The Ceremonial Paradise You Need to Visit: Mount Taishan
- On June 28, 2017
- By Cez Krol
- In Places to visit
The great philosopher Confucius once famously remarked that it is those with virtuous souls that take pleasure in mountains. Massive and exquisitely tall, these snow-capped masses have long been connected with divinity and spirituality. They’re viewed as “heaven on earth,” or at least the closest thing that we have to the heavens on this earth. This last belief evolved in time to the belief that the gates of paradise must be located at the very peaks of mountains. So explorers came to view mountains as the direct path to heaven, strengthening their sense of spirituality.
Mountains are further connected to this realm of the divine thanks to their being symbolic of eternity, stillness and firmness, characteristics which may also be attributed to a godly figure. The mountaintops, in particular, are special for Buddhists, and adherents of similar faiths. Why? Up on the peaks, you can gain a better perspective on life. You can attain more easily a state of enlightenment, the be-all, and end-all of Buddhism.
For this reason, pilgrims climb their way to the peaks when they want to strengthen their faith and sort out their struggles. This is an ideal setting to bid adieu to earthly temptations; so, climbers often choose to stay here for a longer period and live like a local—secluded, austere, void of temptation. The characteristics of mountains thus allow for spiritual-minded individuals to engage in a climb that is at once symbolic and very real/tangible.
So, what about Mount Taishan, or Mount Tai as it’s so often referred to? What’s its story? Well, this is one of the most significant mountains in China, found just north of Tai’an in the eastern region. It is the so-called “leader” of the Five Sacred Mountains, and it represents birth and renewal.
For over three thousand years now it has been a central place of worship. In ancient times, a newly appointed emperor would mark the beginning of his reign by trekking up the mountain and offering up a prayer when he reached the peak. Allegedly there were seventy-two emperors from various kingdoms that made this pilgrimage. It’s due to these spiritual journeys of rulers that the land came to be the ceremonial hub it is today.
Be on the lookout for…
Being the center it is today, particularly favored by those of the Buddhist and Taoist faith, there is a lot that is here to see. So, to prepare you, we’ve rounded up some of the most significant landmarks:
- Jade Emperor Peak: aka the tallest summit, reaching over five thousand feet in height
- Shrine of the Blue Dawn: temple located near the top, in honor of goddess of dawn and destiny, Bixia
- Stone carvings: including Scripture of Mt. Tai, Mo Ya Tablet, and Buddhist Diamond Sutra, which spans over 6000m2
- Temple of the God of Mt. Tai (Dai Miao): located at the base of the mountain; it’s designed in the style of the Imperial Palace and is the largest ancient building in the area
You’ll also get the chance to marvel at all the natural beauty of the land. Expect jaw-dropping waterfalls, lush valleys, serene peaks, and a plentiful of trees—particularly of the cypress and pine variety.
Sunrises and sunsets are particularly magical when you’re on Mount Tai, and if you get high enough, you can see clouds from above; this unique perspective is called the “sea of clouds.” And don’t forget to look along the Yellow River and take in the spectacular view below of the Golden Belt.
One last thing – if you have time before your journey ends, try to see the Mid-Heaven Gate, Queen Heavenly Pool, and the Azure Cloud Temple.
Why you really need to go
If we haven’t convinced you by way of tourist attractions, perhaps you need, well, a deeper reason. Here it is, then. The soulful, philosophical reason.
It is commonly held in China that man’s existence is intertwined with the natural universe he is a part of. Only when you are in harmony with nature, they believe, can you succeed in obtaining a meaningful, passionate, and joyful life.
To live in accordance with nature, it takes getting outside and immersing yourself in it—ideally, in a place devoted to this like Mount Taishan. But if you truly can’t get to China, simply step outside of your car/office/apartment/gym/whatever and go for a walk outside. Reconnect with this world that’s been divinely crafted just for us. Absorb it. Engage with it intimately. Feel the tranquility wash over you.
This state of calm that nature promotes is like a muscle in the body that needs to be regularly worked to stay in shape. When you first get it firing, you’ll know because you’ll feel its benefits— less reactive, more clear-minded, patient and understanding. Moments of stress that would have once left you strung out and feeling helpless will not feel like the end of the world because your mind will have shifted from tense and rigid into a more relaxed, fluid mode that’s more suited to handle curveballs. It is this type of perspective that guides you down the spiritual road path and leads to not only a happier life on earth but salvation in the hereafter.
It is for these reasons that going to Mount Taishan can be such a revelatory, life-changing experience. Not only are you outdoors, grounded in nature, but you are on the landmass that symbolizes divinity. You cannot refrain from being mindful of your spirituality—it is literally everywhere you look. As you physically wind your way through the mountain, you’re reminded of your winding journey through life. Plus, everyone you meet there will likely just add to your experience, as many are on their own pilgrimages
PS – If you have any difficulties with regards to hiking – you can always take a bus from Tashan Railway station! See, no excuses.
So, are you ready to embark on your own spiritual quest up Mount Taishan?
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