Climbing the Stairway to Tai Shan

  • Not your typical mountain top.
    Not your typical mountain top.
  • At the halfway point you can see the stairs leading to a pass.
    At the halfway point you can see the stairs leading to a pass.
  • Steep stairs from here to the top
    Steep stairs from here to the top
  • Prayer locks and prayer flags.
    Prayer locks and prayer flags.
  • Made a friend while climbing Taishan
    Made a friend while climbing Taishan

Climbing the Stairway to Tai Shan

From Jinan city it is only a 20 minute train ride to Tai An, a city at the base of Mount Tai (泰山, Taishan).  From the train station to the trail head is a 45 minute bus ride.   The path to top of the mountain is paved with stone.  It has to be.  This is the most climbed mountain in China.  The path would have been washed away years ago without those stones. 

I was there on a Monday, in October, so there wasn’t much of a crowd.  Not far up the mountain I found another guy hiking alone.  The trail was dotted with clusters of food vendors and my new friend bought two jianbings and gave me one.  He spoke no English, and his Shandong accent was so thick that I could barely understand him.  But, we made the best of it and spent the rest of the day together.

“Prayer locks” are a thing.  People will bring a lock to the temple and ask them to inscribe a short prayer.  There is probably a donation involved. Then they attach the lock to something permanent.  Obviously it is pretty popular on Mt Tai.  I read that the practice of “Love locks” started in Europe a hundred years ago, and for some reason has recently (in the 2000’s) become popular world wide.  In Mandarin they are known as “xīn liánsuǒ” (literally: “heart connecting locks”)

It took us 4 hours to reach the top of Tai Shan, although I really couldn’t figure out where the top was.  My trail buddy did not know either.  So after wandering around for while we headed back down the mountain. Later I found the highest spot is called the “Jade Peak”.  And the peak is in the Jade Emperor Temple.  Next time I will definitely check it out.

Near the bottom of the mountain we had a long conversation with a couple on their way up.  The woman was quite interesting.  She was born to a Chinese dad and Japanese mom, grew up in Singapore, spoke three languages fluently, and was both a western medical doctor and a Chinese doctor as well.  I particularly like her because, after a long conversation, she announced that I was the only one who could pronounce Mandarin correctly 😀

To learn more about Taishan you can checkout this page, or this one.