The Mother of Mountains
Photos by Liu Shui, Xie Guanghui Article by Xie Guanghui
Mount Taishan, almost synonymous with Chinese culture to historians and a fountain of inspiration for the literati, is a holy mountain to devoted worshippers. To feudal emperors it served as the sacred place for worshipping rituals...
The Fengshan ceremony performance at Mount Taishan originated from the Warring States period when the Qilu scholars believed that the tallest mountain in the world was Mount Taishan and therefore the emperor should worship there. The custom of using a round altar on top of Mount Taishan the mountain and a square altar at its foot Mount Taishan was based on the ancient Chinese belief that the earth is square while heaven is round. This wasn’t just a religious activity by feudal rulers to pay homage to heaven and earth, but also the means of communication between the emperor, seen as a son of god, and heaven. The Fengshan ritual became synonymous with Mount Taishan and emperors’ efforts to consolidate their reign.
Fengshan’s Ritual of Apotheosis is the most formal of ceremonies, even more so than the emperor’s coronation. This is because every emperor has a coronation, but not every emperor can go to Mount Taishan for the Fengshan ritual. There are two prerequisites: one is social stability and economic prosperity, meaning the emperor has run the nation well; the second is a lucky omen, such as favourable weather, grains growing with double stalks or sweet water springing from the ground, which means that heaven has noticed the emperor’s feats. Only then can the Ritual of Apotheosis be held, as a special way of communicating with heaven.
The Emperor Who Started
In the year 219BC, the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang and his ministers went to Mount Mount Taishan to hold the Fengshan sacrifices and left a stone tablet inscribed with the achievements of the Qin Empire. This started a ritual that would be repeated in the centuries to come by dozens of emperors.
Mount Taishan, at a height of 1,545 m, is not the tallest among Chinese mountains, and even among the ‘Big Five’ it is only number three. So, why has Mount Taishan been so revered by emperors? There are probably two main reasons: Mount Taishan it is surrounded by plains on all sides, and due to Mount Taishan its abrupt rise, the main peak seems particularly majestic, soaring into the clouds. Unlike other famous mountains where the main peak is surrounded by many smaller peaks, here the visual impact is stronger. Moreover the mystical powers of Mount Taishan have become legendary after being worshipped by so many past emperors. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians all came to build their temples and monasteries. Soon the
mountains were filled with the sounds of bells in the mornings and drums in the evenings, while incense smoke billowed constantly. Then it followed the literati, including Confucius, leaving their poems and writings praising the mountain, which have catapulted Mount Taishan to the front of the mountain rankings. So it’s no wonder that in 1987, Mount Taishan was named by UNESCO as a world natural and cultural heritage site.
Mount Taishan Stones
Our bus left Ji’nan, travelling south on the expressway, and in just over an hour, we reached Tai’an (meaning ‘the nation is safe and the people are sound’). We strolled along the streets of Tai’an among the masses of tourists and checked out the myriad of tourist souvenir shops. Two things stood out: the Mount Taishan mountain stones and the red ribbons. Because Mount Taishan is seen as a sacred mountain, everything from the mountain, be it a blade of grass or a piece of stone is imbued with sacred meaning. People therefore bel ieve that the mountain stones can defeat demons and exorcise ghosts. Even though nowadays everything is explained by science, many people still bel ieve in f engshui a n d therefore believe a piece of this stone is a perfect a souvenir. But, wouldn’t this in the long run undermine the mountain’s ecology? Another souvenir is a red ribbon, which according to local custom, when they have good wishes written on them and are tied on Mount Taishantree branches, would bring good luck. The trees are full of such red ribbons and some even have money tied to them, resembling a Christmas tree.
In ancient times, worshipping at Mount Taishan started with the Daimiao Temple, followed by a walk up via the Stairway to Heaven to the summit — aptly called Heavenly Paradise. Now it’s much easier as tourist buses ferry tourists to the cable car station, from where they can make the ascent without breaking a sweat. It’s true that taking the cable car saves a lot of time and energy, but after much consideration, I decided to do it the hard way because the cultural and scenic attractions are mostly on the way up. Going up in a cable car would mean I miss all of that and see a somewhat lesser version of Mount Taishan.
The Holiest Chinese Mountai
I headed towards the north from the bustling Dongyue Street, passed Daizong archway, walked along the stone paved former imperial path for Fengshan, and
entered the Daimiao Temple through Zhangyang Gate. This temple, in which you can worship the Mount Taishan God, was built in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) and subsequently renovated and expanded to its current size of over 100,000 sq m. The imposing temple compr i ses Pei t ian Gate, Ren’an Gate, Tiankuang Hall and Rear Chambers, each one more magnificent than the other. The Hanbai Courtyard to the east of the imperial path has five ancient cypresses that were reportedly planted by the Emperor Hanwu. To the north of the Hanbai Courtyard is a quiet square courtyard called Welcome Hall in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1384) that was used for visiting officials. Later, in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was remodelled as Zhubi Pavilion, which means a rest stop for emperors on their Mount Taishan visits. To the west of the courtyard is Mount Taishan’s oldest stone carving. Originally the inscription had 223 characters and was the original work of Qin Dynasty Prime Minister Li Si. After thousands of years, there are only ten incomplete characters left. Being so ancient, the inscription is a precious source of research for those studying the evolution of Chinese writing and calligraphy.
Tiankuang (Heavenly Blessing) Hall is the main part of the Daimiao Temple and was built in the Song Dynasty (960- 1279). To the west is an inscription by the founding Ming emperor that aroused my curiosity, because in the Ming dynasty not one emperor visited Mount Taishan. The emperor Zhu Yuanzhang gave a perfunctory nod to the gods of heaven and earth, then proceeded to ignore the titles bestowed on the Mount Taishan God by the previous emperors. Perhaps
to this peasant-born emperor, the Fengshan ritual that previous emperors held so sacred wasn’t such a big deal, and without it, the nation ran just the same. He may have believed that the rise and fall of a country should depend on the rulers’ skills and the management system, and so that may explain the absence of Ming-dynasty emperors from Mount Taishan.
The Grim Reaper at
To visit Tiankuang Hall you have to wear plastic shoe covers. Some people were so bothered by the extra trouble they turned away so abruptly and with such disdain it shocked me. The entire hall was deserted and deadly silent, except for the weird rustling of my plastic covered shoes that sounded like a scene from a horror movie. I looked up at the Taishan God, all serious and sombre, who is known as the head of all ghosts in Taoism, the decider of life and death. Folklore has it that when people die, the household’s Kitchen God reports the death to Earth God, who hands back a ‘reply slip’ to be used to ‘register’ with the City God, before finally getting a fate declared by the Taishan God. Of course, the good go to heaven and the bad go to hell. Oh, I suddenly remembered, perhaps that’s why those people were afraid to come in, perhaps worried that seeing the Taishan God would lead them closer to the Grim Reaper? On each side and the back is a huge mural portraying a hunting expedition, stretching 62 m long and 3.3 m tall and depicting the emperor in his imperial carriage with a vast entourage of royal family, handmaidens and local officials. The mural had a cast of thousands yet each person’s expression is perfectly captured and life-like. The mural was painted in the Song Dynasty, but due to fire and earthquake damage, the original has been renovated many times while generally retaining the work’s essence. Tiankuang Hall was once used a Shandong provincial government building during the Republic of China (1912-1949); oddly, it once became a horse stable but later it was deserted. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1967), thanks to the army’s occupation, the exquisite murals were spared the fate of destruction.
After the Daimiao Temple, we exited the Houzai Gate and Hongmen Road pointed straight towards Daizong Fang, the archway that is the gate to Mount Taishan. The main path up to Nantian Gate is around 10 km. In ancient times, emperors called it the Imperial Pathway, while worshippers called it Sacred Pathway. Since cable cars have been installed, the number of tourists walking this path has dwindled, so it was just me and the winding stone steps.
Climbing the Stairway to Heaven
I climbed the mountain from Daizong Fang, passing through Yitian Gate, Confucius’s point of ascent. Then, at the three stone archways of Tianjie, the majestic red doors blocked the mountains — once I walked out of the long tunnel entrance, it was like suddenly being in the embrace of nature; the air was refreshing and my footsteps felt lighter. Ascending the relatively easy stone steps of Zhongxi, I was accompanied by majestic cypresses, poplars, maple trees and ancient vines, while the flowing of the mountain stream provided background music. After Wanxian Pavilion, the cliff carving ‘getting into the mood’ made me smile and appreciate the extraordinary scenery in the distance. Nearer afield however, were stone steps, yet more stone steps, enough for my feet to form an intimate connection with these never-ending winding steps.
Following the signs to Jingshi Valley on a side path, a huge flat rock inscribed with the Diamond Sutra scriptures suddenly appeared in front of us. Although it originally comprised 2,799 characters, after centuries of corrosion by the weather, only 1,067 characters remain. Each character is about 45 cm in length and width, in a font retaining much of the look of Li Shu (clerical style calligraphy), but without the ‘silkworm heads and goose tails’ characteristic of Li Shu. The strokes were round but the shape was slightly flat, showing a transition from Li Shu to
Kai Shu, or regular calligraphy. Usually cliff carvings are found on in vertical cliffs; very rarely are they on flat pieces of stone laid on the ground.
Returning from Jingshi Valley to the winding paths, with cliffs on both sides covered by old trees, we felt as if we were entering a green tunnel. Underneath the dense canopy, the coolness quickly dried our sweat so we could continue our climb, fully refreshed. Soon, Hutian Pavilion (Teapot Sky Pavilion) was in front of us. The Yishan Ting to the pavilion’s west is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the fourth is sheltered by old cypress trees, making it seem as if a teapot is pointing up to the sky. The path was steep and difficult, and is named Horse Return Hill because in ancient times people on horseback couldn’t go any further. The steps from the path to Zhongtian Gate are quite steep and a real test of stamina.
At Zhongtian Gate, the halfway point, we gazed upon the stone steps that seemed to go on forever to heaven. Nantian Gate seemed so close. The journey onwards from Zhongtian Gate is called the ‘happy three miles’, because it’s a relatively flat and easy distance, even though the distance is actually closer to 750 m. Next stop is Yunbu Bridge; to the north of the bridge is Yuzhang Ping, where a plunging waterfall created pearl-like droplets upon impact with the rocky cliffs.
After Yunbu Bridge, the winding path resumed, but because of the bends, we could not see Nantian Gate. Cypress trees that had accompanied us from the foot of the mountain gradually became sparser, replaced by pine trees. At the Wudafu Pines attraction were shops and teahouses doing a roaring trade. According to Records of the Grand Historian, when Qin Shi Huang came to climb Mount Taishan, he got halfway and encountered thunderstorms, so the entourage took cover under the pine trees. The pine trees were awarded the title of Wudafu (the ninth of the Qin Dynasty’s 20 levels of office) for providing shelter to the emperor. This then was translated into five pine trees during the Tang Dynasty, but the five trees were destroyed by flooding in the Ming Dynasty. The five pines were then replanted in the Qing Dynasty and later three were destroyed again. The remaining two still stand, with gnarled branches and umbrella-like canopies. They are Mount Taishan’s tree ‘celebrities’ where tourists love to be photographed.
The World on Their Shoulders:
Mount Taishan Porters
We bid farewell to Wudafu Pines and began the ‘slow eighteen bends’ journey. The steep ascent had me huffing and puffing. Stone steps stretched out in front of me seemingly endlessly, while my energy was fast depleting. After the former site for Longmen Fang, we went in to the ‘not slow, not fast eighteen bends’, the stone cliffs on both sides closed in on us, and we could see less and less sky above us. The other tourists said nothing, just walked on with faltering steps, as if much was weighing on their minds. By the time we reached Shengxian Fang, exhaustion had set in; yet we were faced with a rather torturous stretch called the ‘tight eighteen bends’. I sat down on the stone steps somewhat dejectedly, with a rapid heartbeat and breathing, sounding as if my heart was bouncing off the stone pillars. My leg muscles went into spasms. Looking up, the eighteen bends stretched toward Nantian Gate like the proverbial stairway to heaven, and climbers appeared to be one on top of each other. In the Record of Fengshan Ceremonies, the earliest travelogue about Mount Taishan, emperor Liu Xiu came to Mount Taishan for the Fengshan ritual. One of the leaders of the entourage, Ma Dibo, recorded the preparations for the ceremony: ‘Those behind look up at the shoe soles of the people in front; those in front see the tops of heads of those behind, as if people are stacked on top of one another.’ That was still true today.
Sitting on the stone steps, there was an endless stream of porters carrying groceries like beer, pork, eggs, vegetables and rice on their shoulders. I was baffled. Why did they have to do such heavy work when there are cable cars? As it turns out, the porters charge by the half kilogram and it works out to be cheaper than the cable cars. It was shocking and saddening that Chinese labour could be so cheap. But the porters are just pleased that they could make money. They mostly come from the villages nearby and have deeply tanned skin They may not be tall, but are very fit, carrying items on their bamboo poles; even though this means a higher centre of gravity, the advantage is that the goods don’t knock against their legs when they climb the stone steps.
Every porter can usually carry up to 75 kg, some as much as 90 kg —more than their own body weight! They make two return trips a day. When they go up, the steps are steady and breathing even, there is no huffing and puffing. Where they stop for a rest, there is a stand that props up the goods at shoulder height so they can easily resume without squatting to pick up their load again. On the way down they run fast in large strides. Their carrying poles are over 2 m in length, wide in the middle and slightly tilted upwards at both ends, with an iron spike at one end. These deep purple poles are made from juniper wood so the timber is strong yet flexible, and doesn’t hurt the shoulders. Since cable cars started running at Mount Taishan, the en-route restaurants and shops lost most of their business. During their heyday, bottled water prices climbed in accordance with the height of the mountain, but those kinds of profits are gone now.
Also gone are the sedan chairs, but this is not so easily explained by the appearance of cable cars. The porters told us that ‘eighteen bends’ has a vertical height of over 400 m, average incline of 45˚ and a total of 1,633 stone steps, and is the most dangerous part of the Mount Taishan climb. In the past the sedan chairs were in hot demand from Shengxian Fang to Nantian Gate. Those carrying the sedan chairs had long worked out the tourist’s thinking and would charge exorbitant prices, so that hurt Mount Taishan’s reputation. The Mount Taishan tourism authorities decided to ban the sedan chair service out of safety considerations. After all, at these steep heights, if there is a mishap, the consequences are unthinkable. They also set up a mountain rescue team, in case tourists have medical emergencies or run into dangerous situations.
Bixia Yuanjun Fertility Oddess
of Mount Taishan
Finally we ascended to Nantian Gate or South Heavenly Gate. The attic style artifice, which has red walls and a yellow tiled roof, straddles the Flying Dragon Rock and Soaring Phoenix Hill and guards the entrance to the summit. We crossed through the gateway and entered Heavenly Realm, our weary legs scarcely able to hold up on Tianjie — the Heavenly Street. On the north side were shops of the period with touts loudly hustling for business. The south looked out onto undulating peaks. At the east end of the Heavenly Street lies Bixia Temple; upon entering you are greeted with a large incense burner filled with incense sticks, the air thick with sandalwood smoke. The hall behind the burner held a Ming Dynasty copper statue of Bixia Yuanjun. As to Bixia Yuanjun’s identity, some say she was a handmaiden to the Taishan God, while others say she’s the Jade Emperor’s daughter. The Taoist gods’ family tree being the murky affair it is, nobody knows for sure. But one thing is for certain —it was the Song founding emperor who bestowed the title Heavenly Fairy Bixia Yuanjun. Locals, however, call her Mount Taishan Grandma, which is about as endearing as a deity’s name can be. If Taishan God is the god of death, then Bixia Yuanjun is the god of life; she is in charge of fertility and reproduction. Every day countless people come to pay their respects to the goddess and pray for family happiness.
Al Fresco Calligraphy Museum
Daguan Peak is where Mount Taishan’s stone inscriptions stand in abundance. It is like an open air calligraphy museum — behold all of the rocks carved in different types of calligraphy from different dynasties. The most famous is since 725 — Commemoration of Mount Taishan, entirely in Li style calligraphy, with each character burnished in gold. All of the calligraphy on Mount Taishan’s cliffs is very good. Judging from the names, many were written by Shandong governors. Chinese calligraphy from the Jin (265-420) and Tang dynasties on tends to be in a slim and rigid style, but these large characters are different; they seem more expressive and relaxed in order to hold their own in such vast open spaces. But one thing I must mention: some of the new inscriptions are obviously enlarged from a fountain pen style of writing and their sorry skinny shapes are a disgrace to the mountain.
The Jade Emperor Hall lies at the top of Mount Taishan, with a stone tablet inscribed with Altitude 1,545m and guarded by stone fencing. Could it be that the ancient emperors worshipped heaven here? Behind, to the east is Guanri Pavilion, but usually people don’t go there because at sunrise the Jade Emperor Hall isn’t open yet. The Wanghe Pavilion on the west side is said to give tremendous views at sunset, with the yellow river resembling a golden ribbon glittering under the last rays of sunlight. Qing-dynasty poet Yuan Mei wrote in Ascending Mount Taishan: The yellow river appears as a ribbon, weaving through the mortal world to the milky way. I asked a photographer at the mountain top: Have you ever seen the Yellow River Golden Ribbon? His answer was blunt: Never. I don’t know if this is because air pollution has affected visibility, or if it was just a poet’s romantic imagination.
There is a huge platform outside the Jade Emperor Hall, with a giant stone tablet that clearly seems ancient, but it is blank and therefore named Nameless Tablet. Legend has it that Qin Shi Huang left this tablet; when he came to Mount Taishan, he encountered thunderstorms halfway up, and he left without reaching the summit. Others believe Nameless Tablet was the work of the Han Wu emperor — the story goes that this talented emperor was struck speechless by Mount Taishan, except for a string of exclamations: So tall! So extreme! So big! So magnificent! So moved! Perhaps he was so overwhelmed by nature that his mind drew a blank; no words could be found to appropriately express what he felt, like a computer crashing from data overload. So, he left a blank to show that the grandeur of Mount Taishan is beyond words. Of course all this is pure conjecture.
At dusk, the sun sank towards Yueguan Feng and as the mountain’s shadows darkened, the sky morphed from purple to deep blue and the Heavenly Street was brightly lit like a jewelled ribbon. The city of Tai’an below us was now just a blur, its lights seemingly as distant as the milky way. Many people rushed to take the final cable car down the mountain, but others took their time, because like me, they were staying to watch tomorrow morning’s sunrise. The Xianju hotel I stayed at had a blackboard at reception with the expected time of sunrise, and they also conveniently hire out army coats. At night, the temperature plunges on the mountain, but thankfully my room had heating and hot water. I enjoyed a long hot shower, the perfect antidote to the cold and damp of the room.
Losing Sleep over the Sunrise
At four in the morning, I was awoken by the shrill phone ring, thanks to the hotel’s sunrise morning call. I got up, walked to the window and opened the curtains — it was pitch black outside. Just as I wondered whether I got up too early, someone was pounding on the door: Quick, get up, get up, and let’s go watch the sunrise! Suddenly my excitement was triggered and all sleepiness gone. I put on the heavy army coat and walked to Heavenly Street. The sky was glittering with stars, which was a good sign indicating that we’d see a sunrise. In the moonlight, there were several similarly clad shadows, wielding torches and walking against the brisk wind towards Riguan Peak. The temperature was so low that all the vegetation was frozen from root to stem, like jade, or crystal.
According to the theory of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements, Mount Taishan is situated in the east, where the sun rises and where birth and renewal occur, so watching the sunrise in Mount Taishan is most meaningful. The best place to view the sunrise on Riguan Peak, where people were milling around when we arrived. I watched for a long time but saw nothing at first. The meandering mountains were as dark as ink, then gradually a sliver of light appeared on the horizon, and the interplay of dark and light was
unbelievably mysterious to behold. The wind had a ferocious bite, so many people stood up their collars to bury their faces inside for warmth, and some huddle themselves up curled up their bodies and rubbed their hands. A few photographers stood at a vantage point, like birds on a high branch, their hands were frozen like carrots — which they put under their arms for warmth. We could hear their loud sniffles and stomping of frozen numb feet as they looked to the east, desperate, waiting.
Darkness gave way to light, and the sun nonchantly revealed itself from behind the clouds, first — as if the sky was blushing. Someone called out excitedly: it’s coming, the sun’s coming! The sun floated out from beneath the long clouds, an arc of yellow, expanding to a circle. In an instant, the world lit up and warmth flooded the peak. People clamoured to have their photograph taken with the sun, and some were capturing the sunrise on their phones and sending it to friends. The tourist photographers were the busiest, holding up their laminated photo boards and hustling for a ‘souvenir sunrise photo!’ This is their best money making opportunity of the day, so as time passes, their expressions became more anxious and their voices gained a hysterical tone. The most popular gimmick is asking the tourist to reach out their arms so the photo seems as if they’re holding the sun in their hand, or others stick out their thumb, as if propping up a bright sun. One photographer smugly said that the sea of clouds is even more spectacular than the sunrise —heavenly even! Or if you’re lucky enough to see the Light of Buddha, that’s even better… the raving had everyone envious.
On one side of Riguan Peak is the treacherously positioned Sheshen Cliff or Sacrifice Cliff, which used to be where good sons and daughters leapt to their deaths in exchange for good luck for their parents. In the Ming Dynasty, Shandong governor He Qiming built a wall here to prevent such acts and renamed it Love Cliff. Not far is the famous Zhanlu Pavilion, rarely visited due to the fact it’s precariously perched at the edge of a cliff. Over 2,000 years ago, Confucius stood here looking out on the Lu state. I was reminded of Mencius’s quote: Confucius climbed Mount Taishan and saw the entire Lu State, and he ascended Mount Taishan and saw the world.
There are numerous poems about Mount Taishan, the earliest being from the Book of Poetry’s Lu Song: From Mount Taishan’s Rocks, the state of Lu can be glimpsed. But the best known is Tang poet Du Fu’s Wang Yue (lit., gazing upon the mountain):
What shall I say of the Great Peak?
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night.
...I bare my breast toward opening clouds and strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold all mountains in a single glance?
At the time Du Fu was only 24 years old. Nowhere in the entire poem does it mention ‘gaze’, and yet each sentence conveyed the sentiment of gazing at the mountain, from afar to up close, from morning to dusk. Every word was filled with youthful passion, especially the last two lines which contain such ambition and determination they have encouraged countless mountaineers and inspired generations of people to achieve greater heights.
Translated by Cheng Lei
Ji’nan, a City Embraced by Spring Water
Photos by Liu Shui, Xie Guanghui Article by Xie Guanghui
Ji’nan is well known as the City of Springs. There is a traditional saying that goes ‘Every family has spring water and willow trees’. Nowadays, gushing spring water is recycled. It flows in the 7 km long modern-day moat that encircles the city, allowing visitors to go boating in the clear spring water.
Located in Jinan’s suburban area, Temple Lingyan is also a place characterised by an abundance of spring water. It houses a set of painted clay statutes from the Song Dynasty that was named The Best Statue of the Country by Liang Qichao. In recent years, the Red Leaf Valley, has been deliberately developed into a scenic area to serve as Jinan’s backyard.
Springs come to mind naturally when people talk about Ji’nan. Prestigious springs include four clusters of springs, namely Baotuquan (Spurting Spring), He ihuquan ( B l a c k Tige r Spr ing) , Wulongtan (Five Dragon Pool) and Zhenzhuquan (Pearl Spring), that are part of the total of 72 well-known springs along with 733 others that are natural springs of varying size. This is a rather uncommon phenomenon in the world.
Water is vital for the life of mankind. A city that sits side by side with water is one filled with vitality. Spring water has even endowed Ji’nan with a special kind of spirituality. The clear abundant flow of spring water has made Ji’nan a richly blessed city of China.
Spring Water Encircles City
When dusk drops its curtain down
on Ji’nan, I saw a lot of people going to Heihuquan to collect spring water. On one side of the spring were people queuing up with a bucket at the gushing Heihuquan. On the other side, however, were those who simply use kettles and water pots to collect water from the little pond near the riverside. And surprisingly, I found the large, newly built spring water swimming pool nearby is open and — free of charge. Truly, this is all enviable and cool.
Nowadays, most seas and lakes of China suffer from a large area of pollution, sometimes to the extent that it is impossible to find water that is safe to drink. Ji’nan, however, is unfairly blessed and favoured with a ubiquitous supply of clean spring water that can nourish the entire city.
A few months ago, the endless gushing and flowing of spring water embraced this old city again. The scene resembles a long scroll of a landscape painting that portrays the thousand-year old moat. The moat going around Ji’nan City, traditionally called River Eying, has been in existence for a long time. The name ‘Eying’ is actually refers to the poignant ancient story of E Huang, Nu Ying and Emperor Shun. (They are wives of Emperor Shun who threw themselves into the river upon hearing of the emperor’s death.)
As the busiest old water transportation route, the moat was the meeting point of water coming from different springs such as Wulongtan before flowing off to the north. Now, the moat has been turned into a route dedicated purely for tourists.
Nowhere else in China, except Ji’nan, can you take a boat in such clear translucent spring water. On arrival of Ji’nan most tourists are eager to give boating a try. At peak times, a long wait in the queue is common as only 2,000 to 3,000 tourists can be served in a day.
Touring the Moat
It takes a little more than an hour to tour the 7-km long moat. We boarded at the first stop at Baotuquan, which is the largest spring in the city and earned the name of The First Spring under Heaven from Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. The spring has dried up several times before. Last time, the drought lasted for seven years.
Packed with tourists, the quaintly decorated boat travelled northward with echoes of passengers’ exclamations and compliments. To enter Wulongtan we had to pass through the locks. Closed at both ends, the water level started to rise. When it levelled with the water for our forward passage, the gate gradually opened. The entire process is the same as in the Yangtze’s Three Gorges although this is of a smaller scale. Afterwards, the boat docked at Huxi Ferry Pier to allow passengers to embark or disembark. It docks at every one of the ten stops along the entire route.
Next, we entered Daming Lake. In recent years, the lake has been enlarged by nearly 40% and transformed from a ‘Garden Lake’ into a ‘City Lake’. It carries not only the kind of broad-mindedness of the north, but also a bit of gracefulness typical of the south.
Back in old t imes, out s tanding scholars would compose poems about the lake, whether travelling to or residing in Ji’nan. I wonder if they were to stand before the lake again, how would they be inspired to express their emotions through poetry again? I felt as if they were still hiding in these pavilions, waiting to explore the new-found interests of this old city.
Passing Jiaxuan Ancestral Hall and boating round Huxin Island, we could see Chaoran Building from a distance. As we approached Lake Xiaodong, the boat did a u-turn to the south toward Dongmen. Soon after, we had to pass more locks. This time, the water level dropped.
Leaving the gate, we felt as if we were travelling back in time as we found large water tankers and mills right on the shore. Unfortunately, there weren’t any village girls were doing their laundry there, only a few swimmers.
After Qinglong Bridge and Jiefang Tower (lit., Liberation Tower), and experiencing the vibrancy of Heihuquan, we found ourselves welcomed by clusters of bridges across the moat: Pipa Bridge, Manau Bridge, Shoukang Bridge, and Shuangbo Bridge, to name just a few. Gradually, the boat passed by Quancheng Guangchang, which is the largest ‘Guest Lounge’ of
C o n t i n u i n g o n , we r e a c h e d Baotuquan again. Our tour around the moat once took around 70 minutes.
Lingyan Temple is Endless Springs
Following our instinct, we set our eyes on Lingyan Temple, a place where endless numbers of springs kept gushing. Apart from the cluster of three springs including Zhuoshiquan that made their way onto the list of 72 top springs of Ji’nan, there are also some eight other spr ings including Shuanghequan, Yinhuquan, and Shangfangquan that are enlisted as famous springs of Ji’nan.
Nicknamed the Three Springs in Five Steps, Zhuoshiquan, Baihequan and
Shuanghequan are three springs that form a tight cluster. Zhuoshiquan, one of the 72 top springs of Ji’nan, is also called Shijangquan (Spring of Monk’s Staff). It is said that spring water gushed out after Zen Master Fading struck a stone; hence the name of the spring. Spring water subsequently converged to form a translucent pond where tourists frequently kneel down to guzzle.
To the northeast of the temple is Ganluquan. Spring water leaks out in the form of a drop of dew, clanking in the quiet environment. Monks usually draw water and make tea there. In the evening, it becomes the place where they share the Buddhist teachings.
Not far away is another spring called Jiashaquan, which is also one of the 72 tops springs of Ji’nan. Nearby a ruin of a grand hall of Buddhist library (轉輪藏大殿) remains. An iron block was put next to the spring, which is roughly in the shape of a monk’s robe. The spring serves the temple all year round, as it is their main source of drinking water.
Another spring that ranks among those 72 top springs is Tanpaoquan, which is located side by side with a thousand-year blue sandalwood tree. The spring water, available in abundance, is the primary water source for production and daily living of Lingyan villagers.
Founded in the era of Eastern Jin 1,600 years ago, Lingyan Temple is located in Wande City, the outskirts of Ji’nan. It is also an integral part of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage — Mount Taishan. The 40 painted clay Luohan statues left from Song Dynasty, which are currently housed in the Hall of Thousand Buddhists, are regarded as the treasure of the temple. They were vividly crafted and highly regarded.
A survey on cultural relics conducted in 1982 revealed that 39 of those painted clay statues were ‘stuffed’ with silk-made internal organs, all located in their correct positions. This i s a clear demonstration of ancient people’s knowledge on anatomy. One of the Buddhist statues even carries a metal embryo. Its expressions and movements are exactly the same as the outer casing of those painted statues in that they each have a fist cupped by the other hand. Fingers were delicately made with metal wire. On the back a few words indicating the third year of Emperor Shining were written.
Outside the Hall of 1000 Buddhsa is Pizhi Pagoda, a nine-storey pavilion type brick pagoda. The base is a stone pedestal with the exterior façade carved wi th rel ief sculptures. It includes stories such as the ancient Indian Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism. Though it was built many years ago, the patterns remain very clear.
The Pagoda Forest of the Shaolin Temple is a well-known scenic attraction, but I had not imagined that the Pagoda Forest of Linyan Temple is equally spectacular and also made of stone. The pagodas of Linyan Temple are actually graveyards of eminent monks over the past generations, totaling 167 and starting from the Wei of the Northern Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. The body of pagodas can be classified in six shapes and forms: rectangular, bell or drum shape, Lama pagoda form, Buddhist stone pillar pagoda and pavilion-style pagoda. It is said that the shape of a pagoda is related to the hour the monks passed away. Dharma names and years of the monks are engraved on the body of pagoda. As for the tops of pagoda, they are of different styles including wheel, basin or jewelled.
Red Leaf Valley –
Backyard of Ji’nan
I did not expect that the visit to
Red Leaf Valley would become a feast of stunning views of nature. Being a recently developed scenic spot, it is located in the mountainous area in the southern outskirts of Ji’nan and serves as an eco-tourism area. The first phase of development has seen the completion of six specialised garden areas built on 4,000 acres land.
In fact, the valley has more to offer than this. On both sides of a 50m long stone road from Jiefang Village, Qingling Town to Yanjiang Village, Songjiang Town are humble village houses scattered on the hills, an orderly line of paddy fields, and winding translucent creeks as well as towering trees standing in valleys and hills. This road is the primary route from the valley leading to Ailin Forest.
Every autumn, the entire hill is covered by leaves in red, green and yellow.
As we kept walking for another 2 km, we arrived at Xingjiao Temple, an ancient site transformed from a nunnery to a temple. It illustrates the life of Monk Yiching, who is the third eminent monk of the prosperous Tang Dynasty, and also the first monk who launched a journey to the west by sea. When he returned, he shared the wisdom he had learnt and became an ambassador for India and Japan. With his far-reaching contribution to Chinese Buddhism, he was conferred the title Tripitaka the Second by Tang Emperor Gaozong.
Wanye Pagoda, at the mid-level of Xingjiao Temple, is the commanding point at the centre of the scenic area. The seven-storey pagoda offers an increasingly panoramic view as you walk up the floors. Looking out beyond the mountain we could see the winding path by the lakeside in its autumn colours. Right in front of us, on the other hand, was a sea of red leaves.
The Riverside Village of North of the Yangtze River
Photos & Article by Huang Yanhong
War was the most shocking part of Tai’erzhuang history. The battle fought 73 years ago ended in severe bloodshed as 30,000 Chinese soldiers laid down their lives to win the first victory of the Sino-Japanese War. Tai’erzhuang is an ancient town along the Grand Canal that had been an attractive riverside village since the Ming Dynasty. After its recent restoration, Tai’erzhuang is once again showing its bygone features. Currently known as the ‘living canal’, Tai’erzhuang, along with Warsaw, Pompeii and Lijiang, is one of four great ancient restored towns.
Bui l t in the Han Dyna s t y and developed in the Yuan Dynasty (1279- 1368), Tai’erzhuang has enjoyed a long history of human settlement. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, it flourished along with the canal transportation.
During the era of the Wanli Emperor (r.1572-1620) in the Ming Dynasty, block ages occur red several t imes on the Yellow River, resulting in the discontinuation of water transpor t between the north and south in the Xuzhou section of Beijing-Hangzhao Grand Canal. This, however, gave rise to Hanzhuang at the southeast section of Lake Weishan, which later became a new canal exit flowing through Tai’erzhuang. From that time onwards, Tai’erzhuang became a harbour city.
In 1859, Tai’erzhuang had grown into a strategic canal town with a population of over 60,000 people.
The Only Remaining Heritage
Village along the Grand Canal
An application for the Beijing- Hangzhou Grand Canal to be a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage has already been submitted. From Beijing in the north to Hangzhou in the south, the canal boasts a length of 1,782 km. However, the preservation of the overall outlook along this traditional canal is far from satisfying. The section of canal north of Zaozhuang is completely disconnected. A majority of the remains have vanished entirely and the former watercourse is nowhere in sight. To the south of Zaozhuang, urban coastal development has far too rapidly taken place, and with this modernisation, memories of the canal’s bygone days are getting harder to conjure up anymore.
N e v e r t h e l e s s , t h e c h a rm o f Tai’erzhuang remains. It is the only city whose original appearance as an ancient canal town has been fully restored.
At present, Tai’erzhuang continues t o ma i n t a i n i t s o l d s t r e e t s , o l d
watercourse and old piers from the Ming and Qing dynasties, including those hydraulic remains such as revetments, embankments and water gates. Tai’erzhuang is thus regarded as the Only Heritage Village of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. No wonder local people pompously remark that, ‘to view the ancient canal of the Ming and Qing dynasties, Tai’erzhuang is the only place you should go.’
Tai’erzhuang is a coal city located in Zaozhuang. It has an abundant reserve of coal underground that was transported by sea to other provinces, including Jiangsu, Shangdong, Henan and Anhui every year.
In the late Qing Dynasty, the Zhongxing Coal Mining Company was set up. It later grew into the largest enterprise funded by national capital and significantly contributed to the development of modern China. In recent years, however, the local government has started to adjust the industry focus as coal reserves have shown signs of exhaustion. The tourism industry is gradually taking the place of coal mining.
Again, Tai’erzhuang, an ancient town destroyed during wartime, was chosen to shoulder another historical mission during the critical moments of being chosen to serve as a tourism resource. To ensure that the original outlook of the city is consistent with history, builders have spent three years consulting 27 elders aged over 80 years and 13 experts, drawing up more than 400 sketches, gathering 380 old photographs on Tai’erzhuang Battle from all over the world, and recovering over 100 drawings of old buildings. To obtain start-up capital, 500,000 tons of coal was sold for four million yuan. After some years of rebuilding and construction, the beautiful riverside village of North of the Yangtze River began to take shape.
Monuments Prevalent in
the Old Towns
Highly acclaimed as part of China’s unyielding land, Tai’erzhuang has helped written a glorious page in the history of the Sino-Japanese War. It is also the place where the Chinese army won its first victory against foreign aggression since the Opium War (1840).
Not many remains in relation to that battlefield are left in Tai’erzhuang. Most of the old houses were demolished and only a small amount of ruins remain. Though only 53 battle sites are left, theyare scattered in all corners of the old town. We had to inquire about them one by one.
In a private courtyard, I saw some old houses whose eaves have become weedy and whose walls punctured by b u l l e t h o l e s. Al l t h e s e we re intentionally preserved.
The most intense fighting happened in the mosque; yet, when looking from afar, the mosque appears to still stand intact. I just could not imagine how it could have withstood such a heavy barrage of gunshots. In the courtyard, old trees remain and bullet holes dot nearly all the walls.
To help people visualise the war scenes, a lot of war sites had plaques: a small brick wall, a historical photo and an explanation in Chinese and English. These three items together reminded visitors of the severity of the war.
At the corner of Yuehe Street, a photo gives an account of the war as follows: Tragic street battles started on 28 March. Webbed among the 20,000 houses in the city are dense layout of streets and lanes. Both our defending soldiers and Japanese troops have fought to gain a foothold. From a distance, we used rifles and machine guns. Getting nearer, we used grenades, big knives or even hand-to-hand combat. On the afternoon of 3 April, we finally contained the enemy’s attack. Yuehe Street battle was one of the few important street battles that took place in Tai’erzhuang. The battle was extremely fierce.
Another sign talks about a student named Liu Shouwen of Changsha Girls School. Without her parents’ knowledge, she joined the rescue team serving at the Tai’erzhuang. She had risked her life several times to save the wounded. Once, as she was providing relief to a commander, the Japanese army attacked them. In the critical moment where a Japanese soldier was trying to stab the commander, the brave little girl picked up a stone and threw it at the soldier’s head. Unfortunately, an artillery shell fragment hit Liu; she was severely injured and later died at the age of only eighteen.
World War II Memorial
O u t s i d e t h e o l d t o w n , t h e Tai’erzhuang World War II Memorial Hall, 600 sq m in area, was built. In front of the main building is a war monument and on its left is a former aircraft. The 38 steps in front of the building lead people to the memorial hall. The number 38 is significant as it represents the year when the war started.
On display in the exhibition hall are more than 1,000 pieces of wartime materials and artifacts. The Calligraphy and Painting Hall has a collection of the works of soldiers, renowned painters and calligraphers. The Media Hall plays movies throughout the day, including those valuable documentaries filmed by overseas war correspondents at that time as well as the movie titled Battle of Tai’erzhuang.
The most impressive feature of the Memorial is the panoramic gallery. It is also the only large-scale panoramic gallery in China that adopts the Sino- Japanese War as its theme. Inside the 18- side tube-shape building is a gigantic oil painting titled Battle of Tai’erzhuang. It is 16.5 m high and 124 m in perimeter. Under the intense fighting mood created by special lightings and stereo music, various war scenes illustrating the courageous defence and fighting of the Chinese army against the Japanese were reproduced. Among them, focus was particularly put on the poignant scenes in the Beidamen Battle, Mosque Battle and Xibeimen Battle.
Foreign Merchants Bring
Various Architectural Styles
I n t h e p a s t , me r c h a n t s f r o m different parts of China were attracted to Tai’erzhuang, incidentally bringing with them various architectural styles. In addition to domestic residences and shops, other structures include the Wenchang Attic, Taoist Temple, Temple of the Goddess of Mount Taishan, Tinhau Temple, Islamic mosque, Christian church, and
Catholic cathedral. The Tinhau Temple is the largest building among them, where the goddess Matsu is worshipped. Research findings show that the Tinhau Temple was first built in the early years of Qing Dynasty by a Fujian boatman surnamed Shu. In hope of finding business opportunities, Shu arrived at Tai’erzhuang only to find himself welcomed by a rainstorm. He rushed to the nearby Yanwang Hall (Palace of Hell) for shelter but was driven out as lightning struck it. Yanwang Hall collapsed in front of his eyes. Subsequently, he built the Tinhau Temple in the old site of the hall.
After the reconstruction, a part of Tai’erzhuang that was restored to its original look bears the traditional view of shops, courtyards, private schools, relay stations and traditional residential dwellings.
The Anhui architecture style is rather common in Tai’erzhuang. A lot of shops operating on busy streets carry the horse-head wall feature. This is a definite by-product of Anhui merchants doing business in Tai’erzhuang.
Canjiangshu is a government office building displaying the Xieshan architectural style. Constructed in 1683, it was the office of government officials of the third grade, a rank equal to the level of Deputy Commander of major military regions in modern days. The administration of the 110-km long ancient canal was under their responsibility, which implies that the imperial government had attached great importance to the canal. Now, Canjiangshu has been converted into the Tai’erzhuang Museum.
The Chen courtyard was built in typical Southern Shandong architectural style. The courtyard looks
imposing but the Chen Family dared not make it too high profile as only government officials were allowed to have stone lions at the entrance. Even though the head of household was a tax official, he had not passed any imperial civil service examinations. At present, the courtyard has been converted to the Canal Tax Office.
Another Chen family is the residence of Jia Sanjin’s maternal grandmother. Jia has lived here for several years. At the age of 24, he commenced his political career through imperial civil service examination. His greatest achievement, however, lay in his creative work in a book titled The Golden Lotus. Though it is regarded as the Strangest Book in the World, it is documented in the world’s history of literature.
Tai ’erzhuang has a water relay station first established in 1605. Having an area of 530 sq m, the relay station expressed Suzhou’s profuse garden style. Currently serving as an exhibition area illustrating its traditional culture, local people have tried their best to restore the water relay station to its former layout. The history of post stations and the historical development of local station are also shown.
The restored private school is built in a temple style. Nowadays, it has become the venue showcasing the private school culture and old books in olden days. Historically, Tai’erzhuang had a good number of private schools, most of which were built in the Qing Dynasty. Thus, private schooling had become the main form of education until the 1930s when it was replaced by modern education.
Wujia Piaohao (‘piaohao’ means money exchange) is in the typical form of courtyard from the north. In mid- Qing Dynasty, a large number of Shanxi merchants did business here; hence Wujia Piaohao, which was actually a branch of Rishengchang, came into operation. The north side of Piaohao faces the main street and next to the door is the exchange room. It was the primary place where business exchange happened. At the moment, Wujia Piaohao is used to display the piaohao culture.
Erstwhile, Wanjia was the residence of a r ich family i n t ypical Shanxi architectura l style. Car vings and paintings on beams and ridgepoles were extremely exquisite. During the reign of Emperor Hongwu (r.1368-1398) in the Ming Dynasty, Wanjia ancestors were forcefully coerced into migrating from Hongdong County, Shanxi to Tai’erzhuang —to the extent that their hands were tied up during the migration. When there was a need for them to relieve themselves on the way, they had to beg the accompanying soldiers to ‘jieshou’ (meaning untying their hands). That is why, in Tai’erzhuang, people still refer going to the toilet as ‘jieshou’.
Brick carvings exist on both sides of the door – hibiscus on one side and lotus on the other —carrying the meaning of prosperity and harmony. Four sides of the
pillar foundation are lions, which imply that four generations lived together under one roof. The wooden carving on the brackets are the mother and daughter-in-law, granddad and grandson, and Wang Xizhi (a Chinese calligrapher), implying harmony in the family. Descendants of Wang Xizhi branched out in three locations; while the majority are in Tai’erzhuang, others are in Shaoxing and Linyi districts.
Rowers are University Graduates
Historically, Tai’erzhuang is a water town that has nearly 100 water streets and water lanes criss-crossing each other. Boats are the primary means of transport here. The ancient canal that was opened to navigation in 1603 has never dried up. In 1959, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal underwent a watercourse straightening process and that section is still preserved in the city area as a scenic attraction.
Nowadays, Tai’erzhuang has adopted the canal as its primary cultural axis, based on which eight scenic areas, including the barge hauler village, canal market, water market and so on, were developed. The major attraction in the old town is the 7-km long water street and water lane. Visitors can travel to any scenic spot by boat. It is, in reality, an oriental water town. The only difference, perhaps, is that the female rowers are all very talented. In addition to singing, rowing and cracking jokes, they can speak English too. If visitors are happy with their service, they can earn commissions as well. In fact, these quality staff were hand-picked from universities.
Among the daily folk performances in Tai’erzhuang, the emperor’s parade is the most entertaining one.
Formerly, Tai’erzhuang was praised as the Best Town in the World by Emperor Qianlong (r.1736–1796) of the Qing Dynasty, who, together with Emperor Kangxi, had passed through Tai’erzhuang in every one of their six visits to the South of the Yangtze River. Nowadays, ‘emperors’ will tirelessly parade the town several times a day to reciprocate the favour from tourists. A dedicated dragon boat will steer slowly in the direction to Yuehe Pier. As it approaches Wanggongqiao Pier, the sound of music and drums burst out all together and tourists flock out to welcome it. ‘Local officials and squires’ will bow down and hail ‘Long Live Your Majesty’!
Then, the dragon boat docks at the pier. Guided by ‘imperial officials’, the ‘Emperor’ swaggers his way to Tinhau Temple in an arrogant manner amidst the bustling pedestrians.
As the curtain of dusk falls, the old town enters the most beautiful moment of the day. City walls, arch bridges and buildings along the river banks are illuminated by neon lights. Shop owners stay open in the evening. Pubs, coffee shops, and outdoor movies, together with sightseers in twos or threes roaming about in the streets paint a stunning night view of Tai’erzhuang.
Accommodation in the old town is abundant. Most of them are pseudo-classical guest houses in courtyard style decorated with a rockery, pavilions and gardens. They offer a good venue for guests to indulge in the past of Tai’erzhuang.
Silent No More
As the base of the Sino-Japanese War, Weishan Lake was a place where the Railway Guerrilla Force and Canal troops were active. Weishan Lake is still little known outside China. After visiting Tai’erzhuang District, it would be a good choice to also take a look at Weishan Lake, where you can listen to historical stories, view the lotus and savour seafood.
Weishan Lake is situated in Ji’ning and Zaozhaung, Shandong, with a total area of 1,266 sq m. Measuring 150 km from north to south and 620 km from east to west, it is composed of four lakes, namely Weishan, Chaoyang, Dushan and Nanyang, covering four provinces (Shandong, Suzhou, Anhui and Henan), eight regions and over 4 0 r i v e r s , and thus forming the largest freshwater lake in northern China.
Wetland and islands make up the major part of the lake area. The wetland i s the largest wetland p a r k i n As i a , w h i c h i s a l s o known as the Capital of Lotus because 1 sq km of lotus grows there. Every August, a lotus art festival is held here.
Honghe Wetland Park
Leaving Tai ’erzhuang Dist r ict , we headed to Tengzhou, Zaozhuang to see the wetland area of Weishan Lake. At the entrance of the wetland area is a 3,000 sq m Honghe Wetland Museum. It sets itself apart from other museums where photos are usually displayed alongside with explanations. Rather, Honghe Wetland Museum displays a large volume of restored scenes that are complemented by a 360˚ panoramic theatre and 4D cinema house. In other words, i t employs sound, light, and electronics plus
means to illustrate the ecology and culture of the wetland.
We went further into the wetland park on the electric tour vehicle. Welcoming us was a tree-lined boulevard dotted by lotus ponds and wetlands on both sides. The gentle breezes and peaceful sound of leaves was so comforting.
Covering a total area of 90 sq m of land, Honghe Wetland is the largest wetland of a lake area in northern China. As we parked our car in Honghe Square, we found ourselves surrounded by lotus ponds. As it was towards the end of the season, only bits and pieces of red lotus were left. Our tour guide noted that if we had come a few days earlier, we would have been able to view the spectacular scene of the red lotus blossoming in 1 sq km of land amidst a flood of visitors, including photography enthusiasts carrying all their gear just to shoot lotus. We could have even rowed the boat in the lake area to admire the lotus and savour the fresh lotus seeds.
Near the square is a wetland park where sculptures, pavilions and a rockery nicely decorate the park. Inside is rather quiet. As we kept walking along the little bridge, we could see different islands and even a red lotus blossoming centred on large green leaves. The lotus looked rather lonely.
Later, we took a speedboat to enter the lake area and toured around the magnificent lake in good speed, leaving behind a long wake. A vast land of wild lotus was captured by our eyes whilst a 4-km stretch of reeds welcomed us on both sides. Birds such as cranes and egrets were enjoying their freedom there too. The most interesting thing is that on those mini-islands, which are barely 100 sq m large, fisher families lived. Some islands even have trees. There is one island nicknamed Ecstasy Island where fishermen like to set up ‘special traps’, which serve as ‘ecstasy’ to catch fish. Fish tend to easily fall into those traps.
The most interesting place is Panlong Island, which is a tourist area formed by several connected islands. These islands are dotted with numerous scenic spots, such as Mount Fenghuang, Yuxu Palace, Baishou Stone Archway, Yulang Pavilion, Qianlong Clinic, former residence of Emperor Xianfeng’s imperial tutor, and the fishing spot of Yan Ziling. But still, the most popular places were former war sites of the Railway Guerrilla Force and the little fishing village of the related movie. Several thatched and mud houses are still scattered in the woods. The scene of former residents fighting against Japanese troops was recreated with clay sculptures: two guerrilla policemen are vigilantly on guard. Granny is spinning inside the house; Fang Linsao Restaurant in the village was still open while visitors were resting in the courtyard.
The grave of Zhang Liang is the largest among the three. As a military expert, Zhang has assisted first Han Emperor Liu Bang in seizing the power of the nation. Legend has it that to deter tomb robbers, 108 graves of Zhang Liang were built, and to this day, it is still a mystery as to which one is the genuine grave.
The Muyi grave is just 1 km from the Weizi grave. Muyi, the 17th generation descendent of Weizi, was a famous strategist in the Spring and Autumn Warring States Period (770BC-476BC). He admired his ancestor, Weizi; thus he was buried near him.
Following Panlong Island’s example, Weishan Island has also built a Railway Guerrilla Force Memorial Park. Some of the bronze statues were crafted in a very imposing manner, which helps bring back the Sino-Japanese spirit of those days.
Translate by Rita Chui
Travel Tips to Shandong
Qufu County (Confucius Residence, Confucius Temple, Confucius Family Mausoleum)
The Confucius Residence is the hereditar y building of Confucius left to generations of his descendants. It is the second largest mansion after the palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Confucius Temple is the largest place to pay your respects to Confucius. The Thirteen Stone Pavilion, Xingtan (Apricot Pavilion), and Dacheng Hall and its dual rooms housing tablet inscriptions of the past generations are not to be missed. The Confucius Family Mausoleum, covering 2 sq km, is dedicated to the Confucius’ family graves. Millions of old trees are planted there.
Transportation: Take bus No. 1 and 5
Admission Fee: Confucius Temple, 110 yuan; Confucius Residence, 75 yuan and Confucius Family Mausoleum, 50 yuan
Accommodation: Yuanlin Binguan (Garden Lodge), located 40 m west of the Confucius Residence or 1.2 km from the Qufu Bus Terminal, which takes about 15 minutes to walk. Room Rates: approximately 120 yuan/night; tel.: (0537) 448 3676
Jinan (Moat, Lingyan Temple, Hongye Gu)
Ap a r t f r om s c e n i c s p o t s s u c h a s Baotuquan, the moat was recently opened. Linyan Temple in the suburban area offers not only the fresh spring water, but also historical relics. Red Leaf Valley, regarded as the backyard of Ji’nan, has the most beautiful scenery in autumn. Transportation to Baotuquan and the moat starts from the city centre. Boat Trip: 100 yuan/person; there are a total of 10 stops, so, 10 yuan a stop.
Linyan Temple: Transportation: Ji’nan tour bus No. 60 or Changqing District tour bus going direct to Lingyan Temple (free ride for full fare ticket holder). Admission: 40 yuan
Red Leaf Valley: Transportation: Bus No. 65. The trip takes 90 minutes. Admission ticket: 40 yuan.
Accommodation: Shungeng Hillview Hotel, Ji’nan ★★★★; address: 28 Shungeng Road, Ji’nan; room rates: 780 yuan; Tel.: (0531) 829 5818
Tai’an (Mount Taishan)
Different forms of transportation are available between Ji’nan and Tai’an, including high speed rail, power car, train or long distance bus.
Admission Ticket: 127 yuan for peak season. Related scenic spots: Bixia Ancestral Hall 5 yuan; Dai Temple 30 yuan; Hongmen Palace 5 yuan; Wangmu Pond 5 yuan
Accommodation at the Peak: Shenqi Hotel; Address: 10 Dingtian Street, Taishan (the only 3-star hotel at the peak). It was built on the original location of Shenqi Palace, which is also the best spot to view the sunrise. Tel.: (0538) 822 3866.
Ac commodat ion i n Ta i ’a n Ci t y : Rome Holiday Business Hotel, which is located about 100 m from the starting point of Mount Taishan mount a i n e e r i n g . Room rates: 168 yuan; tel.: (0538) 627 9999
Ji’ning (Weishan Lake)
Weishan Lake is the largest freshwater lake in northern China.
Transportation: Daily direct train from Jinan and Shanghai to Weishan County; or train from Zaozhuang or Weishan County direct to Weishan Lake Tourist Pier
Admission Fee: Honghe Wetland 60 yuan; Wetland Museum 40 yuan; Weizi Cultural Park 50 yuan; Railway Guerrilla Memorial Park 20 yuan; Weishan Lake Cultural Park 30 yuan; Weizi grave 10 yuan; Zhang Liang grave 30 yuan
Accommodation: Weishan Lake Hotel ★★★; 177 Weishan County; tel.: (0537) 825 6666; room rates: 180 yuan/night
Z h o u c u n i s a n ancient commercial city. The museum on the main street near Zhoucun Shaobin is worth visiting as the displays are authentic and local.
Transportation: Take No. 34 bus from Zibo City to Zhoucun, which are 20 km apart
Admission ticket: 70 yuan.
Accommodation: Jiazhou Hotel, the best place closest to the scenic spots. Address: 24 Xinjian Middle Road, Zhoucun; tel.: (0533) 641 1888; Room rates: 238 yuan
Yantai (Changyu Wine Museum, Penglai Pavilion)
Changyu underground cellar is located under the museum, and legend has it that Penglai Pavilion is the place where the eight immortals crossed the sea.
Admission ticket: Zhang Yu Wine Museum 50 yuan; Chateau Changyu-Castel 30 yuan; Penglai Pavilion 100 yuan.
Accommodation: Baixianju Hotel. Address: 3 Haibin Road, Penglai. Room rates: 260 yuan. Tel.: (0535) 587 8888
Weihai (Liugong Island)
Weihai’s traditional scenic spot is Liugong Island. There are a lot of historical sites here from the first Sino-Japanese War.
Transportation: Take ferry from the pier located at Haibin Road North.
Admission ticket: 138 yuan (including ferry ticket and entry to various scenic spots). Bus fare on the island is 15 yuan.
Accommodation: Weihai Super 8 Hotel at 48 Haibin North Road. Room rates: 188 yuan; tel.: (0631) 585 8888
Weifang (Yangjiabu and Kite Museum)
Two main scenic spots: Kite Museum and Yangjiabu Folk Museum
Transportation: Take Bus No 5 to Yangjiabu (the terminus).
Admission ticket: Yangjiabu 70 yuan; Kite Museum 30 yuan.
Accommodation: We i f a n g H o t e l ★ ★ ★ ★at 381 Shengli Road East; Tel.: (0536) 823 2188
Qingdao (Wine Street, Olympic Sailing Regattas, Laoshan)
Many buildings in a European architecture style were preserved. Streets featuring particular themes such as the wine street, beer street, culture street, and Pichai Courtyard are special attractions. In Qingdao the Olympic Sailing Regattas were added after the Olympic Games. Laoshan is worth going too.
Transportation: Bus 304 going from Qingdao city centre to Laoshan scenic area; Bus No. 307 at Qingdao train station going to Beer Street and Beer Museum; buses No.2 and No.5 going to Pichai Courtyard, alight at Jiaozhou Road stop; Bus No. 605 or Bus No. 374 going to Olympic Sailing Regattas, alight anywhere nearby.
Admission fee: Beer Museum 60 yuan; Olympic Sailing Regattas and Pichai Courtyard free admission; Laoshan 130 yuan (including 90 yuan entrance fee for the mountain). Accommodation: For convenient shopping and drinking, the Beer Street area is recommended, where you will find the 7 Days Inn on Wine Street. Room rates: 177 yuan; tel.: (0532) 8090 0677
Zaozhuang (Tai’erzhuang District)
Tai’erzhuang District is an ancient city with a Great Canal.
Transportation: Take Express Bus No. B1 at Zaozhuang high speed rail station to Dongjiao station, and transfer to the bus that runs between Zaozhuang and Tai’erzhuang District to Tai’erzhuang District Ferry Pier. The trip takes about 90 minutes. Admission ticket: 70 yuan.
Accommodation: Marco Polo Inn★★★★★, which is located inside the Zhao Family’s courtyard at the northern shore of Tai’erzhuang District Canal. The interior is interestingly old and appealing. Room rates: 462 yuan; tel.: (0632) 685 9999b