Mount Tai — Holy Land of Politic and Worship in Chinese Culture

Mount Tai in Shandong Province of China
 

What is Mount Tai?

 

Mount Tai was one of the most sacred places in Chinese history, where great emperors held holy worship ceremonies and considered representative of the empires' stability and wellbeing. 

 

In mythology and religion, Mount Tai has believed to be the place that connects heaven and hell, immortal deities, and ghosts. 

 

Today, it is a World Heritage - Mixed Property, with stunningly beautiful natural sceneries and valuable historical, cultural, and religious relics.

Ancient Building on Mount Tai
 

Important Data of Mount Tai.

 

  • Mount Tai is in Shandong Province, the east of China;

 

  • It is around 426 square kilometers large;

 

  • The main peak of Mount Tai is 1532.7 meters high;

 

  • There are over 20 ancient building ensembles on Mount Tai;

 

  • Thousands of stone inscriptions from different dynasties are scattering in the mountains. 

Panorama Painting of Mount Tai

Panorama Painting of Mount Tai

 

Why Mount Tai is so important in Chinese culture?

 

Mount Tai is not the highest nor biggest mountain in China, but it the most sacred place in Chinese culture for some reasons. 

  • Mount Tai area was the original place of important Neolithic Cultures, include Dawenkou Culture (4500 BC — 2500 BC) and Longshan Culture (2500 BC — 2000 BC). 

Painted Pottery Jar of Dawenkou Culture

Painted Pottery Jar of Dawenkou Culture — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • Of Five Great Mountains, Mount Tai is on the east where the sun rises.  

According to the Five Elements Theory, Mount Tai on the East is Wood and Spring, which represents the origin, life, hope, and thriving.

  • Mount Tai is the highest and holiest mountain in States Qi and Lu, hometowns to Confucius and Mencius, and the origin place of Confucianism

  • In ancient mythology, Mount Tai is the incarnation of the creation deity Pan Gu's head. 

  • In history, Mount Tai was believed could connect heaven and hell, deities and ghosts.

Many legends and relics say that after people departed, their souls would come to Mount Tai, at the foot is a path to the world of the ghosts. 

On top of the mountain, however, were some sacred spots where immortal beings are living or sometimes would show up.  

  • Many great emperors had held Feng Shan, the most sacred and honorable worship ceremony in ancient Chinese culture, on Mount Tai. 

What is the sacred Feng Shan ceremony on Mount Tai?

 

In ancient Chinese culture, Feng Shan was the most sacred worship ceremony on Mount Tai, held by outstanding emperors, as a representative to show their reigns were granted by the holy heaven.

Feng is to build a circular sacrificial altar on top of Mount Tai, to worship heaven, and to inform the emperor's accomplishments.

Shan is to build a square altar on small hills around Mount Tai, to worship the earth and pray for blessings. 

 
Trees and Cloud Sea on Top of the Mount Tai

Trees and Cloud Sea on Top of the Mount Tai 

Moreover, there are strict standards to hold the Feng Shan ceremony:

  • The empire is unified;

  • The emperor should achieve exceptional accomplishments;

  • The country is rich, prosperous, and stable;

  • There should be auspicious signs. 

Which emperors in China had held the grand Feng Shan ceremony on Mount Tai?

 

Throughout faithful history, there are only six emperors who had held the Feng Shan ceremony on Mount Tai. 

  • Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor in the history of China with unprecedented achievements, defeated the other six kingdoms, established the unified Qin Dynasty, hold the first Feng Shan ceremony in the year 219 BC.

 
Part of Inscription on Mount Tai Recorded Qin Shi Huang's Feng Shan, Wrote by Li Si the Prime Minister of the Qin Dynasty.

Part of Inscription on Mount Tai Recorded Qin Shi Huang's Feng Shan, Wrote by Li Si the Prime Minister of the Qin Dynasty.

  • Emperor Wu of Han opened up the Silk Road, defeated Xiongnu and largely extended territory, and promoted Confucianism as the dominant ideology, held Feng Shan six times since the year 110 BC. 

  • Emperor Gaozong of Tang and his queen Wu Zetian, extended territory after perishing Western Turkic Khaganate, Baekje, and Goguryeo, and brought people a prosperous reign, held Feng Shan in the year 665.

  • Emperor Xuanzong of Tang brought his people one of the most prosperous eras in Chinese history, the Great Reign of Kaiyuan, held Feng Shan in 726. 

Inscriptions on Mount Tai, Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang

Inscriptions Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang to Memorize his Grand Feng Shan Ceremony (the Gold Characters on the Right) on Mount Tai.

  • Emperor Zhenzong of Song brought people a stable and wealthy reign and signed a pact with the Liao Dynasty to pursue peace using money, held Feng Shan in 1008.

 

Afterward, many emperors had offered sacrificial ceremonies on Mount Tai, but no one held the Feng Shan anymore. 

One of the most important reasons was that most people believed Emperor Zhenzong of Song was not qualified to hold this grand ceremony, and his activity made Feng Shan not as sacred anymore.

Jade Book that Emperor Zhenzong of Song Wrote for this Feng Shan Ceremony

Jade Book (Yu Ce) that Emperor Zhenzong of Song Wrote for this Feng Shan Ceremony — Taipei Palace Museum

 

Who are the main deities of Mount Tai?

 

According to ancient myths and religious legends, Mount Tai is the residence of many deities: 

  • Dongyue the Great, or Dongyue Dadi, is in charge of everything's life and death. 

  • Bixia Yuanjun, Lady of Mount Tai, is one of the most influential goddesses in Chinese culture, who protects people's well beings, blesses kind people's prays, and awards sincere couples with cute babies. 

Today, many people still go to Mount Tai and pray to the deity to bestow them with a child that they have been longing for.

Figure of Bixia Yuanjun, the Deity of Mount Tai.
 

What are the important cultural sites of Mount Tai?

 

Bixia Temple

 

Firstly built in 1008, the grandest ancient building ensemble on Mount Tai, to worship the deity Bixia Yuanjun.

Bixia Temple on Mount Tai

Bixia Temple on Mount Tai, Photo by Li Xing.

Eighteen Bends (Shibapan) and South Heavenly Gate (Nantian Men)

 

A tortuous walkway with over 1600 stone steps, the end on top is Nantian Men, believed the entrance to the heaven in mythical legends.

Eighteen Bends (Shibapan) and South Heavenly Gate (Nantian Men) of Mount Tai.

Dai Temple

Dai Temple at the foot of Mount Tai is the largest ancient building ensemble in this area. 

Constructed since the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD), it had been the palace for emperors to worship and pray on Mount Tai. 

Afterward, Dai Temple had been reconstructed several times and preserved many valuable frescos and relics inside. 

Dai Temple at the foot of Mount Tai
 

What are impressive natural scenic views of Mount Tai?

Sunrise Scape on Top of Mount Tai, Photo from Official Site of Mout Tai.

Sunrise Scape on Top of Mount Tai, Photo from Official Site of Mount Tai.

Cloud Sea Scenery on Top of Mount Tai, Photo by Fan Zhixiang.

Cloud Sea Scenery on Top of Mount Tai, Photo by Fan Zhixiang.

Sunset Glow on Mount Tai, Photo from Official Site of Mount Tai.

Sunset Glow on Mount Tai, Photo from Official Site of Mount Tai.

Peach Blossom Valley of Mount Tai

Peach Blossom Valley of Mount Tai, Photo by Shenlanse Wendu.