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Chinese Works : Tai shan tu

Chinese Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Tai Shan (Mount Tai or the Exalted Mountain), the most revered of the Five Sacred Mountains of China, lies in western Shandong Province (36°16'N 117°6'E), elevation 1,532.7 metres (5,029 ft.) above sea level.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The mountain has been a place of pilgrimage and state worship for three thousand years and today remains a favourite tourist destination. It was listed as a <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>World Heritage Site</a> by UNESCO in 1987.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This map, a xylographic print, was intended for the use of pilgrims or tourists wishing to climb the mountain. It shows the ascent by some six thousand steps from the north gate of the walled town of Tai'an to the summit, naming about two hundred topographic features (temples, shrines, grottoes, peaks, bridges, inscriptions, etc.)</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Édouard Chavannes (1865-1918), whose monograph about the mountain is widely considered one of the finest early works of modern European sinology, also wrote a concise description as a guide for foreign tourists which is reproduced below. Some more egregious gallicisms and orthographic errors in the original English translation have been corrected, and Chinese characters inserted where appropriate.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>DESCRIPTION</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Like all the mountains of China, T'ai Shan 泰山 is a nature-god whose principal function is to distribute rain over the surrounding country; the clouds which collect at the summit of a mountain do indeed seem to be produced by it and that is why the latter is invoked when drought endangers the harvests or too much water threatens to rot them. Besides this primordial function, a mountain, when it is of considerable bulk, furthermore assures, by its enormous weight, the stability of its surroundings; every time, therefore, that a shock of earthquake or the overflow of a river suggests that earth has lost its equilibrium, prayer will go up to the mountain.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>From very remote antiquity the Chinese have attributed special importance to the five mountains which correspond respectively to the four cardinal points and to the centre. T'ai Shan is the peak which presides in the east and is the one of the five which appears to have been most anciently venerated, for it is already mentioned in the Shun-tien 舜典 chapter of the <i>Shu-ching</i> 書經 (<i>Book of Documents</i>, an early historical text).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This mountain is therefore the mysterious power which governs the eastern part of the empire to distribute rain in due season and to maintain the solidity of the earth's crust. It is in respect of these powers that T'ai Shan is still reckoned among the principal divinities in the state ritual of our own day.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The maintenance of these temples is entrusted to Taoist monks, for Taoism is principally the religion of nature-worship.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Besides the official faith, popular beliefs have sprung up which must be also taken into account. In the first century of our era T'ai Shan was thought of as the place to which the souls of the dead returned; this conception may be explained if we consider that T'ai Shan presides in the east, that is to say, the origin of all beings; since the souls of men must issue thence when they are called into existence, it is but natural that they return thither when they have accomplished their destiny. T'ai Shan is thus the gloomy realm of shades. The God of T'ai Shan presides at birth and death; he sends his lictors forth into the world to seize those men who have come to the end of their natural life. It is to him that, in cases of grave illness, prayers are addressed to obtain prolongation of life. Under the influence of the moral teaching of Buddhism, the God of T'ai Shan, who formerly confined himself to the supervision of the purely physical activities of life and death, has been gradually transformed; this Lord of the Kingdom of Life and Death has become the Judge of Hell and this explains why in the majority of the temples consecrated to T'ai Shan are seen a series of seventy-five little chapels in which are represented the various tribunals of Hades with their respective implements of torture.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The God of T'ai Shan is not the only deity adored in the temples consecrated to the sacred mountain; a female divinity, Pi-hsia-yüan-chün 璧霞元君 or the "Princess of Coloured Clouds", shares with him the worship of the faithful. This goddess is of comparatively recent origin; a statue, discovered in 1008 at the summit of T'ai Shan, was the physiological basis of the new religion which, in the Ming period, acquired a considerable vogue. Pi-hsia-yüan-chün is properly a goddess of dawn, as it is in the east that the tinged clouds appear which herald the rising of the day-star. She is considered the daughter of the God of T'ai Shan, but gradually she has become the feminine goddess <i>par excellence</i>, and is for Northern China the equivalent of what Kuan-yin 觀音 is for Southern China. Accompanied by her two acolytes, the Goddess of Generating Sons (Sung-tzu nai-nai 送子奶奶) and the Goddess of Good Sight (Yen-ching nai-nai 眼睛奶奶), she who draws to her sanctuary all those wives who long for motherhood and all those mothers who dread ophthalmia for their new-born child; she is the women's goddess, and the fervour of the supplications which rise to her have given her an importance in popular worship greater than that of T'ai Shan himself. Especially those pilgrims who flock to the holy mountain from the beginning of the year to the eighteenth day of the fourth month pray to her.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In addition to its special attributions, T'ai Shan at various times has also played an important part in Chinese religion. It was on this mountain that the <i>feng</i> 封 sacrifice was celebrated by the emperor Wu 武 in 110 B.C., by the emperor Kuang-wu 廣武 in 56 A.D., by the Emperor Kao-tsung 高宗 in 666, by the emperor Hsüan-tsung 玄宗 in 725 and finally by the Emperor Chen-tsung 真宗 in 1008. The <i>feng</i> ceremony was propitiatory to Heaven; it consisted in enclosing in a stone coffin a text written on strips of jade to announce to Heaven the highest pitch of a dynasty; its correlative was the <i>shan</i> 禪 ceremony which comprised a similar address to the Earth. The <i>feng</i> ceremony was carried out at the summit of T'ai Shan, because it was there that one was nearest to Heaven. The <i>shan</i> ceremony took place at the foot of T'ai-shan, on a little hill called She-shou 社首 which was the point of convergence of the surrounding plain. According to tradition, these rites go back to the most remote antiquity and seventy-two sovereigns are mentioned who had practiced them in prehistoric times. In point of fact, however, the above mentioned sacrifice of the emperor Wu in 110 B.C., is the first which seems to be incontestable. After the emperor Wu, the <i>feng</i> ceremony on T'ai Shan was only continued four times. If this rite, so rarely celebrated and at so long intervals, has none the less left an indelible trace on the pages of history, it is because it was, as it were, the highest expression of the most solemn and magnificent conception of which China was capable; the monumental inscriptions of 726 and of 1008, one at the top of the mountain, the other to the south of the town of T'ai-an Fu 泰安府, are testimonies which set anew before our eyes the costly splendour of the homage that the Son of Heaven came to bring to the Supreme Deity.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The height of T'ai Shan is about 4,400 ft. above sea-level. To climb this mountain it is necessary to hire porters who, by means of a primitive chair, undertake to get the traveller up the giddy paths and stairs which lead to its summit. The cost of a chair with its bearer is 4 dollars.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>By starting from T'ai-an Fu at 5.30 a.m. one can, even with various stoppages en route, reach the summit before noon. As for the descent, that will take 3 hours.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In winter the excursion is not without danger on account of the sheets of ice which form on the steps of the mountain stairs. It is unwise to halt on the ascent at all the various sanctuaries to the right and left of the track. One should confine oneself to those halts required by the bearers themselves.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In descending, when one knows exactly how much time one has at one's disposal, one is free to visit the temples which are worthy of attention. Still, for given climbs, the route will be described but once and that from base to summit, the objects of interest being pointed out in the order in which they are encountered on the upward journey.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Leave (5.30 a.m.) the town of T'ai-an Fu by the North Gate and, in about 5 minutes, we reach the foot of the mountain as indicated by a small triumphal arch, the Tai-tsung-fang 岱宗坊, re-built in 1730. Beyond this portico, to the west of the route, is the Taoist temple of the Jade Emperor Yü-huang-ko 玉皇閣.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Enter by the gate on which are inscribed the words <i>Pai-ho-ch'üan</i> 白鶴泉 "Spring of the White Storks"; turn to the right and in a court-yard will be seen, on the right, the Hsien-jen-tung 仙人洞 "Grotto of the Blessed". If the door be opened, in a glass recess can be seen the mummified body of a monk dressed in a red robe: his face is hidden by a gilded mask, but his hands and legs are visible; this holy personage is a Taoist who lived from 1610 to 1703.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>North of the court-yard, we reach by a staircase the principal building of the Yü-huang-ko; on the upper storey, worship of the Jade Emperor, a favorite divinity of Taoism takes place; under the dome on the ground-floor are to be seen statues of the San-kuan 三官 "Three magistrates" which are those of Heaven, Earth, and Water. In the enclosure of the Yü-huang-ko is the Hsing-kung 行宮 or "Travelling Palace" in which the emperor Ch'ien-lung 乾隆 stayed in 1770.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Leaving the enclosure of the Yü-huang-ko and resuming our way to T'ai Shan, in a few minutes we notice, on the west side, the Ta-wang Miao 大王廟 "Temple of the Great King." Adoration is here performed to a certain Hsieh Hsü 謝緒 who, in 1270, proved his loyalty by drowning himself in despair when the Mongols invaded the town of Hang-chou 杭州, the capital of the Sung 宋.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>We next reach a hamlet (in 6 hrs. 5 min.) above which, on the west side, is a temple of Kuan-ti 關帝廟. The worship of this deified hero is one of the most popular in modern China; the Emperor or rather the God Kuan, is none other than Kuan Yü 關羽 who died in 219 A.D. after showing unshakable devotion to his sovereign; he was a native of Shan-hsi 山西 which is why his temple, as may be seen in many other places, has become a meeting-place for the people of Shan-hsi (Shan-hsi hui-kuan 山西會館).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Soon after, the triumphal arch Yi-t'ien Men 一天門 the "First Gate of Heaven" denotes the beginning of the climb (6 hrs. 15 min.).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Further on will be found a "Second Gate of Heaven", Erh-t'ien Men 二天門 half-way up, and when the "Heavenly Gate of the South", Nan-t'ien Men 南天門 is reached, we have attained the plateau which crowns T'ai Shan. These three triumphal arches will thus be considered as marking three stages of the march which seems as though it must lead to Heaven.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Immediately after the "First Gate of Heaven", a second triumphal arch bears the inscription <i>K'ung-tzu teng lin ch'u</i> 孔子登臨處 which alludes to a passage of Mencius where it is stated that Confucius, having climbed a mountain, thought the country of Lu 魯 small. According to this same text of Mencius, when Confucius had climbed T'ai Shan, he gathered the same idea of the whole Empire; a stela to be seen at the summit of T'ai Shan records the second occasion; but here, at the very beginning of the climb, is the spot whence the principality of Lu seemed small to Confucius, and this it is that is commemorated by the triumphal arch under which we have just passed.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>12 minutes later (6 hrs. 27 min.), the route passes under the domed arch of a storied building called Wan-hsien-lou 萬仙樓 "Tower of the Immortals". This edifice was erected in 1620; on the first floor, the Princess of Coloured Clouds and her two acolytes: on the second floor, a number of frescoes representing the eight immortals, the gods of happiness, of public functions and of longevity, etc.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>After a quarter of an hour's climb (6 hrs. 50 min.), the Tou-mu-kung 斗母宮 "Temple of the Goddess of the Great Bear", on the east of the road. This temple, within whose walls are to be found a singular mixture of Taoist and Buddhist divinities, was inhabited up to 1906 by Taoist nuns.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Cross the Kao-lao Ch'iao 高老橋 bridge, thus named after a certain Taoist, Kao, whose personality is, however, veiled in obscurity. Pass in front of a little "Sanctuary of the Three Functionaries" (Heaven, Earth, Water), San-kuan Miao 三官廟, to arrive at the Chu-shui-liu 住水流 bridge, where a good view may be obtained of a stretch of mountain torrent which has worn itself a passage amidst magnificent rocks. Then come in order: the Teng-hsien Ch'iao 登仙橋 "Bridge by which one rises to the Immortals"; the Hu-t'ien Ko 壺天閣 (7 hrs. 10 min.), a monumental porch built in 1747; a small stone triumphal arch, painted red and bearing the words <i>Hui-ma-ling</i> 回馬嶺 "Mountain where one sends back the Horses", this being the highest point which can be reached on horseback.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>At 8.7 we reach, by means of a flight of steps, the Chung-t'ien Men 中天門 "Heavenly Gate of the Centre"; stop here to drink a cup of tea on a terrace from which a very fine view is to be obtained: the traveller sees at his feet the city of T'ai-an Fu which, with the numerous trees growing about its temples, seems like a forest in the midst of cultivated fields; more to the south, a gleam of light shows where the river Wen 汶 flows along the foot of the mountains which shut in the horizon.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>After half-an hour's halt, set off again; the road, for about a mile, ceases to rise: these are the "3 fair <i>li</i>" K'uai-huo-san-li 快活三里; walk this distance in order to stave off the irresistible somnolence caused by the rhythmic movement of the chair; not only that, but one can more freely enjoy, when on foot, the surrounding scenery which is so worthy of admiration.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The climb recommences (9 hrs. 10 min.) when we reach the succession of small bridges whose names are poetical indications of the appearance of the little torrents they span: K'ua-hung Ch'iao 跨虹橋 "Bridge which crosses the Rainbow", Hui-lung Ch'iao 回龍橋 "Bridge of the Sinuous Dragon", Hsüeh-hua Ch'iao 雪花橋 "Bridge of Snowflakes".</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The triumphal arch (9 hrs. 15 min.) which bears the words <i>Wu-ta-fu-sung</i> 五大夫鬆, recalls the tradition according to which, in 219 B.C, the famous emperor Ch'in Shih-huang-ti 秦始皇帝 conferred the title Wu-ta-fu "Grand Officer of the 5th Degree" on a pine tree (<i>sung</i> 松), which had sheltered him when, whilst descending T'ai-shan, he was surprised by a storm.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A quarter of an hour further on, the ascent becomes very steep, and it is by a staircase of stone steps that we finally reach (10 hrs. 45 min.) the "Heavenly Gate of the South" Nan-t'ien Men, and stand upon the plateau which forms the summit of T'ai Shan: here are grouped the principal places of worship.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The most important of these temples is that of the "Goddess of Coloured Clouds", Pi-hsia-kung 璧霞宮, which the route crosses from east to west.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In the inner court-yard, a quadrangular pavilion, Chin-ch'üeh 金闕 "The Golden Door", contains a statue of the Goddess; pilgrims prostrate themselves before it and, when they have given their offering, a Taoist monk strikes a blow on an iron basin to announce that the gift has been received.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>More to the rear, the inner building, covered with bronze tiles, is occupied by the Goddess accompanied by her two acolytes: the lady patroness of maternity, and the lady who ensures good sight. The side buildings, covered with iron tiles, are respectively consecrated to these two secondary divinities. These temples, which were restored in 1907, originally were the sanctuary which was built round the "Pond of the Woman of Jade" 玉女池 following the discovery here, in 1008, of a stone statue of a female.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Outside the temple and towards the north, the Tung-yüeh Miao 東嶽廟, the "Temple (of the God) of the Eastern Peak." This sanctuary is much less important than the preceding one, which shows that the worship of the Goddess has eclipsed that of the God.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>We must not fail to go and see the colossal inscription engraved on the rock behind the building in which stands the statue of the God of T'ai-shan.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This inscription measures 27 ft. high by 5 ft. wide; it was composed and written by the emperor Hsüan-tsung of the T'ang dynasty when, in the year 726, he celebrated the <i>feng</i> sacrifice at the summit of the mountain; it commemorates this solemn ceremony. The characters are inscribed in a checker-board pattern, each square of which is 8 inches high by 10 inches wide; they were originally gilt.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A little further on stands the Ch'ing-ti Kung 青帝宮 the "Temple of the Green Emperor". This divinity is the one who presides over the east, for green corresponds to the east in the theory of the five elements.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Finally, the culminating point of the mountain is reached, where we enter the temple consecrated to the supreme divinity of Taoism the "Jade Emperor", Yü-huang 玉皇.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In the court of the temple, an octagonal barrier surrounds the rocks which are considered the highest point of T'ai Shan. At the foot of the terrace, by which the Yu-huang-ting 玉皇頂 or "Summit of the Jade Emperor" is reached, an enormous quadrangular block of stone 無字碑, nearly 16 ft. high, has often been considered the stela on which Ch'in Shih-huang-ti engraved, in 219 B.C., an inscription whose text has been preserved by the historian Szu-ma Ch'ien 司馬遷; the researches of Chinese epigraphists have proved that this monolith has never borne any inscription and must have been hoisted to the summit of T'ai Shan by order of the emperor Wu of the Han dynasty in 110 B.C.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>After visiting the "Temple of the Jade Emperor", we go to view, on the west side, the little building called Ch'in-kung 寢宮 "The Queen's Bed-chamber". In it is a recumbent statue of the "Goddess of Coloured Clouds," lying in bed. This sanctuary is the object of special veneration on the part of pilgrims.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A little further on, the K'ung-tzu Tien 孔子殿. This little temple, dedicated to Confucius, is unusual in that Confucius and his four assistants are represented by statues, whereas in the majority of similar buildings the statues are replaced by simple tablets.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Some distance to the east of the "Temple of the Jade Emperor", is a containing wall, partly washed away, whose stone gates, on the west and south, have been preserved; in the centre, an esplanade bears a stela on which are engraved verses composed by the emperor Ch'ien-lung in 1757 and 1762; in the XVth century there was a temple on this site, now entirely destroyed.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A little more to the north, we reach a peak whence the view ranges over the low valley which opens to the northeast of T'ai Shan; this peak is called Jih-kuan-feng 日觀峰 "Peak whence to Gaze upon the (rising) Sun". This point was formerly considered the true summit of T'ai Shan, and it was here that the emperor Chen-tsung of the Sung dynasty, celebrated the <i>feng</i> sacrifice in 1008.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Keeping along the ridge of the mountain and proceeding in an easterly direction, we reach the eastern extremity of the plateau; the precipices which border it, have for many ages exercised a terrible attraction for mankind: a regular epidemic of suicides has sent numberless unfortunates into this abyss; the Chinese authorities were stirred to take action, and a stone wall, on which are inscribed the words: 禁止投身 "It is forbidden to commit suicide", makes access to this fateful promontory by no means easy.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>We return to the Grand Temple of the Goddess and make our way down.</p>

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