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    Mysterious tablets bring tourists to peak
Wang Changwen and Han Hongmei
2006-03-17 05:50

The main peak of Taishan Mountain the Yuhuang Peak is the ultimate challenge for mountaineers and a magnet for archaeologists.

Lying in central Shandong Province, the 2.5 billion-year-old Taishan Mountain spans the range of Tai'an and Jinan cities.

Covering an area of 550 square metres, it was regarded the most prominent among China's five sacred mountains.

Seventy-two Chinese emperors of various dynasties made pilgrimages to Taishan for sacrificial and other ceremonial purposes, including Emperor Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC) and Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).

At an elevation of 1,545 metres above sea level, the Yuhuang Peak or Jade Emperor Peak is the best place to enjoy the surroundings and the four wonders the mountains are known for- the sunrise from the east, the golden-belt-like Yellow River, the beautiful sunset and the sea of clouds.

The temple

The peak gets its name from the Temple of Yuhuang. Yuhuang, or the Jade Emperor, is the highest ruler of Heaven according to Chinese legends. Since the Han Dynasty, the country's emperors have regarded the temple as a holy place to worship Heaven. They also left inscriptions on stones commemorating their coronations.

The temple is 23.5 metres deep and 28.5 metres wide, consisting of Shanmen Gate, Yuhuang Hall, Yingxu Pavilion, Wanghe Pavilion and two meditation halls at the western and eastern sides.

The Shanmen hall is the first structure of the temple, with two stone tablets.

The Yuhuang Hall has three rooms, which are each 10 metres wide and 8 metres deep. A shrine dedicated to the Jade Emperor is to be found here.

Yingxu Pavilion, on the eastern side of the hall, offers the best view of the sunrise. The western side of the hall houses the Wanghe Pavilion, identical in design and size to the Yingxu Pavilion, and providing one with a spectacular view of the "golden-belt of the Yellow River."

Entering the Shanmen Gate, a stone tablet called "Jidingshi" stands in the centre of the courtyard. It is less than one metre tall and has rough surfaces. From this angle, the stone tablet is no more than a regular rock. But the characters on the stone make it one of the most famous in the country. They say "Peak of Taishan Mountain, 1,545 metres."

Originally placed inside the hall of the Yuhuang Temple when it was first built, the stone was moved to the courtyard by a senior official Wan Gong in 1572. It is now a popular photo spot for visitors.

No Word Tablet

For historians and archaeologists, another stone structure on Yuhuang Peak has aroused much interest due to its mysterious background.

The stone structure No Word Tablet, much taller than Jidingshi, sits eight metres outside the Shanmen Gate.

Because no characters or paintings are to be found on it, it was named "No Word Tablet." It consists of three parts. The main part, a pole, is 499.5 centimetres high. Both the left and right sides are 69.3 centimetres wide at the top and 83.2 centimetres wide at the bottom. Its front and reverse sides are 110 centimetres wide at the top and 124.7 centimetres wide at the bottom. Even without foundation, the pole stands at a natural concave.

Above the pole is a roof-shaped stone, which has a height of 40 centimetres and width of 166.3 centimetres. There are no patterns on it. Both the pole and the stone on it are made of granite.

However, the third part, which is on top, and 60 centimetres in height and 30 centimetres in width, is made of limestone. Archaeologists suspect that this part was replaced later.

With respect to its origin, some archaeologists believe it was placed there by Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty. His reign, spanning from 156BC to 87BC, was the most prosperous period of the Han Dynasty.

Others say it was planted there by the Shihuang Emperor (259 - 210BC) of the Qin Dynasty, the first emperor of imperial China.

As research on the origin of the No Word Tablet carries on, the stone tablet and its myth will continue to attract tourists to the mountain.

(China Daily 03/17/2006 page6)


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