Got your hiking boots on? Good, you may want to make sure your laces are tied tight because we have quite a ways to go. There are over 6000 steps from the bottom to the top. Why are you looking so pale? Don’t worry, we’ll take the bus to the halfway point. It’s already 4:00 pm, too late to start at the bottom and arrive at the top before dark. There’s a cable car that goes from the halfway point to the top, but really, what’s the fun in that?
Tai Shan is the most sacred Taoist Mountain in China, which is no mean feat as pretty much every tall mountain in China has some claim to being sacred or meaningful. But this one is the real deal. Emperor Qin Shihuang (the first emperor) climbed to the top of the mountain and proclaimed China one united country for the fist time ever. Confucius climbed the mountain and was suitable impressed (he was quoted as to saying ‘The world is small’ at the summit) and even Mao managed to make his way up top to proclaim communist glory. (He said ‘The east is red’ while admiring the sunrise.)
The gods rule on Tai Shan, as the mountain is an actual god itself. In fact, the ancient emperors thought the mountain was the son of the Emperor of Heaven. A successful climb meant an endorsement from the god to rule. We have the same pressure you know. If the god doesn’t approve of us, we won’t get to the top. Of course, if we do make it to the top it means we will live to be 100 according to legend. Unless either of us are a relative of the goddess Bixia. She is powerful up here too and beautiful yet frightening. If you are a descendant of hers and climb the mountain she will not let you return to earth.
Here we are, at the Midway gate to Heaven. Let’s start tackling those steps!
This isn’t so bad. The steps are broad and wide and there are even a bunch of flat patches. There are also a bunch of shops selling souvenirs and walking sticks. I’m not sure why you would need a walking stick on a stone staircase, but they seem to be a popular item for climber. Luckily, since it’s 4:30, the hawkers seem tired and aren’t bothering us much.
Hey check out that calligraphy! I think we’ll see a lot more of it on our way up. I wish I could understand it because it supposedly is clever word play and some of the finest examples of calligraphy. Looks cool anyway!
Can you see the top yet? No, me neither. It’s too cloudy up there. It’s hot here, but I can tell that it is a little cooler than in town. They say the summit can be very cold any day of the year. Actually, with this heat wave going on I could use a cold night.
The steps seem to be getting a little steeper. We’ll stop to rest at the God of Wealth Temple and the Five Pine Pavilion. This was the resting stop of the first emperor when he got stuck in a rain storm on his way up. As a thanks to the trees for the shelter he awarded them with a promotion to Ministers of the Fifth Rank. Crazy emperor.
Hey, we’re here. Check out the God of Wealth Temple. Pretty amazing.
According to my map, we’re about halfway. It’s been an hour and I’m tired, but it’s not so bad. The next bit is called Path of the Eighteen Bends. Sounds a little ominous, but how bad could it be, righ? Let’s go.
Well…*gasp*…I guess this part IS pretty steep. Don’t worry, It’ll get better soon I think. *Pant, gasp* Have these steps gotten steeper and narrower? Yeah, I think so too. *Gasp* *Gasp* Okay, at the top of these steps it’s got to get easier. I can feel it. Just push through up this steep bit.
Ah yeah, that’s better. Look the clouds are breaking and I can see the top of the mountain! It’s not too far away.
Oh wait, the camera was zoomed in. $@%(*!^@$#%!@*(&!!**@^($&
It looks more like this.
Sorry, we still have quite a ways to go.
These steps just keep going on and on. There aren’t even many shops anymore and the ones that are here sell Red Bull and cups of instant noodles. I don’t think my body could handle instant noodles right now. I want to sit down, but as soon as I do my muscles seem to be freezing so I think it’s best if we keep going.
Hey wait, see that? I think it is the Gate of Immortality. All we have to do is walk through it and we will be immortal.
A mere mortal
Okay, come on, keep going. Look up at the top. I think the sun is setting. Too bad we’ll miss it, but maybe it will still be light when we get to the top. Or I should say “if.” *Gasp*
What I find amazing are the porters. Since everything has to be carried to the top, these poor guys probably climb the mountain a number of times a day.
It looks like their sweating a lot, but their hardly gasping for breath like we are. And check out those muscles!
Of course I’ve noticed the price rising at about the same rate we are. I guess since things have to be brought up here by hand it is only fair that we pay a little more. What a job.
Anyway, we are almost at the top! Only one more push to the top. It’s getting pretty dark now, but maybe there will still be some light at the top. C’mon, only a few more steps now. 5 more…3 more…1 more!
We made it!! And we have sweaty shirts and faces to prove it!
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