lies Jade Emperor Temple, which was built in honor of the Jade Emperor of Taoism. There is a big stone in the middle of the yard in front of the temple, with the engraving: "The Summit of Mount Tai 1545 meters". The height could not be checked when it was first erected. The height of Jade Emperor Peak is now reported as 1532.7 meters. Rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty, it consists of Jade Emperor Hall, housing the bronze figure of the Jade Emperor; Sun View Pavilion, lying to the east where tourists can enjoy the sunrise; River Enjoyment Pavilion, to the west, which is a perfect place for tourists to appreciate sunset clouds and the golden belt of the Yellow River

Sunrise on Mount Tai

Sunrise on Mount Tai

Dai Temple (Dai Miao)
The Temple of the God of Mount Tai, known as the Dai Temple, is the largest and most complete ancient building complex in the area. It is located at the foot of Mount Tai in the city of Tai'an and covers an area of 96,000 square meters. The temple was first built during the Qin Dynasty. Since the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC ¨C 220 AD), its design has been a replica of the imperial palace, which makes it one out of three extant structures in China with the features of an imperial palace (the other two are the Forbidden City and the Confucius Temple in Qufu). The temple has five major halls and many small buildings. The centerpiece is the Palace of Heavenly Blessings (Tian Kuang), built in 1008, during the reign of the last Northern Song Emperor Huizong. The hall houses the mural painting "The God of Mount Tai Making a Journey", dated to the year 1009. The mural extends around the eastern, western and northern walls of the hall and is 3.3 metres high and 62 metres long. The theme of the painting is an inspection tour by the god. Next to the Palace of Heavenly Blessings stand the Yaocan Pavilion and the entrance archway as well as the Bronze Pavilion in the northeast corner. The Dai Temple is surrounded by the 2,100 year-old Han Dynasty cypresses. Oldest surviving stair may be 6000 granite steps to the top of the sacred Tai Shan mountain in China

Mount Tai

Mount Tai

The site contains a number of well-preserved steles from the Huizong reign, some of which are mounted on bixi tortoises. There is a much later, Qianlong-era bixi-mounted stele as well.

Bixia Temple
Bixia Temple (Azure Cloud Temple) is located south of the summit of Mount Tai, Jade Emperor Peak, east of Heavenly Street, and 6.5 kilometers away from Dai Temple. It was firstly built at the year of 1008 during the Song Dynasty and was originally called Zhaozhen Temple. It gained the present name Bixia Temple at the year of 1770 during the Qing Dynasty after a restoration.

It is a grand building complex set among high mountains which consists of twelve pieces of distinctive architecture. Bixia Temple has a compact overall arrangement and the buildings are arranged along the medial axis symmetrically. When looking up at it from Heavenly Street, the temple is surrounded by clouds. If looking down on from the summit, its palaces and halls hide between the peaks. It is the one of the masterpieces among Taoist buildings and represents the high constructing level of ancient Chinese architecture.

Mount Tai

Mount Tai

Mountaineering Festival
Mount Tai international Mountaineering Festival is held in September every year since 1987. The festival and climbing competition attracts athletes and tourists from around the world, providing a development platform for strong economic and cultural construction of Tai'an, helping to build the city into an international travel destination.

Mountaineering Competition is an important part of the festival, consisting of 5km climb for seniors group (591 steps and 800 meters high), 7.7km climb for middle-aged group (5884 steps and 1400 meters high) and 8.5 km climb for youth group (6566 steps and 1545 meters high). Athletes and teams who get the top three will be awarded certificates, prizes or trophies.

Mount Tai international Mountaineering Festival has becoming more and more popular in China and abroad since its first hold in 1987. The number of participants of the mountaineering competition 2009 was over one thousand. They were mainly from 37 different counties. World Famous Mountain Cooperation Summit was held as part of the Climbing Festival 2009. Representatives of six world famous mountains, namely Canada's Rocky Mountains, Germany's Zugspitze Mountain, GreeceĄŻs Mount Olympus, South Korea's Halla Mountain, Switzerland's Pilatus Mountain, and China's, Taishan Mountain attended the summit.

Natural Significance

Mount Tai

Rock Inscriptions at Mount Tai

Mount Tai is a tilted fault-block mountain with height increasing from the north to the south. It is the oldest example of a paleo-metamorphic formation from the Cambrian Period in eastern China. Known as the Taishan Complex, this formation contains magnetized, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock as well as intrusions of other origins during the Archean Era. The uplift of the region started in the Proterozoic Era; by the end of the Proterozoic, it had become part of the continent.

Besides the Jade Emperor Peak, other distinctive rock formations are the Heaven Candle Peak, the Fan Cliff, and the Rear Rock Basin.

Mount Tai lies in the zone of oriental deciduous forest; about 80% of its area is covered with vegetation. The flora is known to comprise almost 1,000 species. Some of the trees in the area are very old and have cultural significance, such as the Han Dynasty Cypresses, which were planted by the Emperor Wu Di, the Tang Chinese Scholartree (about 1,300 years old), the Welcoming-Guest Pine (500 years old) and the Fifth-Rank Pine, which was named originally by the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, but was replanted about 250 years ago.

Routes to the top of Mount Tai

Temple complex at the top of Mount Tai

Temple complex at the top of Mount Tai

East Route
This route is considered to be the Imperial Route because the emperors all took this way to make sacrifices. With elegant natural scenery, palaces, stone inscriptions are also scattered along the winding path. You set off from Dai Temple, and then you will see Dai Zong Archway, Red Gate Palace, Jing Shi Valley, Hu Tian Pavilion and Eighteen Bends, etc. Dai Temple is the place where emperors stayed and offered their sacrifices. The temple was built in the Han Dynasty and expanded in the Tang and Song Dynasties. After several renovations, it has become the biggest and most complete temple on the mountain.

There are 6000-plus steps along this route and it takes about four hours at an average to reach the peak. This classical route is an ideal choice for most people.

West Route
The west route is made up of two parts. The first part is the highroad from the Heaven and Earth Square to Mid-heaven Gate. The other part is the cable way from Mid-heaven Gate to the top of the mountain. This route is well equipped with modern facilities and is the most fashionable way to reach Jade Emperor Summit. Attractions concentrated on this route are Heaven and Earth Square, Black Dragon Pool, Tomb of General Feng Yuxiang and Longevity Bridge, etc.

Mount Tai

Dai Temple at Mount Tai

Peach Blossom Ravine Route
This route is the most convenient way to climb the mountain, especially for tourists who drive or take a bus from northern places. Peach Blossom Ravine can be accessed by taking the No.104 national highway, then setting off from the big parking lot by bus to the cable-car stop. From there you reach the top in a few minutes. The ropeway is designed for sightseeing from the air giving a clear view.

The best time to take this route is in spring and summer. The flourishing peach blossom, falling petals and limpid steams will make you feel like you are in heaven.

Tianzhu Peak Route
Just as its name implies, Tianzhu Peak was named because it is shaped like a candle, with a pine tree standing on top like a flame. This route is the most rugged one and is suitable for the adventurous. You will enjoy General Peak, Eight Immortals Cave, Big Tianzhu Peak and Small Tianzhu Peak, etc. It is also a better way to appreciate the pine trees in Hou Shi Wu (a spot where most of the old pine trees are growing).

History of Mount Tai

The Immortal Bridge on Mount Tai

The Immortal Bridge at Mount Tai

Traces of human presence at Mount Tai date back to the Paleolithic period. Human settlement of the area can be proven from the neolithic period onwards. During this time, two cultures had emerged near the mountain, the Dawenkou culture to the south and the Longshan culture to the north. In the Spring and Autumn Period, the mountain lay on the boundary between the competing States of Qi (north of the mountain) and Lu (south). In the ensuing Warring States Period, the State of Qi erected a 500 km-long wall to protect itself against an invasion. Ruins of this wall are still present today. The name Tai'an of neighboring city is attributed to the saying "If Mount Tai is stable, so is the entire country"(have the independent meaning of "peace").

Religious worship of Mount Tai has a tradition of 3,000 years, it has been practiced from the time of the Shang to that of the Qing Dynasty. Over time, this worship evolved into an official imperial rite and Mount Tai became one of the principal places where the emperor would pay homage to heaven (on the summit) and earth (at the foot of the mountain) in the Feng and Shan sacrifices respectively. The two sacrifices are often referred to together as the Fengshan sacrifices. Carving of an inscription as part of the sacrifices marked the attainment of the "great peace". In 219 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, held a ceremony on the summit and proclaimed the unity of his empire in a famous inscription. During the Han Dynasty, the Feng and Shan sacrifices were considered the highest of all sacrifices.

Mount Tai has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. In 2003, it attracted around 6 million visitors. A renovation project was completed by late October 2005, which aimed at restoring cultural relics and the renovation of damaged buildings of cultural significance.

How to get there

Mount Tai

Mount Tai

By air
Currently, there is no airport in Tai'an. The nearest large airport is Yaoqiang Airport at Jinan (the capital city of Shandong province). There is no direct bus from TaiĄŻan to Yaoqiang Airport; visitors should change trains or buses in Jinan. A 60-minute bus journey is needed from Jinan Yaoqiang Airport to the railway station of Jinan.

By train
There are more than 47 trains running though the Taishan Railway Station of Tai'an city every day, linking Tai'an with main cities of China, including Jinan (the capital city of Shandong province, a journey of about 50 minutes), Beijing (a journey of four and a half hours), Shanghai (a journey of about six and a half hours), Qingdao (a journey of about six hours) and Yantai (a journey of about eight and a half hours).

Taishan Railway Station is the transportation junction of Tai'an. It is advisable that tourists get to the Taishan Railway Station first, and then take buses to the different mountain gates of Mount Tai (there are four mountain gates at Mount Tai and every mountain starts a different mountain ascending route to the summit of Mount Tai).

By bus
NO.1 Line of Mount Tai Tourist Line: The railway station-Tianwai Village-Zhongshan Men, the price for climbing up the mountain is 13 Yuan and the price for going downhill is 11 Yuan.

NO.2 Line of Mount Tai Tourist Line: The railway station-Taoyuan Yu-Taohuayuan ropeway, the price for climbing up the mountain is 13 Yuan and the price for going downhill is 11 Yuan.

By taxi
The starting price of the taxi in Tai'an is six Yuan for two kilometers. After exceeding two kilometers, it costs 1.5 yuan per kilometer. After ten o'clock at night, the price will become a little high, but you can have a bargain.