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Tai Shan - Live to be 100 E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Peter
Local lore: If you climb Mount Tai, you will live to be 100. I arrived into Tai’an bus station at 10am, and greeted by friendly hawkers trying to off load hotels and private tours. Caught a taxi to Hong Men (Red Gate), and 30mins and RMB130 later I was passing through the entry gate at the bottom of a 6,600 stepped staircase.

Tai’Shan is one of the five sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. Some say this is the number one for numerous reasons, one being watching the sunrise from the peak you can see the first sun in China for that day. There have been traces of human existence found on Mount Tai that date back to the Palaeolithic period (Stone Age). Tai Shan has been climbed by a long list of who’s who of Chinese history, such as Mao Zedong and Confucius. Now, I can be added to that list, having successfully completed the arduous hike to the top.

There are a number of transportation options and paths you can choose to traverse to the peak, cable cars, buses, and on foot (information for cable cars and buses can be found on many websites). The most common way, completed by thousands of people of all ages on a daily basis, is to start at the Red Gate and walk to the summit. The previous night I had done some reading on the Internet to learn about others experiences and gauge how long it would take. On different websites and blogs, the commonality was that it will take roughly 5 or 6 hours to go from the bottom to the top, and another 2 or 3 hours to climb back down.

My goal for the first part (bottom to mid point), was to walk non-stop without break. The majority of this first part was fairly predictable. Small sets of stairs, large gaps between, and increasing to larger sets of stairs with small gaps in between. Along the way there are numerous shrines and plaques, nothing that would make me forget my goal. Randomly about 4/5 of the way up this first half, I bumped into a Norwegian fella I met in the Confucius Temple in Qufu the previous day.

Midway to Heaven

No time for stopping,I explained my mission of reaching the mid-point without stopping and he was up for the excursion. By this stage, the steps were getting quite steep and winding. Legs were burning with lactic acid, but the spirit was strong, with the scenery being beautiful and smiling Chinese people of all ages were everywhere wanting to say hello. After approximately 1.5hours from the bottom, we reached the mid point, coined “Midway to Heaven”.

At the mid point, what a view!  In the distance I could see the ever famous flight of stairs that pictographs Tai Shan. I could turn around and see sections of the path I had just walked up. There were people strewn out on benches and little stools, all rubbing their legs and laughing and smiling, some eating noodles others sipping on tea. Pleasant. Little encouragement from my Norwegian friend, we found an appropriate place and bought some tea and parked for a small rest and bask in the glory that was the midpoint of Tai Shan. Okay, lets go! 

Stairway to Heaven

From the very first step on the next section (Midway to Heaven), you could sense this was going to be a good challenge. The steps were small, super long sections with minimal breaks/flats, and lots of people. This time, no goal to make it without stopping, that would be silly. It was tough going on the legs, but no feelings that this was impossible. Once again there was shrines and plaques, rock carvings, and some stalls selling drinks and food.

After about 1.5 we reached the foot of that famous staircase I spoke about earlier. Wow, straight up, no stop, about 200metres. This section is coined “Stairway to Heaven”, but I thought if you make it to the top you will live longer (till 100), not ascend into Heaven. From far away this seemingly never ending staircase is very impressive, from up close it lives up to its glory. Very good climb.

Reaching the top was an exuberant feeling. My legs were yelling at me, but my body was smiling, and brain was soaking it all in. In all it took about 4 hours to go from Hong Men to the top of the Stairway to Heaven, very accomplishing.

The Immortal Bridge

The actual summit of the mountain is a little further walk, past some restaurants, pagodas, and rock formations. Jade Emperor Peak is the peak, which a little Buddhist monastery (non functioning) sits, the common lock and key thing couples get their names on, and red flags you can write a little message on were abundant here. The view of the surrounding countryside was beautiful, and the view of the path up was good to look at, knowing I had beaten it. If you do visit Tai Shan and get to the peak, walk a little further away from all the buildings and crowds and you will come across a natural rock formation coined “The Immortal Bridge”. This is 3 singular rocks that have fallen into a ravine and created a natural bridge, very impressive. I am amazed that this was not more signed, as the vast majority of people visiting the mountain would not find or see this.

We relaxed up the top of nearly 2.5 hours, enjoying the scenery and drinking coffee and eating cookies. Many Chinese tourists came and said hello and asked to take photo. Well it was 4:30, time to head back down. Two hours later I was walking through Hong Men with a big smile on my face. A couple of cheers and handshakes, I said goodbye to my climbing buddy and was off to my hotel.

Sacred Mountain

Tai Shan is raved about by many Chinese and foreigners. Being the number 1 Sacred Mountain, is a big name to live up to. I must say, it met all of its expectations. The scenery, the stair case, and just the beauty of the feeling when reaching the top, makes it something I would highly suggest anyone coming to China to see and climb. While the hike was long and tiring, it is certainly doable, for people of all ages (if you are over 70 it is free admission).

The atmosphere of the mountain is something hard to describe, but it was peaceful and comfortable. The large number of pilgrims climbing the mountain certainly adds to the joy of making the climb. Smiling faces everywhere, from little kids to the elderly. It was like we were all making the pilgrimage together. Ascending the Stairway to Heaven. ► Click here to learn more about the Tai Shan


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Our valuable Editor Peter has been with us since Saturday, 11 July 2009.

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+2 #1 Daisy 2010-09-28 16:50
Cam,you've been to so many places of China~~ And you know more about Changsha than I've known. Impressive~~

Seems you really enjoy living your China life...I'm happy for a friend.

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