Tai Shan (Peace Mountain) is one of the five Daoist sacred mountains in China. Because of its history it is the most climbed mountain in China.
Tai Shan has been climbed by many people important in Chinese history. The emperors of great dynasties had to climb the mount to show that they has been the sole ruler of the country.
Mount Tai is located in the north of Tai'an city, in the middle of Shandong province. As one of the five most famous mountains in China, it is recognized as the head of the Five-mountain and defined to be East-mountain adoringly. Many emperors climbed to the top for enthronement or other significant ceremonies in ancient China, for they considered it to be a symbol of Chinese power that given by master of nature. The earliest activities could go back to Xia dynasty and Shang dynasty, so it preserved a good many of cultural relics and historic sites. Famous literators, poets and celebrities were attracted here and thousands of poems and articles about Mount Tai are best-known nowadays.
Mount Tai is considered to be a cultural and historical museum. It is a famous place both of Taoism and Buddhism. There are four marvelous spectacles in Mount Tai, and they are sunrise watching on the peak, shine of sunset, Yellow River watching in sunshine and sea of cloud.
There are almost a dozen express trains per day which take 2hr from Beijing South railway station to Tai'an railway station. The fare of standard class is 220 yuan (2nd class). The train is fast, clean, air-conditioned and comfortable.
There are other several regular trains from Beijing railway station (main) stop at the old Tai'an railway station. The travel time of regular trains varies from 5 hours to 9 hours. Some of them are night trains, which depart from Beijing at midnight. Sleeper and seat services are available on all the regular trains. The fare of air conditioned seat service is around 80 yuan, while sleeper service costs around 150 yuan. These days there are so many express trains available it is not recommended to go with the slow ones unless you are on a budget.
From other cities
More than 100 train services originating in most of China's provinces stop at Tai Shan railway station each day.
Trains run regularly from Qingdao to Tai'an and take 6 hours while costing ¥56-65 one way. Express trains also run from Qingdao and take only 3.5 hours, though the ticket price jumps to ¥148. As of July 2009, express trains only leave from Qingdao at 6AM and 10:30AM. Purchasing your train ticket in advance is a must during busy season, unless you don't mind standing in the aisle for the entire trip. Both the regular and express trains pass through Jinan. Alternatively, you can also take a bus from Qingdao's Sifang long-distance bus station. The trip takes 6 hours and costs ¥116. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to figure out the bus schedule without going to the bus station (there is no number to call and nobody in town seems to be familiar with the schedule), but Sifang is a short cab ride from town (only about ¥12-15 from the train station).
From the rail station to the Mount
To get from the train station (the bus stop isn't near the station, it's about 5 minutes walk to the downtown, near KFC, Pizza Hut and Dico's) to the base of Taishan by local bus, take bus #3 (actually this bus connects two entrances - if you take the bus from the bus stop closer to Dico's/Pizza Hut it will stop at the entrance without the bus to the Halfway. Take the bus from the opposite side of the street). This only takes about 15 minutes and costs ¥2.
Taxis from the Tai'an train station are available to the foot of the trails up Tai Shan and cost about ¥7 (Taishan Bus Station) to ¥10 (Red Door). A brisk walk experiencing some of the culture and atmosphere of the city is a wonderful option for those wanting to warm up for the hike up the mountain itself.
The hike to the top of Tai Shan is an experience of beautiful sites with flora and fauna as well as a rich history of the mountain. Hiking by foot, though physical in nature, is very achievable and is regularly accomplished by people of all ages. There are multiple paths up the mountain with the main path being bricked the entire length making it relatively safe. An added benefit of the hike to the top is the lore that anyone climbing Tai Shan will live 100 years.
Alternatively, buses are available to the mid-way point and are available 24 hours (¥30). A cable car is available for the remainder of the distance to the top. The cable car is open between 6:30am-5:30pm, although unpublished it may be open longer during peak times. (¥140 roundtrip, ¥80 single ride)
If you are interested in seeing the sunrise (a very popular activity) you will need to hike up the stairs at night or stay overnight on top.
Admission was ¥127 which includes a pre-stamped postcard ticket you can mail within China.
Student fares are available at ¥52, but a student ID may be required (expired student ID is enough)
Cable car fares are ¥80 one way or ¥140 return.
Bus fares to the midpoint base are ¥30 one way.
Winding stone and brick sidewalks link the different village areas on top of the mountain.
Tai Shan is very popular to Chinese visitors. This means it is often covered with tourists and the vendors that follow them. There are many nice paths up the mountain but the main climb is sometimes crowded with everything from beggars, to chickens, to monkey on chains that you can pose for pictures with.
- Views overlooking Tai'an and the surrounding areas
- Watch the sunrise in the east
- Mountaintop monasteries
- Carvings of prayers and phrases on the rock faces along the paths up the mountain
- Ancient altars, gates and archways along the hike up the mountain
- Hiking up the mountain can be tiring (about 4-7 hours of stairs) but there are plenty of places to stop along the way, buy water and drinks (prices get higher as you go up the mountain). The bottom of the trail starts here.
- A highlight is watching the morning sunrise from the top of the mountain
Shops and vendors line the first steps at the base of the mountain as well as on top of the mountain with the usual assortment of trinkets found at tourist destinations.
A common purchase is a red headband giving a blessing of long life and prosperity to those climbing Tai Shan.
- A restaurant and various vendors are located as you climb up the mountain.
- Multiple restaurants are available on top of the mountain.
- A variation of the famous Shandong "Jian Bing" is readily available from various stands on the mountain; it is made with egg, spread with a thick soy sauce and wrapped around a stalk of green onion.
- For those that spent the excessive prices of the 3 star hotel, they provide a morning buffet for all guests for ¥30 (though they conveniently forget to tell you this!).
- Beverages are available along the hike from vendors
- A teahouse serves drinks mid-hike up the mountain
- For those looking for alcoholic beverages, the 3 star hotel found above the Confucius temple does have a restaurant with a well stocked bar. The restaurant is found on the second floor of the hotel.
Hotels and hostels exist on top of Tai Shan, giving you the ability to sleep overnight to watch the famed sunrise the next morning. Sales people will meet you to rent available rooms or reservations can be made in advance. Hot water is usually only available at certain times for showers, but is available all hours for the more expensive three star hotel. Check with the hotel on hours of availability before renting to coordinate availability with your schedule.
Be aware the hotels at the top will often times charge 3 times the normal rate during holiday seasons (Oct. 1-8 and May 1-7). 1600 Yuan is the price we were quoted.
Additionally, there are plenty of hotels at the base of the mountain in Tai'an. There are also hostels in the city. The International Youth Hostel was clean and about an hour WALK to the bottom of the mountain, although cabs are readily available to take you to the bottom of the mountain from the town.
Prices both on Tai Shan and in Tai'an often are negotiable.
There are areas at the top where you can pitch your own tents or you can rent a 2-3 person tent that has already been set up for ¥200 though the area they were set up in was covered in debris and you need to provide id which you recover the next morning. There are also two blankets provided per tent. Toilets are provided on the mountain top but be wary when walking off the beaten track for places where people have not felt inclined to make use of the facilities.
You can also rent large bulky military jackets at the top for ¥20 plus a ¥30 deposit and id. These are very popular and well worth the money though you can also sometimes rent or buy them while climbing though this means you have to carry them up and down again.
The mountain is very safe, with many tourists. Just be careful of steep ledges and if you are hiking, of dehydration and the cold at the top of the mountain (vendors rent or sell Chinese military coats if you need one). Walking up the mountain is, while physically demanding, very achievable, though walking down the mountain should be done with caution as the steps are very steep with few landings near the summit. Also, you should avoid if at possible attempting to climb the steps in wet conditions.
The same options available up the mountain (bus-cable car or hiking paths) are available for the trip down the mountain. Hikers will often take an alternate path down from the path taken up the mountain. Be warned the cable car closes at 5:30pm, well before sunset. The cable car also closes when there is thunder in the area, so it is vitally important to check the weather report beforehand.
After climbing the most sacred mountain, it is only natural to pay respect to the wise man, Confucius. Qufu, his birthplace, is only 1 hour away by bus.