I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would set foot in the city of Jinan in the PRC province of Shandong.Â Of course, I have Beijing and Shanghai on my “bucket list” but I have to admit that Shandong was not initially on my radar.
Boatu Spring Park, Jinan – Photo credit
The trip to Shandong’s capital Jinan, some 400 km south of Beijing, was a blessing which fell on my lap.Â I was sent to attend a particular event for work which drew delegates from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan to the city of 6 million people.Â The event was projected to last for two days, with a third set aside for a trip to UNESCO World Heritage Mount Tai (or Taishan).
As one of the premier heritage sites of China, Mount Tai is popular with domestic and international tourists alike.Â Guides typically pick up guests from various hotels in Jinan or Tai’an and head to the sacred landmark from there. As for us, we rode a private van with our tour guide for two hours from central Jinan to the venerable and mystical summit.
The base of Taishan covers over 400 km2, with the famous Jade Emperor Peak at 1,532 metres above sea level.
With over 3,000 years of historical spiritual worship, the summit of Mount Tai is sacrosanct in the People’s Republic of China.Â The mountain’s cumulative cultural heritage drew the attention of UNESCO in 1987 and impressively, was part of the country’s first induction class, together with the Great Wall, Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang. part of the World Natural and Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO in 1987.Â As the “Most Revered of the Five Sacred Mountains” in China, Mount Tai is incomparable.
Mount Taiâ€™s status as a cultural and spiritual force dates back to the ancient Shang Dynasty. Many gods are venerated on the mountain and as a result, a vast network of temples, shrines, gates, pavilions and stone inscriptions were built over time. In addition, countless sculptors, photographers, poets, writers and painters derive inspiration from the mountainâ€™s exceptional natural landscape. Some of the trees on Mount Tai are over a millennium old.
There are four different ways to ascend the mountain:
The first is the East Route, or Imperial Route.Â Emperors and members of the Imperial Court who made pilgrimages to Mount Tai took this road.Â Landmarks on the way include Dai Temple, Red Gate Palace and Jing Shi Valley.Â The entire route takes about four hours to hike.
The first section of the West Route is by foot from Heaven and Earth Square to Mid Heaven Gate. This particular trail is suitable for those not fit enough, or perhaps with not enough time, to walk the East Route. Other points of interest on the trail include Black Dragon Pool and Longevity Bridge.
The Peach Blossom Ravine Route is another popular route up the mountain.Â Visitors can simply take a bus to a Cable Car Terminal and enjoy magnificent panoramas for the duration of the 20 minute ride.Â The best time to take this route is throughout spring when peach blossoms and grand waterfalls dot the landscape.Â The terminal is open daily from 8:00 to 17:30.Â A single journey ticket costs RMB 80 while a return ticket costs RMB 140.
Tianzhu Peak Route is for intrepid visitors who thirst for extreme adventure.Â The rugged trail up Mount Tai features General Peak, Eight Immortals Cave and Small Tianzhu Peak.Â There is also a scenic area where one can see a high concentration of towering pine trees.