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Mount Tai (泰山Tài Shān)

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Mount Tai (Chinese:泰山; pinyin: Tài Shān) is a mountain of historical and cultural significance located north of the city of Tai'an, in Shandong Province, China. The tallest peak is the 1,545 metre-high Jade Emperor Peak. Mount Tai is one of the "Five sacred mountains of China". Associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, it is often regarded the foremost of these. The temples on its slopes have been a destination for pilgrims for 3,000 years.

Mountain Tai Location

Mount Tai is located just north of the city of Tai'an and to the south of the provincial capital Jinan. It extends from 150 to 1,545 metres above sea level and covers an area of 426 square kilometres at its base. The Jade Emperor Peak is located at 36° 16′N and 117° 6′E.

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Mountain Tai Attractions

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 to the north and Longshan to the south. 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" (both characters of Tai'an, 泰安, have independent meaning "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) China travel attraction - mountail taiin the Fengshan Sacrifices (封禪). In 219 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, held a ceremony on the summit in and proclaimed the unity of his empire in a famous inscription.

Mount Tai has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. In 2003, it attracted around 6 million visitors. A renovation project to be completed by late October 2005 aims at restoring cultural relics and the renovation of damaged buildings of cultural significance. Modern buildings which are inconsistent with the historic landscape are to be demolished. The total cost of the work is estimated at 15 million yuan (approximately US$1.8 million).

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.

In total, there are 22 temples, 97 ruins, 819 stone tablets, and 1,018 cliff-side and stone inscriptions located on Mount Tai. 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.

The Temple of the God of Mount Tai, known as the Dai Temple (Dai Miao) 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 - 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 Northern Song Dynasty. 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.

Other major temples on the mountain include the Azure Cloud Temple dedicated to the daughter of the God of Mount Tai, the goddess Laomu and the Divine Rock Temple which features the Thousand-Buddhas Hall with painted Arhat statues.

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Mountain Tai Transportation

Visitors can reach the peak of Mount Tai via a bus which terminates at the Midway Gate to Heaven, from there a cable car connects to the summit. Covering the same distance on foot takes about six hours. The supplies for the many vendors along the road to the summit are carried up by porters either from the Midway Gate to Heaven or all the way up from the foot of the mountain.

The climb up the mountain starts from Taishan Arch. On the way up the 7,200 stone steps, the climber first passes the Ten Thousand Immortals Tower (Wanxianlou), Arhat Cliff (Luohanya), and Palace to Goddess Dou Mu (Doumugong). The climbing from downtown up the mountain takes seven hours. To the northeast of the Palace to Goddess Dou Mu is Sutra Rock Valley in which the Buddhist Diamond Sutra was cut in characters measuring fifty centimeters across believed to be inscribed in the Northern Wei Dynasty.

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More on Mountain Tai

Tai Shan official website
Description at the World Heritage Listing

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