Tag Archives: Shandong

Exploring – Dai Temple in Tai An, Shandong

26 Jul

Our last day in Shandong we went to the Dai Temple at the foot of Mt. Tai.  Traditionally we should have gone there the first day and paid our respects before we climbed up to the summit.  Since we didn’t know that the first day, we went the last morning before we took the train back to Shanghai.

In retrospect, going there after we had climbed the summit was more interesting because they had a series of photographs taken by a French explorer at the beginning of the last century displayed in one area.  Since we had already climbed those same paths, it was remarkable to see how little things had changed in general.  In addition to that exhibit, there also was an exhibit of paintings from North Korea which was unexpected but lovely.

We went in the early morning before the day got hot and spent over an hour enjoying the courtyards and pavilions and a remarkable painting inside one building about the story of the gods on Mt. Tai and how they came to survey their land.  No photos there to protect the painting.

Behind the back gate after we made it through the entire temple complex we could see Mt. Tai rising in the distance, beckoning us to climb one more time.

The Dai Temple marked the final stop of a great long weekend in Shandong province.  It was a lot of fun and I’d love to go back in a different season to see how the landscape changes.  China has so many more places to see though, I think that there are many others that I’ll try to see first.

Any favorite photos or temples?

Exploring – Qufu, Shandong Province

19 Jul

It was only after we had come back from Shandong province that I got my copy of the July edition of Time Out Shanghai.  Tucked inside in a special section was a visitor’s guide (in English) to Shandong, including Tai An (home of Mt. Tai) and Qufu (home of Confucius).  A little late, but it did fill in some of the knowledge gaps from our recent trip there.

We went to Qufu the day after we climbed Mt. Tai, too tired to contemplate climbing another section of the mountain.  We took a taxi from the hotel about an hour to there and were dropped off near the entrance to the Confucius cemetery.  Qufu’s three most famous attractions are – the Confucius Temple, the Kong Family Mansion (Kong is the surname of Confucius in Chinese) and the Confucius Cemetery.  Conveniently, they have a ticket that allows entry to all three places which we purchased and entered the cemetery.

Li eavesdropped on the guides who were explaining different things to tour groups and I wandered around, wondering how much of what I was seeing was actually real.  We both believed that this area must have been ransacked pretty well by the Red Guards and so each story, each tablet needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Monuments aside, the place itself is beautiful with long lines of cyprus trees and pathways that seem to continue into the mist.  There are many, many monuments and a long winding path along the outside.  We elected just to see the highlights as we had more stops planned through the day, but I think it would be an interesting place to perch with a sketch book and a picnic lunch – maybe sketch, maybe write poetry and let the history of so many people soak into my memory.

After the cemetery we went to the temple to see how it would compare to others that we have seen.  It is a grand Confucian temple as you can see by the photos.  To tell you the truth, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me – I think the heat may have had something to do with that.

The last main destination was the Kong Family Mansion.  It was set up like a mini-Forbidden City with lots of waiting rooms and halls, pavilions for important decisions and then in the back 2/3rds of the property the house for the family and beautiful gardens.  The gardens were my favorite part – the rooms were sparsely furnished so it was difficult to see them as a true home, but the gardens you could think of children playing or an elderly gentleman going for a stroll.

Qufu was interesting.  It made me think about China’s past and the Confucian values that used to be the basis for behavior.  Despite the fact that many things on the itinerary were reproductions I still got a feel of the importance of this family with the hometown a day’s journey from Beijing.

What place you have visited really made you think?  Please let me know, I’d like to add some more spots to my must visit list.

More photos from Mt. Tai

17 Jul

My previous post about our trip up Mt. Tai only had photos up the first half of the mountain.  Here is a slide show of the rest of our trip up!

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Note how narrow the steps are.   I got a foot massage the second day after climbing the mountain and the masseuse asked me if my shoes were too small.  I said that no, they’re tennis shoes, really comfortable.  He said that the tips of my toes were bruised – I think it’s because I kept jamming them against the front of the steps as I climbed.  Take it as a warning if you have big feet and decide to climb Mt. Tai.

Which photo is your favorite?  Enjoy!

Exploring – Climbing Mt. Tai (泰山)

10 Jul

Our first view of the Gate to Heaven on Mt. Tai

We took advantage of the Dragon Boat Festival long weekend for a trip to Shandong province to climb Mt. Tai (Tai Shan 泰山) .  The new high speed train turns what was an 11 hour trip from Shanghai 15 years ago into 3.5 hours today – and only 1.5 hours from Beijing.  We chose Mt. Tai for a couple of reasons – we wanted to climb a mountain, it was pretty close and I had enough hotel points so that our three nights there only cost about $25 USD – total.

Mt. Tai is not known for its beauty like Yellow Mountain (黄山) or Flower Mountain(华山) but is instead a very historic mountain.  Given its location it was a common trek for the emperor to come from Beijing and climb the mountain asking for blessings – a place of pilgrimage.  It contains temples and ancient scripts and focuses on the Taoist beliefs that were commonplace in ancient China.

The temperatures in this area of Shandong were very warm so we decided to wake up early and get to the mountain before it got hot (in theory).  By 6:10 in the morning we had arrived and in the cool of the morning bought our tickets, starting the climb from the Red Gate at the bottom of the mountain to the temples at the top.  We came prepared with multiple bottles of water, almonds, crackers, dried fruit and even bought a couple of cans of Red Bull at a store at the bottom.  It was going to be a very long day.

I know now that we were preparing to walk 7.5 km pretty much vertically with over 6000 steps to the top of the mountain.  Looking back I’m glad that I didn’t know that when I started.

As we climbed we saw many people with walking sticks.  At the beginning though the stairs were not that steep and there were flat areas.  We decided that we didn’t need walking sticks – at least not yet.  There were a lot of locals who had climbed the mountain and cut branches from certain trees to celebrate Dragon Boat festival with, but they were walking down as we were walking up.  In general though, the paths were relatively uncrowded and the scenery was nice – very dry – the area is having a drought, but lots of names carved/painted in the rocks and monuments to long deceased individuals with carvings on black stone.

It took us three hours to reach the halfway point, with one detour to see an area where large sections of the Buddhist script had been painted on a hill side.  Looking at the script it was obvious that it had been repainted sometime recently.  It was very nice, but didn’t really feel old, which is a problem that I have in China.  Sometimes the restorations are so shiny new that you know this was not what the original pilgrims saw – whether it is a temple or building or tombstone.

Upon making it halfway – at the appropriately named middle door – we had to reevaluate.  The next section of walking was known as the 18 turns (18 盘) and it looked pretty intimidating from a distance.  At the top of that section was the gate to heaven – that looked precariously perched on the top.  We bought walking sticks.  At 5 RMB (80 cents) for the two, it was likely our best purchase all day.

The 18 turns were a grueling set of steps that just never seemed to end.  By the time we got to the start it was well past 10am and the sun was beating down on every step.  I think if it hadn’t been so hot it wouldn’t have been such a challenge, but it was and so we plodded on – each curve thinking we were “almost” there, but of course we weren’t.

Finally getting to the Gate to Heaven more than 5 hours after we started, I thought we were at the top.  Li, however, who had planned this part of the trip, then informed me we needed to hike another section to get to the top of the mountain – this was just the gate.  He also then mentioned that we could have taken the cable car to this point.  Really?  Cable car?  That may have made sense.

It was obvious that many people had decided to take the cable car up because the next section was packed with people.  The prices were also much more expensive for a bottle of water or popsicle than they had been during the previous part of the climb.  Luckily though, the terrain at the top wasn’t nearly as steep and we covered the last section in less than an hour, finally making it up to the temple.

Li then said that he thought we now needed to walk down.  What a joker.  We took the cable car to the mid-point, then took a bus to the city center.  At about 3:30 we got back to the hotel, showered and promptly fell asleep.

Would I do it again?  There are lots of other mountains that I would like to climb first.   But I would have to say that Mt. Tai was certainly a special type of trip.  The second day there we were too tired to climb another section of the mountain so instead went to Qufu, the hometown of Confucius which is a post for another day.

The slide show below has some photos that show our adventure until the first view of the gate to heaven.  I’ll post more photos of our trek to the top later.

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What’s the most physically demanding travel that you’ve done?  This definitely is close for me – with that many steps and the demanding heat.  How did you feel when you were at the end?  Was the accomplishment worth it?

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