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Emperors & Mount Tai
Mount Taishan—Spirit of China
2012-09-26

 

A World-Class Mountain

Worship of Mount Taishan first originated from ancient people in Shandong Province. Accompanying the integration of different ethnic groups and unification of the nation, the fame of Mount Taishan has gradually been introduced to the whole nation, and even to the outside world. Mount Taishan hence becomes the most famous sacred mountain in China. Even during the three earliest dynasties, namely Xia, Shang and Zhou, Mount Taishan was listed among the targets of worshipping.

After the first emperor in Qin Dynasty unified China, he first offered sacrifice to heaven and earth on Mount Taishan, which established Mount Taishan’s status as a majestic mountain. The institutionalization of paying homage to the mountain in Han Dynasty clearly defined Mount Taishan as the first among the five sacred mountains in China. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, Mount Taishan was accepted by ethnic minority regime for the integration of ethnic groups. Since then, worship for the mountain has extended from among Han people to wider ethnic groups.

Since Tang Dynasty, the influence of Mount Taishan has further enlarged. The belief of Mount Taishan was then displayed in the establishment of the Temple of the East Sacred Mountain, which first started in the West Han Dynasty, prospered in Song, Ming and Qin dynasties. Over thousands of years, the temple has enjoyed fame and worship. It is one major part of the culture of Mount Taishan.

This culture not only prevails on the territories of China, but also extends to the world. During Han and Tang dynasties, whenever emperors offered sacrifice to heaven and earth, foreign diplomats accompanied them. For example, when Emperor Hanwu paid homage to Mount Taishan, ethnic minorities and foreign diplomats came along. When Emperor Gaozong in Tang Dynasty ascended the throne, chiefs from Turkestan, Persia, Korea and Southeast Asian countries, together with their attendants, came to congratulate, according to historical record.

All these exchanges promoted the fame of Mount Taishan among neighboring countries at that time, especially in Korea and Japan. Worship for gods and goddesses of Mount Taishan was also introduced to Japan. The system of five sacred mountains was later introduced to Korea, where similar titles for mountains were named in the country. Worship for Shi Gandang and the Goddess of Mount Taishan was also introduced to countries and regions like Viet Nam and Taiwan.

The ceremony of offering sacrifice to heaven and earth traveled to the Arab world. Mount Taishan has also enjoyed popularity in the West. As early as in six century, Eastern Roman historian Theo-phylactus Simacatta mentioned Mount Taishan in his works. In 17 century, the name of Mount Taishan was dotted in the map drew by Italian missionary Matteo Ricci.

Later Dutch historian Johan Nieuhof introduced Mount Taishan to the West in his book on the China trip. Sinologists have been keen on the culture of Mount Taishan in modern times. Scholars from the United States, France, Germany and Russia all have comprehensive research about Mount Taishan.

For example, Emmanuel-Edouard Chavannes wrote a book on the mountain, saying it belief of the Chinese people. When former French President François Mitterrand introduced Mont Saint Michel to the Chinese people, he called it “Mount Taishan in France.”

Nowadays, Mount Taishan is attracting more attention from the world. Since the UNESCO named it one of the world cultural and natural heritage sites, Mount Taishan has become a mountain for the whole world.

The End

Mount Tai can best represent the spirit of the Chinese nation. It boosts grand and magnificent natural appearance, and cultural view left by emperors, scholars, literati and ordinary people. It can be noble enough to receive homage and sacrifice from the emperors, and plain enough for all walks of life to visit and appreciate. It has eternal charm. After reading a history that lasts thousands of years, one can find the broad and profound culture about Mount Taishan. The great character of the mountain calls on the Chinese nation to stand ahead among all nations around the world. Mount Taishan is worthy of the title of the spirit of the Chinese nation!

 

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