Mount Taishan (Peaceful Mountain) is the premier attraction of Shandong province. Lying 100km south of Jinan, it’s the easternmost and holiest of China’s five Taoist mountains and has been worshipped longer by the Chinese than any recorded history. Famed for its scenery and slopes dotted with ancient temples and pavilions en route to the summit, it once hosted emperors and continues to host the devout. From its summit (1,515m), a succession of emperors surveyed and studied their empires, made sacrifices and paid tribute. Sometimes their entourage of courtiers and servants stretched right from the summit to the base of the mountain, in all nearly 8kms of wealth and sheer pomp.
As well as ordering the erection of temples and pavilions to record for posterity such a visit, emperors would enlist scribes to carve poems of tribute and prose on any available rock face. As such, the well-trod pathway up to the summit of the mountain resembles a huge open-air museum of religion and rule spanning the entire length of Chinese history.
Despite the scores of tourists, there are very many genuine pilgrims. Women come specifically to pray to Bixia Yuan Jun, the Princess of the Rosy Clouds, a Taoist deity believed to be able to help childless women conceive.
There are more than 6,000 steps to the summit. The entire ascent and descent takes comfortably around 7 hours. There is also a cable car ride available to the summit.