China – Shan Dong – Tai Shan

During my stay in China (2years ago, hence this post is 2years late… :D), I visited Tai Shan, the grandest of the 5 sacred mountains in China. If you are interested, the 5 sacred mountains refer to Tai Shan in Shan Dong, Hua Shan in Shan Xi, Song Shan in He Nan, Heng Shan in Shan Xi, and Heng Shan in Hu Nan. In English, some places and mountain sounds the same, hence I refer you to the Chinese test: 山东的泰山, 陕西的华山, 河南的嵩山, 山西的恒山, 湖南的衡山. Tai Shan is also classified as  UNESCO heritage site. This mountain places an important cultural role in Chinese history, being the site of worship for numerous emperors.

I departed from Beijing South Station (rapid rail) and took the train to Tai An station. Note that this station is not the Tai Shan station, which is for the slow train. There are various ways from the train station to Taishan. For some, they prefer to take a taxi all the way to the red gate. For some, they choose to take the bus (#37) and alight at Pu Zhao Temple. For my friends and I, we decided to take a cab to Dai Miao (Dai Temple), and from here, we just follow the road all the way up. There are restaurants along the side that serve quite nice and cheap food. Be warned, it is quite a hike up to Hong Men (the beginning of the Tai Shan trail) from Dai Miao. But I think Dai Miao is not to be missed.

There are 4 entrances into Tai Shan – Hong Men (红门), Tian Wai Chun (天外村), Tao Hua Gu (桃花峪) and Tian Zhu Feng (天烛峰). Tian Wai Chun and Tao Hua Gu has bus services that bring you up to mid mountain where you transfer to the cable car to reach the peak.

After about 3hrs of grueling climb, I arrived at the peak of Tai Shan at around 4pm, and started looking for lodging for the night. Depending on the cleanliness and size of the room, prices range widely. Whether prices increase as night approaches or not is a point of contention between my friends and I. After scouting around, my group of 4 finally settled in a nice room on the 2nd storey with an attached restroom with hot water for 800yuan. This is after much bargaining and mind games. For the budget conscious, you can just bring a sleeping bag and sleep along the roads, the stairs, the grass or wherever you want. Be warned that temperature can drop really low at night, be adequately dressed. 

The point of staying overnight is so to catch the gorgeous sunrise the next day, which occur around 5am. Our guesthouse operator actually provides such guided tour services, and they have helpers to secure good vantage points. I think separate guesthouses, have separate viewing points. As these viewing points are usually assessed by a single narrow road, the helpers position themselves at the choke point and ask people which guesthouse they are from. From what I observed, local Chinese generally sleep in their sleeping bags right at the road outside of guesthouses. When guests are ushered to the viewing points, they quickly pack up their stuff and joined in the ‘tours’. This way, they get assess to the vantage point without too much problem.

Below I will let the photos tell their story.

Tai An Station (Rapid Rail)
Starting point for the ascend of Tai Shan. This plaque is located at the entrance of Dai Miao (Dai Temple).
Entrance to Dai Miao
Dai Miao (Dai Temple) map
Tang Pagoda embracing her child. The Tang Pagoda is a much loved tree of the Han Dynasty and is the subject of numerous poems. This Tang Pagoda died in 1951, and a Tang Pagoda seedling was planted in its empty trunk, thus forming this scene.
The cypress.
I really liked the twisting pattern on the bark of the cypress.
An inscription saying that Tai Shan reign supreme over the five sacred mountains. Amazing how 4 Chinese characters can convey so much meaning.
There are numerous such inscriptions around Dai Miao. This one reads “The number one mountain”.
Guard house and wall surrounding Dai Miao
Towards the back of Dai Miao is a small botany with a pond.
Exiting the back gate of Dai Miao, I arrived at this street. On both sides are shops selling all sorts of food, including a french bakery selling bread. I bought enough bread for dinner and breakfast for the next day, as food up in Tai Shan is sparse and insanely expensive. Following the road all the way will lead you to Tai Shan.
Following the road towards Hong Men (Red Gate).
Yi Tian Men (一天门). You will see this gate before Hong Men (Red Gate).
Hong Men (Red Gate). This is the beginning of the Hong Men route up Taishan. However, note that tickets are not sold here. Also unfortunately it started to drizzle… 😦
Map modified from to show the location of Red Gate and Puzhao Temple (where you alight if you take bus #37). The ascent is basically a straight line.
How to say a rock in complicated terms: “This is an outcrop of a basic vein, formed by the basic magma intrusion in the deep crust. The rock is allgovite, composed of plagioclase and pyroxene. It shows blackish green on the fresh surface and lightly brown on the weathered surface. The age of this rock is 176 million years old.” — Copied from the signboard next to it.
There are numerous such tablets along the path up.
Wan Xian Lou (thousand deities tower, 万仙楼). This is where the tickets are sold. Because of the rain, many people decided to temporarily halt their ascend, thus shortening the queue, and the way up the mountain is also less crowded. I guess I must thank the rain. It also made it more cool, thus more conducive for a strenuous climb.
More gates along the way… after awhile, I stopped taking photos of them. Its drizzling, so my friends and I had these ‘rain coats’ on… but it got suffocatingly hot after awhile, and we decided to just walk in the drizzle. The road can be slippery though, so beware.
Stone inscriptions at the side of the path
Sleeping Dragon Pagoda Tree. This tree is still alive though, it was once struck by lightning, hence its horizontal position.
There are numerous fake inscription of Tian Jie along the way. Don’t be fooled, continue you climb…
Path can be quite deserted, especially with the drizzle
A tree that collapse long time ago, and has now become a subject of worship. Notice the red ribbons tied on the tree.
The climb…
Lush greenery
A small waterfall along the way up
Somewhere along the path, it starts to get misty…
Zhong Tian Men (中天门). This is the gate everyone looks forward to. The cable car is situated at this level. Many tired climbers switch to the cable car from here. I say onwards!!!
The cable car.
Mountains and valleys
I like this shot of the cherry blossom set against the setting sun
Shops along Tian Jie (Heavenly Street). Note the white blossoms and the mist. Its magical.

I was lucky to catch the famous Tai Shan Cherry blossoms during this climb. Note, you can only find these Cherry blossoms at the summit!!!
More cherry blossoms. Heaven on earth. 人间天堂
Shops and guesthouses along Heaven Street (Tian Jie, 天街)
A Cave
More views from the peak.
Cherry blossoms and rock formations
View from the top
This is a shot taken outside the Confucius Temple at the summit. Out of respect I did not take photos of the temple and Taoist monk practicing martial arts there.
NICE!!!! Just before the sun comes up
Awe-inspiring sunrise… sat here watching the entire spectacle for almost an hour…
The peak is abuzz with people watching the sunrise. Another reason is to visit the temple at the summit, and the first incense right after sunrise (though how you define sunrise is subject to debate) is believed to bring good luck. The temple is so flooded with people that I decided to just say my prayers outside, afterall if there are beings up there, this is probably as close as I can get to them.
Beautiful things aside, beware… on a bright sunny morning the trail is packed full of people. Shot taken on my way down. Contrast it with the empty paths on a drizzling afternoon.

May 2012


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