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

Mount Tai in Shandong Province of China
 

What Is Mount Tai?

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

 

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.

Ancient Building on Mount Tai
 

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

Panorama Painting of Mount Tai

 

Why Mount Tai Is So Important in Chinese Culture?

 

Not being the highest nor grandest mountain in China, however, Mount Tai is the most sacred place in Chinese culture for some 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

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 represents the origin, life, hope, and thriving.

  • It is the highest and holiest mountain in the States Qi and Lu, the hometowns of 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 historic and folk legends, 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 the mountain, at the foot is a path to the world of the ghosts. 

On top of the mountain, however, are 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, held by outstanding emperors on Mount Tai, as a representative to show their reigns were granted by the holy heaven.

  • 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 Cloud Sea on Top of the Mount Tai

Trees and Seas of Cloud on Top of the Taishan Mountain

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 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. 

  • Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor in the history of China with unprecedented achievements, defeated the other six kingdoms, established the unified Qin Dynasty, and 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 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 largely extended territory, promoted Confucianism as the dominant ideology, had held the Feng Shan ceremony 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, 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, 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, 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 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 there 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 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 the entrance to heaven in mythical legends.

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

Dai Temple

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 had been the palace for emperors to worship and pray. 

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

Today, is it one of the Four Greatest Representative Ancient Building Complexes in China, together with Forbidden City in Beijing, Confucius Temple in Qufu, and Imperial Mountain Resort in Chengde.

Dai Temple at the foot of Mount Tai
 

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 Peak, Photo from Official Site of Taishan.

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

Cloud Sea Scenery, Photo by Fan Zhixiang.

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

Sunset Glow, Photo from Official Site of Taishan.

Peach Blossom Valley of Mount Tai

Peach Blossom Valley, Photo by Shenlanse Wendu.