China’s Shandong Province – Hiking to the Summit of Mount Táishān (台山)

This sacred mountain has been visited or worshiped at since at least the 11th century BC.  Qin Shi Huang, the Fist Emperor, chose this summit to announce a unified China Kingdom in 219 BC.  Since that time, many important Chinese leaders have made their mark on the mountain thru monuments, temples, paintings, carvings, statues, sculptures and even trees.   This place is quite a diamond find for those wishing to understand Chinese history, art, culture and perspective.

Here is the path of our journey.   We took the Central Route which has been the main way up to the summit since the 3rd Century BC.   They also have a western route which is the way the buses go.   For this hike, I highly recommend going the central route as it has the most sites, trees, rivers, inscriptions, statues, shrines, temples, etc.  This is our journey from the Center of Tài’ān (泰安).  

DSC03388The Dai Temple serves as the starting point for the traditional central route.   This Taoist temple has an incredible amount of of history inside it, including some of the earliest inscriptions of Chinese on slabs, trees that are over a thousand years old, statues and architecture that is paramount to the the early Chinese Kindgom.

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These four characters are all that remain from the original stone calligraphy tablets that Qin Shi Hung proclaimed first Chinese Empire in 219 BC.  Just amazing.

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Lots of old trees on the temple grounds.  I mean they aren’t giant redwoods like back home in California but these trees have life and history.   DSC03306DSC03326

These ancient paintings tell the history of China.

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Calligraphy is incredibly important in Chinese culture.  It was exciting to see some real life handwriting at work.  How you write the characters is a singular art form in and of itself and it takes years of study and practice to perfect.

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Turtles.  Lots of turtles.   These sculptures are just intense.

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Does Ross belong in the Dog House today?????

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Who is always watching?????  Look,  It’s Chairman Mao!

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The First Gate of Heaven is a few kilometers south of the trail-head.   We walked it all.  7000+ steps up.  1.7 kilometers into the sky.   Even in this ancient place, so much is modern.  This traffic light represents our journey.  GO!   It is kind of a surreal experience.  Something so ancient and sacred and yet combined with modern-day needs.  DSC03386DSC03385

Who wants to take a rest?!?!?   THIS GUY!!!!

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The hike is to the Midway Gate to Heaven isn’t that strenuous.  There are plenty of place to stop for water, souvenirs, small snacks.   Just remember, the higher you go in elevation, the more expensive things become on the trail.    It is long and uphill all the way but it is nice to see forestation and fairly clear skies in China.

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From the Midway Gate to Heaven, you can either hike up on foot or take the cable car.   I highly do not recommend that decision because the queue for the transport up seemed to stretch around the building.    It is better to experience it on foot anyway.   We don’t need know stinking lift!

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Please note on the way up, “Disk road steep! Precipitous Steps!”

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It’s a long haul to the top.  I mean a long haul.  These photos don’t do reality justice.   It is mostly 45% inclines.  All the way.    One step at a time.  They don’t call it the Path of 18 Bends for nothing.

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This kid has it down.   Nice slide.

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Finally we make it to the top!

DSC03489This place is called Heaven street after passing through the Gateway to Immortality.DSC03429

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Many folks enjoying the top of this summit.  Everyone resting their legs, enjoying a break from the long hike.    Going through my photos of the hike, this one I found the most interesting and dynamic.

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Hey soldier, if the emperor can make it up here, you can do it too! DSC03466

My legs hurt!

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Hiking down is actually more difficult than hiking up.   Sure, you have gravity to work in your favor.   However, the constant pressure on the knees and muscles can be intense.   My legs were numb and shaking by the time we were back down to the Midway Gate to Heaven.   They would be incredibly sore in the following days.  From the midway point, you take the bus down into town.

For anyone living in China, I highly recommend this experience to see some stunning outdoor scenery, breath some fresh(er) air than you will find in Beijing or Shanghai (most of the time) and engage in a serious exploration into Chinese culture and history.

Stay tuned for the next post where we visit the home of Confucius.

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