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Taishan Mountain, "Dongyue" (Eastern Mountain) in Chinese
Latest Updated by 2006-09-05 08:26:02
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"There's no need to visit other mountains when you've been to the five great mountains," Chinese folk wisdom says.

At the top of the list, Taishan, or "Dongyue" (Eastern Mountain) in Chinese, in East China is 1,545 meters above sea level. True to its picture on the five-yuan note, the mountain thrusts into the clouds with its abrupt 1,395-meter rise from the plains in western Shandong Province.

The mountain, glorified as a god by emperors from the Qin (221-206 B.C.) to Qing (1644-1912) dynasties and lauded by poets and literates, gained additional status as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

Confucius, who taught 2,000 years ago in Lu Kingdom, with territories in today's Shandong, climbed the mountain several times. Some of the most famous lines about Taishan are those by Tang poet Du Fu (712—770): “When shall I reach the top and hold all mountains in a single glance?" Countless climbers have undoubtedly quoted the poet.

Less than two hours' drive by expressway from the provincial capital Jinan, Tai'an City at the foot of Taishan is also linked by the Beijing-Shanghai railway to other major cities. Blessed by nature, locals depend heavily on tourism. It's easy to find a comfortable hotel room costing around 100 yuan (US$12) a night except during major national holidays.

Unlike hot Sichuan cuisine or delicate Cantonese dishes, typical Shandong cooking features a sweet soy sauce and big green onions, with a strong salty sweet taste. A popular local snack is green onions wrapped in pancakes, sold in small restaurants and food stalls in every street of the city and on Taishan Mountain. Sweet, crisp fresh Chinese dates, available from late summer into autumn, are a source of local pride.

Teapots and cups made of "muyu shi" (wooden fish stone), a kind of mineral with wood-like veins, are good souvenirs.

The first stop for Taishan Mountain is Dai Temple at the foot of the mountain. It was originally built in the Qin Dynasty for Emperor Qinshihuang to rest before climbing Taishan. The temple was constantly expanded, reaching its zenith in the Tang Dynasty with more than 800 palaces and pagodas built in the royal style.

A pagoda tree planted in the Tang Dynasty and cypress trees dating back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), along with bronze sculptures of horses and bulls, are reminders of the many ancient emperors praying to the god of the mountain that their family names would last 10,000 years.

More than 6,000 broad stone steps, extending nine kilometers, lead to the peak of the mountain. Along the way, pools, waterfalls and creeks appear against a background of thick forests. Fresh air and bubbling creeks sooth the climber's fatigue. Many small temples and stone inscriptions are evidence that Buddhism and Taoism have left their marks on the mountain. The most distinctive inscription is the sutra carved on a 2,064-square-meter monolith along a creek not far up the mountain.

Near the top, a small temple dedicated to the "Bixiayuanjun" (Fairy Bixia), goddess of the mountain, attracts many pious Taoists. Song emperor Zhao Heng had the temple built after his men dug up a stone sculpture of a woman while clearing a pool on the mountain. He named the sculpture "Bixiayuanjun" and ordered a temple built to offer sacrifices to her.

The highest peak of Taishan is Yuhuang Summit (Jade Emperor Summit), which is named after the Jade Emperor of Heaven, the supreme deity of Taoism. At the main summit a carved stone proclaims "wuyueduzun" (the grandest of the five great mountains). This is the location of the picture on the five-yuan note.

At the summit, many tourists have left "love locks" on the chains protecting a stone carved with "Taishan summit, 1,545 meters" and thrown the keys into the unknown of the deep valleys, to pray that their love lasts.

Less romantic but equally welcome, at the top of the mountain is a Tianjie (Heavenly Street), where small stores and inns offer souvenirs, lodging and food. It's a good choice to stay overnight on top of the mountain to enjoy the grand sunset and sunrise.

The climb takes about four hours. Those who want to make the tour easier can take a cable car from Zhongtianmen (Middle Heaven Gate) to the top, for 45 yuan one way. An appropriate payment might be nine of the Taishan five-yuan notes.

Editor: Donald

By: Source: Szdaily web edition
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