A fitting ending to my month long stay in China was to climb Tai Shan (Peaceful Mountain); the most climbed mountain in China and the most revered of its five sacred mountains.
Getting to the base of the mountain for the start of the climb provided the usual minor hassles – taxi to bus station, bus to Tai’an, find a bank when we realized we didn’t have enough money and then a 2nd taxi ride to the trail head.
Once walking, everything changed into a lovely, quiet, winter stroll up the mountain past shrines, temples, old cypress trees, tea shops and idyllic scenic spots. Truly wonderful. Actually, stroll isn’t the correct word to use because it was a steady uphill walk till we reached the mid-way point (about a 800metre or 2500 foot rise in elevation over five kilometres).
The second half was shorter in length, but much steeper. Being the weak kneed coward that I am, the cable car ride proved a god-send and I was able to arrive at the summit with enough energy to walk around it and explore things a bit more. Looking down upon the stairs from above was certainly less tiring than looking up at the cable car from below.
The cable car didn’t quite go to the very top and there were still plenty of stairs to climb. And I mean stairs. From the base of Tai Shan to the top there are supposedly 6660 of them.
The amount of work that would have gone into the cutting and laying of these many granite steps and paving squares boggles the mind. They were certainly built to last. Winding their way through the trees and, more or less in an upward direction, their beauty added a another aspect to the walk.
One very important aspect of coming to Tai Shan was to place a Roaring Beach stone in some out-of-the way, protective spot. Just below the summit, in a sheltered, sunny location I both hid the stone and picked up another to bring back to Windgrove. For whatever reason (conscious or unconscious) there was in doing this “swap”, it felt plain honest good and I look forward to placing the Tai Shan stone on the Ancestral Midden back at Windgrove.
At the summit of 1,545 metres, a sense of closure to my Chinese adventure and a profound good feeling towards the Chinese people came into my heart. They have their problems, certainly, and the land is suffering greatly, but my overwhelming sense of the people (at least, in ShangDong Province) is that at their core there is a selfless sense of well being that exudes a generous kindness to all.
If the world is to have 9 billion people living on it, the Chinese will be the most capable of living together.
And once any summit is reached, the only alternative is to turn around and find your way back down to where you started. In my case, Australia.