Explore Shandong(2)—Holy mountains
In our first episode of "Explore Shandong", we enjoyed all types of scenery, including renowned springs, an impressive lake and spectacular scenery of the Yellow River where it joins the sea and the Grand Canal.
You know, in Shandong, there are also some holy mountains. Especially in autumn, the finest season if you plan a trip to Shandong, the province has more to offer, particularly for hiking enthusiasts. In this episode, we will recommend some renowned mountains in Shandong.
Located in north part of Tai'an, a city in the middle of Shandong province, Mount Tai is widely considered to be the foremost of China's "Five Sacred Mountains" since it is associated with sunrise, birth and renewal.
With a total area of over 400 square km, Mount Tai has more than 6,300 stone steps leading to its summit named Jade Emperor Peak, which is about 1,500 meters above sea level.
When you reach the highest peak, an unprecedented sense of achievement is felt and you will also be rewarded with stunning views of the mountains and surrounding landscape.
In China, it is autumn, the best time to enjoy the four marvelous spectacles of Mount Tai--the sunrise on the peak, the sunset glow, sea of clouds and an aerial view of Yellow River.
Besides spectacular views, Mount Tai has been a place of worship for at least 3,000 years and it has served as one of the most important ceremonial centers in ancient China.
Over time, this worship evolved into an official imperial rite and Mount Tai became one of the principal places where the emperors would pay homage to heaven on the summit and earth at the foot of the mountain.
Widely known for its special ceremonies and sacrifices, Mount Tai has been visited by many poets and literary scholars who have travelled there for inspiration. There are grandiose temples and many stone tablets with the mountain playing an important role in the development of both Buddhism and Taoism.
Thanks to its exceptional historical, cultural, aesthetic and scientific value, in December 1987, Mount Tai was listed as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site by UNESCO.
If you plan to visit Mount Tai, don't forget there are also many other attractions, such as a 500-year-old Welcoming-Guest Pine, Shipapan, the most precipitous part of the stone steps, providing you the grandest sight, Dai Miao Temple--the largest and most complete ancient building complex located at the foot of the Mountain, and Bixiaci, or the Shrine of the Blue Dawn, another grand building complex near the top of the mountain.
Besides Mount Tai, Mountain Lao is another fairyland for you to seek inner peace.
Located near the East Sea on the southeastern coastline of Shandong, Mount Lao is the highest coastal mountain in China and the second highest mountain in Shandong, with the highest peak reaching over 1,130 meters. The majestic mountain is famous for its marvelous mountainous scenery and coastal landscape.
Standing on the peak of the Mountain Lao, you will be enthralled by the awe-inspiring scenery: calm ocean and blue sky seem to blend together; sunlight filters through the sea of clouds; while gurgling brooks run along the rocks. The unique granite landscape forms the base for spectacular sceneries that attract numerous tourists and shutterbugs to visit year-round.
Mountain Lao is also culturally significant and often regarded as the "cradle of Taoism". Located in a quite isolated area, Mount Lao has become a perfect sanctuary for hermits and clergies to live in seclusion and practice their rituals.
In the course of history, numerous palaces, Taoist temples, and nunneries have been constructed on it. Though many of these structures have not survived, some still have stood there well for two thousand years.
On a visit to the mountain, one will be treated to many beautiful mountainside villages. Take in a small village at the foot of mountain where for over 600 years people have resided there and lived on fishing and tea planting. You can explore for yourself what their peaceful life is like.
The beautiful landscape, secluded scenery and the rich yet mysterious Taoism culture of Mountain Lao have attracted royals and ministers, monks and scholars throughout history. Even the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, reportedly climbed to the top of the mountain to seek for the land of the immortals.
The 8th century literary master Li Bai, one of the most influential ancient Chinese poets, also could not resist the charm of the Mountain Lao. Li visited the mountain many times and wrote down some very famous verses. His poems describe how captivated he was when he saw rosy clouds overcasting the sky and mist shrouding the mountain. He even dreamed about his encounter with some gods and ate jujube larger than a melon.
Nowadays, some poets and literary writers come here and hope to be inspired during their stay on the mountain, and the mountain will continue to attract people from all over the world thanks to its rich, oriental culture.