Mount Tai — Holy Land of Politic and Worship in Chinese Culture
What Is Mount Tai?
Mount Tai, or Mount Taishan, also called Taishan Mountain, was among the most sacred places in Chinese history. Great emperors held holy worship ceremonies and were considered representatives of the empires' stability and well-being.
In mythology and religion, it has believed to be the place that connects heaven and hell, immortal deities, and ghosts.
Today, it is a UNESCO Mixed Natural and Cultural Heritage, with stunningly beautiful natural sceneries and valuable historical, cultural, and religious relics.
Important Data of Mount Tai.
Mount Taishan is located in the Tai'an City of Shandong Province, east of China;
It is around 426 square kilometers large;
Jade Emperor Peak, or Yuhuang Ding, the main peak, is 1532.7 meters high;
There are over 20 ancient building ensembles;
Thousands of stone inscriptions from different dynasties are scattered in the mountains.
Panorama Painting of Mount Tai
Why Is Mount Tai So Important in Chinese Culture?
Even though not being the highest nor grandest mountain in China, Mount Tai is the most sacred place in Chinese culture for different reasons.
The area where the mountain is located was the original place of important Neolithic Cultures, including Dawenkou Culture (4500 BC — 2500 BC) and Longshan Culture (2500 BC — 2000 BC).
Painted Pottery Jar of Dawenkou Culture — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Of the Five Great Mountains, Mount Tai is on the east, where the sun rises.
According to the Five Elements Theory, the east represents wood and spring, which means the origin, life, hope, and thriving.
Mount Tai is the incarnation of the creation deity Pan Gu's head in ancient mythology.
In historical and folk legends, Mount Tai was believed to be the connection point of heaven and hell, deities and ghosts.
Many legends and relics say that after people departed, their souls would come to the mountain, and at the foot is a path to the world of ghosts.
On top of the mountain are some sacred spots where immortal beings live or sometimes would show up.
Many great emperors 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, held by outstanding emperors on Mount Tai as a representative to show the holy heaven granted their reigns.
Feng is to build a circular sacrificial altar on top of the mountain to worship heaven and to inform the emperor's accomplishments.
Shan is to build a square altar on small hills around to worship the earth and pray for blessings.
Trees and Seas of Cloud on Top of the Taishan Mountain
Moreover, there are strict standards for holding 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 Held the Grand Feng Shan Ceremony on Mount Tai?
Throughout faithful history, there are only six emperors who held the Feng Shan ceremony on Mount Tai.
Part of Inscription Recorded Qin Shi Huang's Feng Shan Ceremony, Written by Li Si the Chancellor of the Qin Dynasty.
Emperor Wu of Han opened up the Silk Road, defeated Xiongnu and vastly extended territory, promoted Confucianism as the dominant ideology, and held the Feng Shan ceremony six times since 110 BC.
Emperor Gaozong of Tang and his queen Wu Zetian extended territory after perishing Western Turkic Khaganate, Baekje, and Goguryeo, brought people a prosperous reign, and 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, and held Feng Shan in 726.
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, holding Feng Shan in 1008.
Afterward, many emperors offered sacrificial ceremonies there, 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 (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; she protects people's well beings, blesses kind people's prays, and awards sincere couples with cute babies.
Today, many still pray to the deity to bestow them with a child they have longed for.
What Are the Important Cultural Sites of Mount Tai?
Firstly built in 1008, the grandest ancient building ensemble on Mount Tai, to worship the deity Bixia Yuanjun.
Bixia Temple Building Complex, 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 to be the entrance to heaven in mythical legends.
Dai Temple at the foot of the mountain is the largest ancient building ensemble in this area.
Firstly constructed in the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD), it was the palace for emperors to worship and pray.
Afterward, Dai Temple was reconstructed several times, preserving many valuable frescos and cultural relics.
Impressive Natural Scenic Views of Mount Tai.
Sunrise Scape on Top Peak, Photo from Official Site of Taishan.
Cloud Sea Scenery, Photo by Fan Zhixiang.
Sunset Glow, Photo from Official Site of Taishan.
Peach Blossom Valley, Photo by Shenlanse Wendu.
You Might Also Like: