Tai Shan

Tai Shan (a.k.a., Mt. Tai, Mt. Taishan) is one of five sacred Taoist mountains in China. It is located in central Shandong Province just north of Tai'an City.

Tai Shan has an extremely rich cultural heritage and, in the words of Guo Moruo, a modern Chinese scholar, is "a partial miniature of Chinese culture." Moreover, the way in which the culture has been integrated with the natural scenery is considered to be a precious legacy.

Cultural relics on Mt. Tai 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.

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History of Tai Shan

Tai Shan is one of the birthplaces of the Chinese civilisation, evidence of human activity dating back 400,000 years to Yiyuan Man of the Palaeolithic Period. By Neolithic 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 (1100-221 B.C.) 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 500km long wall as protection from possible invasion by the state of Chu. The ruins of this earliest of great walls in Chinese history are still evident.

According to the doctrine of five elements, which dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period, the east signifies birth and spring. Thus, standing at the eastern edge of the North China Plain, Tai Shan has always been regarded as pre-eminent among China's five sacred mountains, first officially recognised during the reign of Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220).

For over 3,000 years, Chinese emperors of various dynasties have made pilgrimages to Tai Shan for sacrificial and other ceremonial purposes. These activities have acquired political significance. Rock inscriptions, stone tablets and temples bear testimony to such visits. Renowned scholars, including Confucius whose home town, Qufu, is only 70km away, have composed poetry and prose and left their calligraphy on the mountain.

What to See at Tai Shan

Tai Shan was also an important centre of religious activity for both Buddhism and Taoism. In 351 B.C. an eminent monk named Lang was the first to come to the mountain, and he set up the Lang and Divine Rock temples. During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.), Jade Spring Temple, God's Treasure Temple and Pervading Light Temple were built. Prime Minister Li Jiefu of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) regarded the Divine Rock Temple as first among China's four temple wonders.

Places for Taoist activities included the Temple to the Heavenly Queen Mother, Palace of Goddess Doumu, Azure Cloud Temple, Rear Rock Basin Temple and Supreme Lord of Heaven Temple. The Temple to the Heavenly Queen Mother, built before the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.), is the earliest while the Azure Cloud Temple is the most influential, its influence extending over more than half of China. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Azure Cloud Temple received several hundred thousand worshippers annually.

Quick Facts on Tai Shan

Site Information
Names:Tai Shan
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:36.256845° N, 117.100632° E
Lodging:View hotels near Tai Shan
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. UNESCO Natural Site Datasheet

More Information

© Javier Portoles
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Map of Tai Shan

Below is a location map and aerial view of Tai Shan. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.