Tài Shan (literally “Mount Tai”) is one of the “Five Great Mountains” in China. Taoism and Buddhism have it’s holy mountains in China, and Tài Shan or Taishan is the holiest amongst the Taoist mountains. It is the Holy Mountain per se! And from a cultural and traditional perspective, it’s probably number one. For almost 3000 years emperors have done pilgrimage climbing the mountain. It was considered that every Chinese emperor had to climb it at least once, and the significance and importance this mountain had was enormous.
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The mountain is 1545 meters high and you have stone steps all the way up to the top. Along the way and on the top you will find many ancient Taoist temples and shrines that are very beautiful. You will also see the typical engraved padlocks with red silk bands locked on chains, where the pilgrims and believers leave their name and date as a mark in the temples or along the way.
The way up is market with signs indicating interesting geological formations on the rocks, and providing some historical data.
How to get there:
Mount Tai is located in the western part of the province of Shandong, and near the city of Tai-an. The train system in China works very well, so the recommended method to get there is by train. The best thing is to check schedules and fares on the internet. If you go from Beijing, here’s the page http://www.beijingchina.net.cn/transportation/train/shandong-taishan.html#part1. However, if you leave form a different city, you can use the same website to check for trains available. You can either buy tickets at the local train station or even better, at any of the ticket offices that are scattered around the cities.
The distance between Beijing and Tai’an is about 568 km. You can either take a fast train or a sleeper, depending on which is your plan.
Once you get-off at Tai’an railway station, you can climb on a regular bus almost at the door of the station and after 20 minutes get off at a walking distance from Mount Tai. Then your climb begins.
You don’t have to worry for drinks and food, because there are stalls selling them all along the way up and down. However, you may prefer to spare money and not let yourself be ripped-off; in that case carry your own meals in your backpack.
Usually people go either to enjoy the sunrise or the sunset from the mountain top. But weather you want to watch one or the other, pay attention where you will be waiting for it, because there is more than one peak. So, make sure to have a view of the West for the sunset and a good view of the East for the sunrise. Ideally try to see both. Mount Tai is also famous for the beautiful fog and cloud formations that can be seen from there at dawn. It’s quite inspiring. You can, if you will, camp on the top (just choose a place you like; as simple as that!). That’s what I did when I went with other three friends in September. Since it was raining we set our tent in one of the cement roofed view-points near one of the peaks. There are, of course, some hostels, but it was more adventurous to spend a lousy night for free in a messed up and wet tent made for three, but packed with four people and the backpacks.
After leaving Tai Shan, before you leave the city try to visit at least one of the city temples. Tai’an is famous in China for these temples. I have visited many temples in China and got tired of them. But the main temple in Tai’an, the Daimiao Temple, is amazing and totally worth while. You can either walk or take a bus or a taxi from the base of Mount Tai. The temple is about 2000 years old (although has been rebuilt, like everything else in China), and has amongst other beauties some amazing junipers that are about a 1500 years old and more.
TaiShan is a nice trip for the weekend if you are planning to travel form a distance within 800 km. or so.