Tai Shan

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Tai Shan (china)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

China has five traditionally sacred mountains of which Tai Shan is the most famous, largely due to its location between the large cities of Beijing and Shanghai. It is the subject of many stories that tie it to traditional Chinese wisdom. For example, some describe it as the head of a dragon whose body consists of other mountain chains that snake across the country.

Tai Shan is also the home of the Jade Emperor, the Ruler of Heaven and Creator of the Universe who is the primary deity in traditional Chinese religion. Earthly emperors receive their authority to rule by the Mandate of Heaven passed to them by the Emperor of Heaven. Earthly emperors were required to annually present themselves before the heavenly emperor, validate their right to rule, and offer a ritual sacrifice.

From the second century BCE until the eighteenth century, emperors traveled to Tai Shan. They offered a sacrifice at the base of the mountain. They then climbed the mountain, which was a sign of their continuing favor with the Jade Emperor, and offered a second sacrifice. Like others who visited the mountain, they left behind personal items. In many cases this was a stone monument commemorating their accomplishments.

A staircase of 7,000 steps is the primary avenue to the mountain’s top. At the summit is the Jade Emperor Temple, where believers will find a bronze statue of the deity. Many pilgrims make the trip up the stairs in the night so as to be on top in time for the spectacular sunrise. In addition to the emperor, many Chinese elites and millions of common people have visited the mountain. As with other modern sites, a variety of support facilities were developed to service the needs of the pilgrims, too. With so many pilgrims, it is not surprising that almost every spot on the mountain has been assigned some kind of religious significance and that a number of secondary temples have been constructed there.

When the People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949, Tai Shan was still visited by upwards of three million pilgrims a year, even though it had been several centuries since the last visit by a Chinese ruler. Travel to the mountain dropped dramatically after the Communists took over, and it almost ceased entirely during the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966. With the end of the Cultural Revolution and the renewed acceptance of “traditional culture” in China that began in the early 1980s, pilgrimages have resurged. The government has taken steps to improve transportation to Tai Shan and hasadded a cable car for those not up to climbing the 7,000 steps. The government now views the mountain in terms of Chinese history and culture rather than as posing any kind of religious threat.


Geil, William Edgar. The Sacred 5 of China. London: John Nurray, 1926.
Mt. Tai Shan Landscape. House of Shandong Province: People’s Publishing, 1982.
Mullikin, Mary Augusta, and Anna Hotchkis. The Nine Sacred Mountains of China. Hong Kong: Vetch & Lee, 1973.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

T’ai Shan


a mountain massif in East China, part of the Shantung Mountains. The maximum elevation is 1,524 m (Mount T’ai). The massif is composed of gneisses, granites, schists, and limestones. In the north it descends steeply to the valley of the Huang Ho. Considered sacred, Mount T’ai is the site of numerous monuments of Chinese architecture. These include the Tai Miao temple complex at the foot of the mountain, the main structure of which is the T’ienk’uangtien palace (Han Dynasty), a stone stairway, and the Pihsiatz’u temple on top of the mountain (restored in the 15th and 16th centuries).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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