A Round Trip Through China
I always wanted to travel to China and after learning Mandarin for a couple of year I was ready to take the plunge. Having taken a month of leave, I booked a plane ticket to Beijing and a “bed & breakfast” in Beijing and set off. Not booking all the accomodation in advance gave me some flexibility in staying in each location of my “rough” itinerary as long as I wanted. Having spend 5 days in Beijing I took the train to Datong for a day or two before proceeding to Pingyao. After pottering around Pingyao and visiting some of the surrounding temples I boarded another train for Xi’an, which was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. There is so much to see in that city that I nearly spent a whole week there. Moreover, thanks to the street stalls in the Muslim Quarter I never ran out of new foods to try. Then from Xi’an and went on to Zhengzhou, Luoyang and Kaifeng, before returning to Beijing. Note that I blogged Beijing and Xi’an separartely just to keep the length of this blog under control.
The Hanging Monastery is located 64 km to the northwest of Datong. Also known as Xuankong Monastery, this teetering temple has been literally embedded into the side of Mount Heng and hangs precariously from the cliff-face, 75 meters above ground in an apparent defiance of gravity. The structure is kept in place by oak crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the cliffs with the main supportive structure hidden inside the bedrock. Originally the temple was built without any of the pillars that can be seen today. These can actually be removed without affecting the temples stability and were apparently only added in order to allay the fears of pilgrims and visitors. The temples itself consists of 40 rooms which are lined by a dizzying maze of corridors. It is, moreover, the only temple in China dedicated to all three Chinese religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, which are represented by over 80 different statues.
The first temple on this site is said to have been constructed by a monk name Liao Ran during the late Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 CE). The original structure does not exist anymore since the monastery was occasionally destroyed by the flooding of the Heng River, occasioning the temple to be rebuild higher and higher. The current temple mostly dates back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. The temple complex itself is made up of 40 halls containing around 80 sculptures of copper, iron, terracotta, and stone. A stone staircase chiselled deep into the rock allows access to the temple, while the 6 main halls are connected by staircases, walkways, and boardwalks that provide a dizzying view of the drop below.
The temple is open throughout the year from 08:30 to 17:30 and the entrance fee is about 130 Yuan. In order to get to the Hanging Monastery I took the bus to Hunyuan from Datong’s main bus station. In Hunyuan, I was transferred into a free taxi for the last 5km to the temple itself. Heading back I had to haggle, however, as the taxi drivers were charging for the return trip to Hunyuan. The trip to Hunyuan takes about 2 hours. From Hunyuan I took a shared taxi to Yingxian in order to see the Shakyamuni Pagodo of the Fogong Temple.
Having been built without a single nail or rivet, this pagoda is a masterpiece of carpentry and the oldest and tallest surviving wooden pagoda in the world. It has reached such a level of fame in China that it is now widely referred to simply as “Muta” or “Wooden Tower”.
The tower was originally built in 1056 by Emperor Daozong of the Liao Dynasty (907–1125), which controlled an empire encompassing Mongolia, northern Korea, and northern China, and was established by a nomadic subgroup of Mongolian people know as the Khitans. Emperor Daozong was a devout Buddhist and his father, the preceding Emperor Xingzong, was a native of Yingxian County, which would explain the location of the pagoda.
The tower was placed at the centre of Fogong Temple, which was known as Baogong Temple until its name was changed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). According to local historical documents, from the years 1056 to 1103 it withstood a total of seven earthquakes and only required minor repairs. Unfortunately, it sustained major damage during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) but, when it underwent the necessary repairs in 1974, renovators uncovered over 50 block-printed and handwritten scrolls of Buddhist sutras dating back to the Liao Dynasty. These scrolls helped historians to finally establish that the use of moveable type printing had indeed spread widely across China after being developed by the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Although the archway, bell tower, drum tower, and shrine to Shakyamuni Buddha were all rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the wooden tower itself is in its original condition and has been stunningly well-preserved. It stands on a 4 metre high stone platform that is delicately decorated with crawling lion sculptures in the Liao Dynasty style, and it towers in at a height of over 67 metres..
An 11-metre-high statue of Shakyamuni Buddha takes pole position at the centre of the first floor, with an ornate caisson directly above its head. Similar caissons bedeck the ceilings of every storey in the pagoda and its walls are beautifully decorated with vibrant murals and vivid sculptures that all reflect the Liao Dynasty style.
Apart from the temple and the pagoda there is not much to see in Yingxian (which is actually pretty desolate) so I took the bus back to Datong arriving back just in time for dinner. The next day I went to see the Yungang Caves – a temple complex that had been on my bucket list for a long time.
At the southern foot of the Wuzhou Mountains, deep within the Shi Li River Valley, the Yungang Grottoes stretch for over a kilometre and are etched indelibly into the rock-face. Just 16 kilometres west of Datong City, this group of 53 caves, 252 grottoes, and over 51,000 statues and statuettes have inspired visitors from all religious backgrounds for centuries.
They were carved sometime between 453 and 525 AD, during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD), and are categorised as one of the “Four Grand Groups of Grottoes” in China. The grottoes combine features from traditional Chinese art with those from foreign art styles, such as Greek and Indian, while the statues themselves range in height from 2 centimetres (0.7 in.) to 17 metres (56 ft.). So if you thought you were short, imagine being a thimble-sized statue next to one the size of an oak tree!Unsurprisingly the grottoes were listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2001 and are currently divided into three major groups open to the public: the east section (caves 1-4); the central section (caves 5-13); and the west section (caves 14-53). Cave No. 6 is the largest, with a height of about 20 metres (65 ft.), but it is Cave No. 5 that contains the exemplary 17-metre-tall statue of Buddha. Unfortunately, over a period of more than 1,500 years, many of the statues have been damaged by war, pollution, and natural disasters, so parts of the complex are periodically shut down for maintenance. After all, at the grand old age of 1,500, they certainly deserve a little face lift every now and then!
The construction of the grottoes can be split into three time periods: the Early Period (460-465 AD); the Middle Period (c. 471-494); and the Late Period (494-525). Those constructed in the Early Period are considered the most magnificent and contain the five main caves masterminded by the revered monk Tan Yao (caves 16-20). These particular caves are between 13 to 15 metres in height and are generally U-shaped with an arched roof, imitating the thatched sheds that were prolific in ancient India. Each cave has a door and a window, while the main part of the cave is taken up with the central statue and the walls are bedecked with carvings of thousands of smaller Buddhist statuettes. Just imagine all of those tiny eyes staring down at you!
Throughout the Middle Period, the artistic style became more traditionally Chinese and the caves themselves reflect the hall arrangement that was popularised during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). By the Late Period, the caves and statues had become much smaller in size and simpler in style, giving them a certain stately elegance. Perhaps they’d come to the realisation that, when it comes to spiritual enlightenment, size doesn’t matter!
The history of the Yungang Grottoes is inextricably tied with that of the Northern Wei Dynasty. After the fall of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), a Turkic nomadic tribe known as the Tuoba clan took control of northern China and established their own dynasty. With the exception of Emperor Taiwu, the Tuoba clan were devout Buddhists, predominantly for political reasons as the religion helped them maintain control of their territory. Sometime between 398 and 494, Emperor Xiaowen established Pingcheng (modern-day Datong) as their capital and it would remain this way until 523, when Pingcheng would be abandoned due to warfare.
Originally the emperor only commissioned five caves, to be built by Tan Yao and to depict the first five Wei emperors in Buddhist forms or as Buddha. These are now known as caves number 16 to 20 and were completed in 465 AD. From 471 to 494 the second phase of construction began and it is thought that caves 5 through 13 were built during this time. All of these grottoes were built under imperial patronage, but that unfortunately ended when the Wei court abandoned Pingcheng and moved their capital to Luoyang. In short, like water in the surrounding sands, the money dried up! All of the caves built after 494 are thought to have been financed privately, which may explain why they’re so small!
During the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), wooden structures were built in front of the grottoes in an attempt to shield them from weather damage and incorporate them into temples. These were known as the Ten Famous Temples but were tragically destroyed due to warfare in 1122. The stunning wooden temples that can be found in front of caves 5, 6, and 7 were built for a similar purpose during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) but appear to have survived intact. From the 1950s onwards, numerous restorations and preservation projects have been implemented to protect the grottoes from further damage.
Pingyao, which was founded about 2700 years ago, is one of the oldest cities in China and was once the financial centre of the entire country. The city was established during the reign of King Xuan (827-782 BC) of the Western Zhou Dynasty (c. 1046–771 BC), although it had to be largely rebuilt in 1370, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was during this time that the city was expanded and its famed city walls were constructed. By the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), it was home to more than 20 financial institutions, which represented more than half of the total number in the entirety of China. Nowadays it is home to some of the most well-preserved ancient structures in the country, many of which are located on its picturesque Ming-Qing Street. Pingyao was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
The city was built according to the typical layout of ancient Chinese towns, but also conformed to a traditional theory known as Bagua or the “Eight Trigrams”. To this end, the temples and government offices were located on both sides of the central axis, while the residential houses and commercial markets were in the town centre. This layout has been retained to this day, and the city is still home to some 50,000 residents. The ancient part of the city is surrounded by the city walls, which are 12 metres high and stretch for 6 kilometres in length! The wall itself is heavily fortified, with four towers at its corners, 72 watchtowers, over 3,000 battlements, and a 4-metre (13 ft.) deep moat at its feet. The walls are punctuated by six barbican gates in total, with one each on the north and south sides, and two each on the west and east sides.
In ancient times, these city walls protected not only the people, but also the financial institutions that Pingyao eventually became famous for. Among these, the most renowned is known as Rishengchang or “Sunrise Prosperity”, which was established in 1823 and is thought to have been the first bank in China. During its heyday, Rishengchang controlled nearly half of the silver circulating in the country. It may have traded in silver, but it was worth its weight in gold!
The need for piaohao or “exchange houses” such as Rishengchang arose when traders began using silver coins during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Rampant banditry meant it was unsafe for merchants to carry large sums of silver with them as they travelled, so these exchange houses were able to provide money transfers, accept deposits, and give out loans. While Rishengchang’s base was in Pingyao, it founded branches in major cities throughout China, Japan, Singapore, and Russia, and used bank drafts to move money from one branch to another.
It managed to maintain its prosperity for a staggering 109 years, until it tragically went bankrupt in 1932 due to the advent of modern banking. The development of Rishengchang is considered so integral to the economic history of China that its original head office was restored and converted into a museum in 1995. It was even immortalised in the 2009 film Empire of Silver, about a wealthy banking family living in Pingyao during the turn of the 20th century.
Outside the city walls, two other temples have been included as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Shuanglin Temple and Zhenguo Temple. The former is noted not only for its venerable age but for the more than 2,000 painted statues that decorate its halls. The exact age of the Shuanglin Temple is not known. However, the oldest stone tablet within the complex indicates that it was rebuilt in 571 AD during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) and two huge locust trees, planted during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), attest to this ancient origin. It’s estimated that the temple itself is over 1,400 years old, although it underwent large scale restoration throughout the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties and much of its surviving architecture reflects those styles. The Zhenguo Temple was constructed in 963 AD and boasts a number of magnificent sculptures that date all the way back to the Northern Han Dynasty (951–979).
The Wang Family Compound is the largest of the Shanxi Courtyard Houses. Located in Linshi County, about 35 km from Pingyao, the fortress compound is a tight arrangement of courtyard residences. The compound was built by the county’s Wang family, one of four historically prominent families in the county. The local Wang family traces to a migration from Taiyuan to Jinsheng in 1312 during the Yuan Dynasty. According to family lore the wealth of the family grew from selling bean curd. The local Wangs would reach its apex of wealth and power in 18th century after accumulating riches from business and government position. Over the course of several generations the compound was built on a grand scale during the period from the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1661–1722) to the Jiaqing Emeperor (1796–1820). By the 19th century the fortunes of the family declined and some members took to degeneracy, opium smoking, and public corruption. The Wang family was ousted from the family compound during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The opening hours for the compound are 08:30 – 17:30. You can get to the cmpound from Pingyao either by bus, train or private taxi. In order to travel by bus, go the the Pingyao Bus station and take the bus to Lingshi county. The bus departs at 8:40 and 8:50 in the morning. After arrival, take Lingshi Bus 7 to Wenchang Dong and then walk north for 10 minutes to get to the compound. Alternatively, catch the train from Pingyao Railway Station to Jiexiu or Lingshi Railway Station and then catch Jiexiu bus no. 11 or Lingshi bus no. 1 to the Wang Family Compound.
At a first glance the city of Luoyang (Henan Province) with its grey architecture does little to inspire a visit. However, if you look a little bit more closely you discover several historical treasures lurking between the concrete, including the Guanlin Temple from the Three Kingdom Period, the Northern Wei Longmen Grottoes and the White Horse Temple, the oldest Buddhist Temple in China. Additionally you can spent an hour or two, in the “Emperors Carriage Museum” which contains the preserved remains of a Zhou Dynasty Tomb, including several chariots. All these temples owe their existence to the fact that Luoyang, founded by the legendary Duke of Zhou in 1136 BCE, was one of the Four Great Ancient Cities of China, along with Beijing, Nanjing and Xi’an.
According to tradition the Baima Si (White Horse Temple) is the oldest Buddhist Temple in China, having been first established in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han dynasty. There are several legends relating to the foundation of the temple. The “Book of the Later Han”, for example, says that the emperor dreamt of a 3 meter tall golden man whose head was glowing and that his advisors informed him that the figure in his dream was the Buddha from India. Because of this Emperor Ming sent a monk (or monks) to India to bring the Buddhist teachings back to Eastern Han. Several years later the monk(s) returned carrying “The Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters” on a white horse. The Sutra was received by the Emperor and housed in a temple built outside the walls of Luo Yang, named in honor of the white horse. It was China’s first Buddhist temple. Later the temple became a center for Buddhist learning and teaching. In 258 the royal Kuchean monk, Po-Yen, translated six Buddhist texts into Chinese at the temple, including the important Infinte Life Sutra. He was followed by the Indo-Scythian translater Zhu Fahu (Dharmaraksa) who came to Luoyang in 266 CE and lived at the temple for about a year in about 289 CE. Furthermore, the renowned monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty, who spent 16 years on a pilgrimage to India (630–635 CE) as a result of his desire to visit the Buddha’s homeland, started his pilgrimage from this temple. On his return, Xuanzang remained the abbot of the White Horse Temple till his death. During his stay, apart from his teaching duties and other religious activities at the temple, he translated many Buddhist scriptures that he had brought from India, skillfully rendering Sanskrit into Chinese. In 1175, an inscription on a stone tablet next to Qilun Pagoda—a 35 metres (115 ft) tall, multi-eaved square-based tower to the southeast of the White Horse Temple—stated that a fire occurred five decades previously and destroyed the temple and the Sakya Tathagata sarira stupa, a predecessor to the pagoda.
The same inscription of 1175 stated that a Jin official had the stone Qilun Pagoda erected soon after. The pagoda is built with the design style imitating the square-based pagodas of the Tang Dynasty. The temple underwent many restorations between the 13th and the 20th century and most of what we can see today probably dates back to the Ming (1368-1644) or Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Guān Yǔ was an iconic general of the Kingdom of Shu at tail end of the Han dynasty (206 – 220 CE) and beginning of the Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280 CE). His image is pretty pervasive and you can see his long-bearded red-faced grimace throughout th whole of China. His story has been immortalized in the Chinese classic “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. According to the story, the Shu general, Guan Yu, was defeated, captured and executed by Sunquan, the ruler of the State of Wu. Fearing revenge from Guan Yu’s blood brother, Liubei, who was the ruler of the State of Shu, Sunquan ordered that Guan Yu’s head be sent to Cao Cao, ruler of Wei, in an attempt to deflect responsibility for the death and to start a war between the Shu and the Wei Kingdoms. However, Cao Cao discovered the plot and due to his great respect for General Guan Yu, he had Guan Yu’s body carved from eaglewood and buried the carving and the head with great honors outside the South Gate of Luoyang City.
Very little is known about when the temple was first built. However, most of today’s structures date back to the Ming Dynasty and underwent several renovations and expansions during the succeeding Qing Dynasty.
The temple can be reached by bus 55 and 81 from the Luoyang Railway Station or bus 58 from the White Horse Temple. It is open between 08:00 and 18:30 and the entrance fee is about 40 yuan.
Carved deep within the limestone rock-face of Mount Xiang and Mount Longmen, the Longmen or “Dragon’s Gate” Grottoes are regarded as one of the finest examples of Buddhist art in China. This colossal complex stretches along both banks of the Yi River and boasts over 2,300 caves, which contain more than 110,000 Buddhist statues, 60 stupas(1), and 2,800 stele(2) inscriptions. In 2000, its historical significance and undeniable aesthetic value meant it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its location, just 12 kilometres (8 mi) south of the city of Luoyang, is a telling clue as to how these magnificent grottoes came to be.
During the late 4th century, the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei people controlled much of northern China under the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–535). In 495, they made the bold decision to move their imperial capital from northern Pingcheng (modern-day Datong, Shanxi province) to Luoyang. After having masterminded the Yungang Grottoes near Datong, the Northern Wei aristocracy turned their attention toward the mountains near Luoyang. After all, there’s no sense in giving up the habit of a lifetime, particularly if that habit is financing lavish works of art! By the late 5th century, the first of the Longmen Grottoes had been carved.
While over 30% of the caves were constructed during the Northern Wei Dynasty, the complex wouldn’t reach its peak until the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was during this time that the artistic style of the paintings and statuary within the caves radically changed, from the blocky and simplistic style typical of Indian Buddhist art to the refined and opulent designs that became characteristic of Chinese Buddhist art. In particular, this “Longmen style” is known for portraying the Buddha in the traditional flowing garments of a Chinese scholar.
Over time, this sophisticated form of Buddhist art spread throughout China, and had a wide-reaching influence across other Asian countries. Caves continued to be carved at Longmen right up until the Song Dynasty (960-1279), but its development was eventually halted due to internal warfare between the Jurcen-led Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Tragedy struck yet again during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), when the Japanese army looted the site and took many of the statues back to Japan. These relics are now mainly housed in Japanese museums.
Nowadays, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the most popular tourist attractions in China and provide a window into the history of Buddhism as it gradually rose to become one of the most prominent religions in the nation. While all of the caves have their own unique charm, there are a few that are usually singled out for special praise. After all, not all art is created equal! These exceptional areas of the complex are known as Guyang Cave, the Three Binyang Caves, Wanfo Cave, Yaofang Cave, and Fengxian Temple.
Guyang Cave was originally constructed under the orders of Emperor Xiaowen and is the oldest, as well as the largest, of its kind in the complex. Evidence suggests it was begun in the year 478, meaning that Emperor Xiaowen may have decided to start building the Longmen Grottoes long before he moved his capital to Luoyang. Talk about thinking ahead! Over time, the cave was filled with sculptures and inscriptions, all of which are conveniently accompanied by a record of the artist’s name, the date of construction, and the reason they were carved. Even in ancient times, it was important to make sure no one took credit for your hard work!
Not content to be outdone, Emperor Xiaowen’s son, Emperor Xuanwu, decided to construct three caves of his own, two dedicated to his father and one dedicated to his mother. These are known collectively as the Three Binyang Caves or separately as North, Middle, and South Binyang Caves. Of these, Middle Binyang Cave is the most well-known and widely celebrated for its artwork. At its centre, there is a statue of Shakyamuni(3) Buddha flanked by bodhisattvas(4), while the two side walls also each have a statue of Buddha with accompanying bodhisattvas. These are designed to represent the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.
While three Buddhas may sound like the magic number, Wanfo or “Ten Thousand Buddha” Cave contains over 15,000 statues of Buddha, the smallest of which is only 2 centimetres (0.79 in) in height! If the sight of so many Buddhas proves too much for you, the nearby Yaofang or “Medical Prescription” Cave is sure to cure what ails you. This cave is covered in over 140 inscriptions, which contain information on how to treat medical conditions ranging from the common cold right through to insanity!
Yet none of these caves compare to the spectacular Fengxian Temple. This colossal cave shrine was sponsored by Empress Wu Zetian, the first woman in Chinese history to have ruled as emperor. It contains a seated figure of Vairocana(5) Buddha that is over 17 metres (56 ft.) tall. To put that into perspective, it’s over 5 times the size of an African elephant! It is accompanied by eight other huge statues, including Vairocana’s disciples Kasyapa and Ananda. The sculptures within this cave shrine are considered emblematic of the Tang Dynasty style. Surrounded by murals, sculptures, and artwork beyond compare, it’s hard not to feel inspired after a trip to the Longmen Grottoes!
The village was named after a fugitive rebel during the Han Dynasty, who had fought an overwhelming imperial force to a standstill utilizing the extreme local terrain. The village is nestled in a valley surrounded by towering mountains ad until 1972 was only completely cut off from the outside world, access being restricted to a narrow, vertiginous passed carved into the mountainside. To ease the villagers’ access to outside world, a group of villagers led by Shen Mingxin made plans in 1972 to carve a road into the side of the mountain. They sold their livestock to raise funds to buy tools and materials. Thirteen villagers began the project, with one dying during construction. Without access to power tools, they undertook construction mostly with hammers and chisels. 5 years later they finished the 1200 meters long tunnel, which opened to traffic on the first of May 1977. The creation of the tunnel turned the once medieval looking village into a minor tourist destination. Unfortunately, when I was visiting Guoliangcun was covered in low-level cloud for two days solid so I did not get to take pictures of the tunnel. However, because of the fog the whole place the surrounding scenery looked like a Chinese painting.
Guoliang Village, in Henan Province, is located 82km to the northwest of Xinxiang (90km north of Zhangzhou), and is easily accessible by highspeed trains from Beijing, Shijianzhang, Wuhan and Guangzhou since Xixiang is on the Beijing – Guangzhou Railway Line. From Xinxiang, you can catch a bus from the Xinxiang Long-Distance Bus Station to Huixian and then connect to Guoliangcun by local bus.
Taishan (Mount Tai) is located just to the north of the city of Tai’an, in Shandong province and is famous throughout China as the holiest of holy mountains but it barely registers on the travel radar of foreign tourists. Mount Tai is associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, and is regarded as the foremost of the five Great Mountains of China. Mount Tai has been a place of worship for over 3,000 yearsrom the time of the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). It is believed that 72 emperors climbed the mountain and on the mountain there are twelve historically recorded imperial ceremonies paying homage to Heaven and Earth. Qin She Huang, the first emperor of China was the first to do so and on top he preformed a ceremony proclaiming the unity of his empire. Ever since then Mt. Tai has served as one of the most important ceremonial centres of China.
According to legends you will live to a hundred years if you climb Taishan. However, this comes at a price. In order to get to the top, aptly named the Jade Emperor Peak (1532m above sea level), you have to climb 7000 steps with some near vertical sections like the “Eighteen Bends”. Walking to the top and back down again took pretty much a day and at the end my knees had turned to jelly. However, if you do not feel like legging it up and down the mountain in a single day it is possible to stay in one of the simple guesthouses on top – there are even some restaurant on the top.
Luckily there are plenty of things to see on the way up (and down) which took my mind of the “pain”. The landscape is pretty stunning and it is dotted with temples, rocks inscribed with beautiful calligraphy and a variety of stone tablets. To be more precise there are 22 temples and over 1800 stone tablets and inscriptions, giving you a reason to pause and rest. The largest temple is located at the foot of the mountain – the Temple of the God of Mount Tai, also known as the Day Temple while at the top of the mountain, you’ll find the Azure Clouds Temple, another grand temple complex.
Moreover, kiosks selling food and drink a strategically placed on the way up some it is possible to buy refreshments on the way up. Note however that the price of these increases with each step you take.
Finally, if you do not feel like walking 7000 steps than you can take a cable car to the summit – but then you won’t live till a hundred.