Category: Taishan.

About Mount Taishan

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The natural site of Mount Tai (or Taishan, alt. 1524 m) is one of the foremost cultural properties in both China and the world. Settled by humans as early as the neolithic era (the Dawenkou site is nearby), the mountain was worshipped throughout more than three millennia.

In 219 B.C., Qin Shi Huang travelled to the summit of Taishan to hold a ceremony in homage to Heaven and Earth, thus re-enacting a ritual that, according to Guan Zhong, 72 emperors and kings had carried out before him. The practice was continued up to modern times. Mount Taishan is a memorial whose history spans the ages of imperial China: from the Shang dynasty (17th-11th century B.C.) up to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912).

This form of state religion was undoubtedly preceded and shaped by an ancient cult devotion. In the first Chinese literary work, the Shijing, an anthology compiled between the 11th and 5th centuries B.C., it is written, “Mount Taishan, with perilous cliffs and peaks, was revered by the people”.

That this local and spontaneous cult became the official rite of the Empire Is due to the many philosophic, political and religious justifications advanced with respect to it. The doctrine of Five Elements, which appeared in the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 B.C.), propounded the theory that the universe had been composed from five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. This system of thought, incorporated into Confucianism and later Taoism, was in large part reproduced In numerous other systems. Under the emperor Wu Dl of the Han dynasty, the doctrine of Five Mountains became official and symbolically represented the Empire.

During the reign of Xuan Di, Mount Tai began to be known as the East mountain, with mounts Hua, Huo, Heng and Song being respectively the West, South, North and Central mountains. Unlike South mountain, whose cult was transferred elsewhere, Mount Tal was considered the most venerable of the five peaks and remained the place of worship for a faithful cult. It was called “the King equal to Heaven” and the “Holy Emperor”, names undoubtedly inspired by the imperial religion.In the god of Talshan the people saw the supreme controller of the universe, the guarantor of harmony in Heaven and on Earth, a god capable of warding off earthquakes and divert lng floods.

For more than two thousand years, the various State, official and popular religious cults were Instrumental in changing the landscape of the East Peak, one of the sacred places the most impregnated with history on the face of this planet. The enormous concentration of cultural properties resulting from this extraordinary heritage defies any attempt at inventory.

Mt Taishan rises abruptly from the vast plain of central Shandong and culminates in Jade Emperor Peak (1,545m). Geologically, it is the oldest and most important example of the paleo-metamorphic system representative of the Cambrian Period in eastern China. Referred to as the Taishan Complex, it comprises magnetised, metamorphic, sedimentary rock and an intrusive mass of various origins that were formed in the Archean Era 170-200 million years ago. Subsequently, in the Proterozoic Era, the Taishan region began to rise, becoming part of the continent by the end of the era. Uplift continued until the middle of the Cenozoic Era. The gneiss which emerged in the Taishan region is the foundation for all of North China. Cambrian strata, fully emerged in the north, are rich in fossils.

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Vegetation covers 80% of the area. The flora is diverse and known to comprise 989 species, of which 433 species are woody and the rest herbaceous. Medicinal plants total 462 species. Some very old and famous trees date back many hundreds of years. There are over 200 species of animals in addition to 122 species of birds. The red-scaled fish, found in running water at 300-800m, is widely distributed in China.

Mt Taishan has an extremely rich cultural heritager moreover, the way in which this has been integrated with the natural scenery is considered to be a precious legacy. Cultural relics include memorial objects, ancient architectural complexes, stone sculptures and archaeological sites of outstanding importance. There are 22 temples, 97 ruins, 819 stone tablets, and 1,018 cliffside and stone inscriptions.

Mt Taishan is one of the birthplaces of the Chinese civilisation, evidence of human activity dating back 400,000 years to Yiyuan fan of the Palaeolithic Period. By Neolothic times, 5,000-6,000 years ago, it had become a significant cultural centre with two cultures flourishing, the Dawenkou to the north and the Longshan to the south of the mountain. The Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.) of the Zhou Dynasty witnessed the first flare of cultural creativity with the emergence of two rival states in the area, Qi to the north and Lu to the south of the mountain. During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), the state of Qi built a 5OOhn long wall as protection from possible invasion by the state of Chu, the ruins of which are still evident.

Mt Taishan has also been an important centre for both Buddhism and Taoism. The Divine Rock Temple is considered foremost among China’s four temple wonders. The Temple to the Heavenly Queen Mother, built before the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.), is the earliest Taoist temple, while the Azure Cloud Temple is the most influential, its influence extending over more than half of China.

Cultural heritage value

Long history

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Mount Taishan is one of the birthplaces of ancient culture in the Yellow River region. The Dafenkou culture at the southern foot of Mount Taishan and the relics of the Longshan culture at the northern foot prove that the ancestors of the Chinese started living in the region around Mount Taishan a long time ago. There are also the fossil remains of the Xintai people from 50,000 years ago and the fossil remains of the Yiyuan people from 400,000 years ago. The ruins of the 500-kilometer-long Great Wall along Mount Taishan to the Yellow Sea constructed during the Warring States Period still exist today. Scenic spots related to Confucius at mountain include the Confucius Mountain Ascending Archway, the Watching State of Wu Archway, the Confucius Belittling World Spot, Confucius Temple, Zhanlu Tai, and the Tiger Ditch. Mount Taishan, a sacred mountain and a treasure house of cultural heritage, is also known as the “First of the Five Sacred Mountains” and the “King of the Five Sacred Mountains,” and the mountain was the symbol of state power in ancient times. Ancient emperors in China usually held sacred ceremonies and offered sacrifices to the heaven and earth at Mount Taishan after taking the throne or during peace time.

A total of 72 emperors during the pre-Qin Dynasty offered sacrifices to heaven there, and emperors from the Qin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty offered sacrifices there 27 times. Because many emperors made sacrifices there, and because of its grand and spectacular scenery, many ancient cultural scholars and artists wrote poems about Mount Taishan, and hundreds of thousands of poems and inscribed stone tablets remain today. Poems such as “Qiulingge” written by Confucius, “Fengshanshu” written by Sima Qian, “Feilongpian” written by Cao Zhi, “Taishanyin” written by Li Bai, and “Looking at the Mount Taishan” written by Du Fu are all famous poems handed down from ancient times. The mural paintings of the Song Dynasty at the Tiankuang Palace and the colored arhats’ statues of the Song Dynasty at the Lingyan Temple are rare treasures. In addition, the inscribed stone tablets of Mount Taishan are the agglomeration of Chinese calligraphy in various character styles and groups. Therefore, the mountain is considered as the exhibition hall of ancient Chinese calligraphy and the art of stone inscriptions. The rich cultural heritage on Mount Taishan includes 97 intact ancient sites and 22 ancient architectural complexes (table 3), providing material evidence for the research of the history of ancient Chinese architecture.


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Mount Taishan has a long history of popularizing religion. Buddhism was introduced to the Mount Taishan during the mid-4th century AD. In AD 351, a monk named Lang Gong first established the Lang Gong Temple and Lingyan Temple at the northern foot Mount Taishan. During the periods of the Wei, Jin, as well as the Northern and Southern dynasties, relatively large temples on Taishan Mountain included the Jade Emperor Temple, Shenbao Temple and Puzhao Temple. The Buddhist classic “Diamond Sutra” was carved during the Northern Qi Dynasty in the famous Jingshiyu area of Mount Taishan. During the Tang and Song dynasties, the Lingyan Temple was very popular among the people and Li Jifu, a top official of the Tang Dynasty, and he even called the Lingyan Temple one of the “four wonders” on earth.

There were monks living in the northern caves of Mount Taishan as early as the Warring States Period. After the Qin and Han dynasties, a large number of temples were established there. Temples such as the Wangmuchi or Qunwang Temple, Lao Jun Temple, the Longquan Taoist Temple, Bixia Temple, Houshiwu Temple and the Yuanshi Tianzun Temple still exist today. The Wangmuchi Temple established before AD 220, has the longest history among all the temples and the Bixia Temple is the most influential. Mount Taishan is the birthplace of the legend about the queen of heaven. The first Wangmuchi Temple was established as early as the Wei or Jin dynasty. The Wangmuchi Temple, also known as “Qunyu Temple” and the “abode of the immortals” in ancient times, was located to the east of Huanshan Road at the southern foot of Mount Taishan. Verses written by Cao Zhi during the Warring States Period, and written by Li Bai during the Tang Dynasty all described the Wangmuchi Temple on Mount Taishan.

Natural heritage values

Stratum and physiognomy

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Mount Taishan was formed through the evolving process of various geologic ages from the Archaeozoic period to the Cenozoic period. The great mountain systems came into being through the movement of Mount Taishan. The movement of Yanshan Mountain laid the foundation of Mount Taishan and the movement of the Himalayas created the magnificence and the general framework of Mount Taishan. In Mount Taishan, there are abundant relics of crustal movement that have research value in geological sciences around the world. The Cambrian gneiss mass, which forms the base of the tableland in northern China, has a complete stratigraphic section and is rich in well-preserved fossils. As one of the most ancient rocks in the world, the complex Mount Taishan was formed 2 billion years ago and is very important for the research on the division and comparison of the Archean stratum in eastern China and exploration into the history of the Archean period. In addition, there are typical limestone and sand-shale formations in the areas such as Zhangxia, Gushan and Chaomidian in the northwestern part of Mount Taishan. They have been regarded as the standard division between the early and middle period of the Cambrian system and the place where a few species of palaeobios were first named.

In the southern part of Mount Taishan, there are widespread fissure springs in the archaeozoic stratum, with spring water flowing from the top of the mountain to its piedmonts. The sweet and clear water is good for the heart and eyes, and has the effect of clearing away distress, moistening the intestines, and prolonging life. Therefore, the ancient people called it the “Sacred Water of Mount Taishan.” In the northern part of Mount Taishan, the limestone stratum in the upper and middle Cambrian and Ordovician periods slopes to the north while the ground water pours out springs here and there from the incision of the land ranging from Jinxiuchuan to the north. Ji’nan is a city of springs because there is spring water and willows in the yard of each family since the karst water on the northern edge of Mount Taishan flows under the ground to the north, but is cut off by the gabbro in the stratum areas and rushes out in Ji’nan.

The physiognomy of Mount Taishan consists of four types which are alluvial and diluvial tablelands, destructional and constructional hills, low mountains formed through tectonic denudation, and low-medium mountains with etching structures in a descending order. They have formed a landscape featuring a variety of topographies, with endless magnificent mountain peaks rising one higher than the other. Mount Taishan is located at the side of the intersection between the north-south passageway on the North China Plain and the east-west passageway at the middle or lower reaches of the Yellow River. This plays a key role in expanding the influence of Mount Taishan and promoting its culture.

Vegetations and ancient trees

Mount Taishan is rich in biological resources and its vegetation coverage rate reaches 80 percent. Stepping upwards from the foot of the mountain, visitors can see deciduous forests, mixed forests of conifers and broad-leaved species, coniferous forests, as well as alpine shrubs and grass. The vertical zonation makes clear the distinction between different forests, and the vegetation landscape is different from each other. Mount Taishan now has 989 species of spermatophytes belonging to 144 families, including 433 species of woody plants belonging to 72 families, 556 species of herbaceous plants belonging to 72 families, and 462 species of medicinal plants belonging to 111 families.

The ancient and famous trees on Mount Taishan were all produced by nature and have a long history. According to the “Historical Records,” “There are many trees on Mount Taishan, and nobody knows the exact number of tall trees that are too big for one person to get one’s arms around.” There are currently 34 species of trees with its total number standing at more than 10,000. These trees are closely connected with the historical and cultural development of Mount Taishan and are also the symbol of ancient civilizations. The famous trees include the Hanbai Linghan, Guayin Fenghou, Tanghuai Baozi, Qingtan Qiansui, Liuchao Yixiang, Yipin Dafu, Wudafu Pine, Wangren Pine, Ginkgo of the Song Dynasty, and Chinese wisteria which is over 100 years old. These trees, which bore witness to Chinese history, have gone through all hardships and become a part of our precious heritage.

Seasons of Mount Taishan

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The seasons of Mount Taishan are also very attractive. When spring comes, everything comes back to life. Mount Taishan is covered by trees and grass again. The beautiful spring scenery attracts a large number of domestic and foreign visitors, and the red peach blossom, white apricot blossom, golden reinwardtia trigyna and forsythia flowers will be all over the branches. The locust trees on both sides of the Xi Stream bloom flowers one after another from lower altitudes to higher altitudes, and the flowers are as white as cotton and the smell is also very sweet. Furthermore, the large malus hupehensis open its buds, and the entire mountain seems to become a sea of flowers.

In the summer, the forests of Mount Taishan are hidden in clouds, and when the weather clears up, all the trees are fresh and green, and the vigorous vitality can be felt everywhere on the mountain. When the gentle wind blows across the pine forests in Duisong Mountain, there comes the beautiful sound of nature. No wonder Emperor Qianlong said that the most attractive place in Mount Taishan was the Duisong Mountain.

Autumn is the most colorful season on Mount Taishan. Seen from far away, the mountains and forests all glow with autumn tints. The leaves of smoke trees, acer monoes, and mountain ash trees are as red as fire, while the leaves of ginkgoes and lindens are as yellow as gold. The pines and cypresses are still green. The colors of oaks, planer trees, and maples are not as bright as before, but they also add to the beauty of the autumn in Mount Taishan. The winged euonymus appears red against the pines and cypresses. The Boston ivy, comparable with the winged euonymus, appears to be unnoticeable in the summer, but becomes really eye-catching in autumn, and the ivy either covers stones or fills ditches. With enchanting scenery, the mountain is like a strongly colored traditional Chinese painting.

The winter on Mount Taishan presents another different scene. The persistent pines and cypresses still stand on the top of the mountain and the tall and straight bamboo forests add some green to the mountain. After snow falls, the scenery becomes even more beautiful, for the whole mountain is covered by snow and seems to be wearing a silver and white coat. The green trees, red walls, yellow tiles, white snow, as well as the rare freshness and tranquility all make visitors feel relaxed and happy.

Category: Taishan