Mount Tai, located just north of Tai’an city in East China’s Shangdong province, is a mountain of historical and cultural significance. The word tai in Chinese means stability and peace and the name Tai'an is attributed to the saying: "If Mount Tai is stable, so is the entire country" (both characters of Tai'an have an independent meaning of stability and peace). Mount Tai is crowned by Jade Emperor Peak (in Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor is the most powerful god in heaven) with an altitude of 1,545 meters.
The formation of Mount Tai dates back to the Archeozoic Era, and now it is growing at the speed of 0.5 millimeters per year. It faces the Yellow Sea to the east and the Yellow River to the west, and is in the neighborhood of Confucius’ hometown, Qufu, and the City of Springs, Jinan. In 1987, Mount Tai was listed as both World Natural Heritage and World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Among the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism (the other four are Heng Mountain of Hunan Province, Hua Mountain of Shaanxi Province, Song Mountain of Henan Province and Heng Mountain of Shanxi Province), Mount Tai is only the third highest. Why it is seen as the leader of the Five Sacred Mountains? In absolute terms Mount Tai can not be considered as the highest of China’s mountains, but because it is close to the sea and rivers and rises abruptly from the relatively low rolling hills and Qilu plains, its relative height is quite impressive, with an altitude difference of 1395 meters within nine kilometers. Moreover, in Chinese culture, east is regarded as a sacred direction, since it is where the sun and the moon rise. Therefore Mount Tai is often regarded as the first of the Five Sacred Mountains. It is associated with sunrise, birth and renewal.
For thousands of years, Mount Tai has been the sacred mountain where Emperors held the ceremony of offering sacrifices to heaven and earth to pray and say thanks for peace and prosperity. Seventy-two emperors are said to have performed mountain worship ceremonies on Mount Tai. Among them, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty had visited Mount Tai eight times. It is the first and foremost thing for emperors to do when they ascend to the throne, because Mount Tai is seen as the symbol of the county’s peace and prosperity.
Mount Tai held a sacred position in state politics, and also enjoyed a high status in the world of Taoism and Buddhism. The temples on its slopes have been a destination for pilgrims for 3,000 years. View famous mountains in China.
Featuring antiquity, grace, serenity of seclusion, risk and wonder, Mount Tai boasts 156 peaks, among which Jade Emperor Peak, Heaven Candle Peak and Sun Viewing Peak are the most famous; 138 cliffs, the highlight of which is Fan Cliff; 72 caves; 72 grotesque stones, among which the Immortal Bridge is the most distinctive; 130 streams; 64 waterfalls, including the renowned Dragon Pool Waterfall, Yunqiao Waterfall and Santan Waterfall; and 72 springs. It lies in the zone of oriental deciduous forest, with about 80 percent of its area is covered with vegetation. The flora is known to comprise almost 1,000 species. Some of the trees in the area are very old and have cultural significance, such as the Han Dynasty Cypresses, which were planted by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Tang Chinese Scholar Tree (about 2,100 years old), Welcoming Guest Pine (500 years old) and Fifth Rank Pine, which was named originally by Emperor Qin Shihuang, but was replanted about 250 years ago.
Its distinctive natural environment gives Mount Tai four natural wonders: Sunrise on Mount Tai, Rime and Glaze Scenery, "Buddha’s Light" on Mount Tai and the Sea of Clouds.
The majesty of Mount Tai has profoundly moved many visitors at all periods of history: the emperors who claimed they were the sons of heaven, the proud high-ranking officials, brilliant poets, Buddhists, Taoists and ordinary people too. They left numerous cultural and historic relics. There are in total 2000 historical relics. There are 58 ancient building complexes, which are mainly in Ming and Qing Dynasty style, and 29 are well-preserved. They built at the foot of Mount Tai and along its slopes; among which Dai Temple, Bixia Temple, Hong Mountain Gate, Nantian Gate and Daizhong Arch Gate are masterpieces among ancient Chinese buildings and the representation of China’s culture of thousands of years. Interestingly, from Dai Temple, (the place for offering sacrifice to the Emperor of Earth) located at the foot of Mount Tai, to Jade Emperor Summit, the temples built along the slopes are said to compose a ten-kilometer road from the nether world to heaven.
Besides, there are countless inscriptions on the cliffs and steles from historic celebrities, using such laudatory descriptions of Mount Tai as “towering majesty in the east”, “supporting the sky and holding up the sun” and “as lofty as heaven”.