Written by Oct 16, 2004 13:10
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The Ascent


In the morning, I just ate 5 bananas and a green pear for breakfast! I wanted to have a shut eye before I start my climb, so it was at about 8:30am when I started to pack up. After a brief check-up, I slowly headed toward the entrance of the mountain not wanting to look back at the place I just slept in. What's so good about climbing these famous mountains in China is that the climbers won't have to worry which way to go as the path leading to the top is well-paved. The entrance ticket was 80 yuan (about 600 pesos). It's worth it considering how well the people keep the stones intact and how clean the path is with all the available comfort rooms almost every kilometer of the way.

So what's with Taishan? This majestic mountain is often called the "First Mountain Under Heaven" and it is here where emperors of the past paid homage to the god of Taishan before having theTemple of Heaven constructed in Beijing for the same purpose. I guess even emperors find it hard to trek mountains. It also served as a site for major offerings whether it was for a bountiful harvest or simply for abundant rain. This explains the countless temples of worship you pass by during the climb. Along the way you would encounter people selling bundles of incense. Entering these temples requires a ticket, so I didn't bother buying any except for the first temple near the foot of the mountain where I thought was the entrance to the mountain.

Many men of letters also paid a visit to this mountain and some expressed their admiration by inscribing poems on some of the rocks. There were dozens of these red rock inscriptions I saw, some very short, others were very lengthy. I couldn't admire them that much though since they were all in Chinese, but they did fascinate me in a way they were carved out of the huge rocks. Like I said, some were very long poems and the person had to inscribe it on a rock the size of a basketball court. How they were able to do it on the rocks located high above the side of the mountain is beyond me. There's even an arch mentioning the visit of Confucius to the mountain.

Scenes Along The Way

From the Red Gate (where I bought the ticket) to the South Gate to Heaven (the gate just before the peak) is a flight of 6,293 stone steps that winds its way up. It is said that these steps were solely reserved for the emperors who used them when they went to offer holy titles to the mountain or to have coronations. I wonder what the emperors would say if they saw me using the very same flight of steps? Hmmm. Well, that was then, this is now; foreigners both young and old as well as locals from different parts of the country are seen ascending. There are even porters with their palanquin-like chairs offering their services to those too weary to climb. For a certain fee, of course! But that takes the challenge away!

Along the way, a few meters away from the Heavenly Middle Gate (upon reaching this area, you'd know you're more than half way to the top) you would come across an odd-looking stone towering in the deep valley like a huge sword piercing the sky. They call it the "Cloud Piercing Sword" which is used as a barometer to watch the changes in weather. They say that if the clouds were lower than the stone, there would be rain and clear skies if the clouds were over it. At that time, clouds were a little lower than the stone, and guess what? Shortly after passing that stone there was a drizzle!

When the light shower stopped (perhaps the clouds rose higher than the cloud piercing stone), I came to a bridge known as the "Cloud Step Bridge". It is famous for the view it offers. From the bridge you can see a beautiful crystal clear waterfall. You can actually touch a little of the water cascading from the huge stones. A great place to relax and view the eighteen mountain bends, a very steep path almost vertically leading to the peak!

After a series of huffs and puffs, I finally made it to the South Gate to Heaven! I got there shortly after 12 noon. Entering it, you'd be amazed at how many buildings were constructed at the peak! There are hotels, restaurants, mini-shops, temples, etc. The street is called "Heavenly Street". The archway just before the street is amazing. With bas relief designs and four lion statues on each side, you can say it had a divine touch to it!

Scenes at the Peak

I wanted to go around the peak without my backpack, so I inquired at one of the nice looking hotels. My eyes popped out when I saw that one standard room costs a little below 500 yuan. Just when I was about to make my exit, the receptionist called out to me saying that there were other cheaper rooms. The rooms she meant were those without toilets and heaters. At 140 yuan, I was about to nod my head until I inspected it. I found the bed sheets ok, but the pillows stink. Being tired, and wanting to explore what the mountain had to offer, I haggled a little telling them that I'd take it if they would lower it to 100 yuan! When I told them I'd want to look around the other hotels, they immediately gave in! Much to my delight, they even changed the pillows! I wasn't bothered about not having a comfort room as there were plenty around the peak, public restrooms that is!

At the peak are over a dozen more inscriptions. There is a place called "Tang Mo Cliff"; where you can see golden colored inscriptions written by Emperor Xuan Zong during the Tang Dynasty. The stone carving is shaped like a tablet and is 13.3 meters high and 5.3 meters wide with over a thousand Chinese characters inscribed on it from the top to bottom!

A few meters away is the small "Deity Bridge" which is not really a bridge in at all. It's just two steep cliffs connected by three pieces of large stones. What is really out-of-this-world, is how the stones seem to have stopped in mid-air from toppling down. Just a couple of steps above this area is a terrace for viewing the province below, at that time though, all you could see is fog slowly finding its way up!

200 meters away is the highest part of the peak known as the "Emperor of Heaven Peak" measuring 1545 meters above sea level. There's actually a temple built at the very site and a 1545 sign inscribed on a small tablet in the middle. With that I realized this must be the highest point of the peak. The smell of burning incense fills the place while at the same time you hear people murmuring some kind of prayer to a bronze looking statue of a certain deity.

From a distance, you can see a small solitary pavilion on the other side of the peak. They call it the "Moon Watching Pavilion". It's only a couple of minutes walk from the hotel I was staying at and from the pavilion you can have a marvelous view of the entire peak with all its buildings, streets, and people! Instinct told me to head back as I saw thick clouds slowly covering the mountain and the slowly sinking sun was nowhere to be seen.

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Comments (1)


Dec 6, 2004 00:02 Reply

POOK said:

A good review Dennis.Some of us walked the steps,others rode the cable car to the top.Starting at Taian,the climb gets very strenous,I'm glad there was a hand rail to help pull myself along when I got tired.The next day it rained hard and people climbing up had to hold on as water rushed down the stairs.It is beautiful, historic with all the temples and carvings.Men hauled bags of supplies attached to poles,woman walked the steps in high heels.The city at top was China from the past.Impressive

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