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Day 30 Taishan

June 27, 2011
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June 25, 2011 (Saturday)

Thirtieth day in China, second day in Taishan: 爬山 climbing Taishan, 红门 Red Gate, 中天门 Middle Gate to Heaven, 南天门 South Gate to Heaven, 玉皇宫 Jade Emperor Summit, 索道 ropeway, 阿东家常菜 A Dong restaurant, 泰山啤酒 Taishan beer

I met my roommate Hanno downstairs at 8:30am. We bought egg pancakes from a shop near the hostel, and crackers, bread, water and tea. Took a cab to the Hongmen, or Red Gate, where the trail up the mountain begins. A stone arch read “天階”, “Stairway to Heaven.” We started up at 9:15am. The entire climb is a stone path fitted with some six or seven thousand steps. Chinese people of extremely varied age and fitness climbed with us, from the very young to the very old, from hikers with gear to chain smokers. Vendors sell food, drinks, and random souvenirs along the way. The path begins in the woods, after the Red Gate, and gets gradually steeper. The steps are narrow. I found them easier to climb zig-zag. When we stopped to rest other climbers would take pictures of us, or with us, and ask us where we were from, and what brought us to China. Many stone inscriptions, painted red, can be seen beside the path. We reached the Zhongtianmen, or Middle Gate to Heaven, around 10:45am and in the hazy distance spotted Nantianmen, the South Gate to Heaven, and the stone staircase below, tiny between the blocky peaks of Taishan.

We began the next climb up steeper and more frequent steps, into the ravine going straight to the South Gate. On a cliff face was carved a long poem, each character one meter wide. By the 对松亭 Facing Pines Pavilion we looked back to see the valley leading back to Taian, trees concealing the path we had taken before the stone staircase below us. We made the final ascent up a 200 meter staircase to the South Gate, then walked the 天街 Heavenly Street looking down into the valley, and climbed the steps to 碧霞祠 Bixia Daoist Temple, decorated with blue eaves. As in all the temples on Taishan, inside sat an iron incense burner on which were locked many padlocks, each a wish, covered in ash.

We reached the summit around 1:30pm, at a shrine for the Jade Emperor. Many people lit incense and prayed to the Emperor’s idol. People threw coins into narrow-mouthed pots for good luck. From the summit we could see the mountains all around. We walked by the 大丈峰 Father-in-law Peak (a rock that looks like a man), down to the 后石坞 Rear Stone Basin, and back to the South Gate to Heaven, where we took a last look down a the stairway, then rode the cable car. On the way to the Middle Gate we floated over trees along the west side of Taishan. From the Middle Gate we walked down back to the Red Gate and finished our descent around 5pm.

I slept the instant I hit the bed around 5:30, and woke up around seven to go eat dinner with Hanno. We walked around the high stone wall of the 岱庙 Daimiao (Dai Temple) to Hongmen Street and ate at A Dong Jiachangcai–something like “A-Dong Home Cooking” (recommended by Lonely Planet)–where we drank tea and Taishan beer, and ate beef & egg soup, sautéed garlic spinach, boiled vegetable & shrimp dumplings, and 羊肉水饺 boiled mutton dumplings (the best dish) all for about Y80 (~$14). We returned to the alley behind our hostel and had more Taishan beer, talking as we talked all day about travels, China, and world history.

KM

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