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Mount Tai

Mount Tai

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Mount Tai is a mountain of historical and cultural significance located north of the city of Tai'an
Tai'an
Tai'an is a prefecture-level city in western Shandong province, People's Republic of China.Centered around Mount Tai, the city borders the provincial capital of Jinan to the north, Laiwu to the northeast, Zibo to the east, Linyi to the southeast, Liaocheng to the extreme west and Jining to the south...

, in Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 province, People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. The tallest peak is the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon...

 Peak
, which is commonly reported as 1545 metres (5,068.9 ft) tall, but is described by the PRC government as 1532.7 metres (5,028.5 ft).

Mount Tai is one of the "Five Sacred Mountains
Sacred Mountains of China
The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into two groups, one associated with Taoism and the other with Buddhism. The group associated with Taoism is known as the Five Great Mountains , whereas the group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism .The sacred...

". It is associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, and is often regarded the foremost of the five. Mount Tai has been a place of worship for at least 3,000 years and served as one of the most important ceremonial centers of China during large portions of this period.

Location



Mount Tai is located just north of the city of Tai'an and to the south of the provincial capital Jinan
Jinan
Jinan is the capital of Shandong province in Eastern China. The area of present-day Jinan has played an important role in the history of the region from the earliest beginnings of civilisation and has evolved into a major national administrative, economic, and transportation hub...

. It extends from 150 to 1545 m (492.1 to 5,068.9 ft) above sea level and covers an area of 426 square kilometres (164.5 sq mi) at its base. The Jade Emperor Peak is 1532.7 metres (5,028.5 ft) above sea level and located at 36° 16′N and 117° 6′E.

History


Traces of human presence at Mount Tai date back to the Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 period. Human settlement of the area can be proven from the neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 period onwards. During this time, two cultures had emerged near the mountain, the Dawenkou culture
Dawenkou culture
The Dawenkou culture is a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in Shandong, but also appeared in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu, China. The culture existed from 4100 BC to 2600 BC, co-existing with the Yangshao culture. Turquoise, jade and ivory artefacts...

 to the south and the Longshan culture
Longshan culture
The Longshan culture was a late Neolithic culture in China, centered on the central and lower Yellow River and dated from about 3000 BC to 2000 BC...

 to the north. In the Spring and Autumn Period, the mountain lay on the boundary between the competing States of Qi (north of the mountain) and Lu (south). In the ensuing Warring States Period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

, the State of Qi erected a 500 km-long wall to protect itself against an invasion. Ruins of this wall are still present today. The name Tai'an of neighboring city is attributed to the saying "If Mount Tai is stable, so is the entire country" (both characters of Tai'an, "泰" and "安", have the independent meaning of "peace").

Religious worship of Mount Tai has a tradition of 3,000 years, it has been practiced from the time of the Shang
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 to that of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

. Over time, this worship evolved into an official imperial rite and Mount Tai became one of the principal places where the emperor would pay homage to heaven (on the summit) and earth (at the foot of the mountain) in the Feng and Shan sacrifices respectively. The two sacrifices are often referred to together as the Fengshan sacrifices . Carving of an inscription as part of the sacrifices marked the attainment of the "great peace". In 219 BC, Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , personal name Ying Zheng , was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC...

, the first Emperor of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

, held a ceremony on the summit and proclaimed the unity of his empire in a famous inscription. During the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, the Feng and Shan sacrifices were considered the highest of all sacrifices.

Mount Tai has been a UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 since 1987. In 2003, it attracted around 6 million visitors. A renovation project was completed by late October 2005, which aimed at restoring cultural relics and the renovation of damaged buildings of cultural significance.

Natural significance



Mount Tai is a tilted fault-block mountain
Fault-block mountain
Fault-block landforms are formed when large areas of bedrock are widely broken up by faults creating large vertical displacements of continental crust....

 with height increasing from the north to the south. It is the oldest example of a paleo-metamorphic formation from the Cambrian Period in eastern China. Known as the Taishan Complex, this formation contains magnetized, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock as well as intrusions of other origins during the Archean
Archean
The Archean , also spelled Archeozoic or Archæozoic) is a geologic eon before the Paleoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon, before 2.5 Ga ago. Instead of being based on stratigraphy, this date is defined chronometrically...

 Era. The uplift of the region started in the Proterozoic
Proterozoic
The Proterozoic is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life"...

 Era; by the end of the Proterozoic, it had become part of the continent.

Besides the Jade Emperor Peak, other distinctive rock formations are the Heaven Candle Peak, the Fan Cliff, and the Rear Rock Basin.

Mount Tai lies in the zone of oriental deciduous forest; about 80% of its area is covered with vegetation. The flora is known to comprise almost 1,000 species. Some of the trees in the area are very old and have cultural significance, such as the Han Dynasty Cypress
Cupressaceae
The Cupressaceae or cypress family is a conifer family with worldwide distribution. The family includes 27 to 30 genera , which include the junipers and redwoods, with about 130-140 species in total. They are monoecious, subdioecious or dioecious trees and shrubs from 1-116 m tall...

es
, which were planted by the Emperor Wu Di
Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han , , personal name Liu Che , was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is best remembered for the vast territorial expansion that occurred under his reign, as well as the strong and centralized Confucian state he organized...

, the Tang Chinese Scholartree
Styphnolobium japonicum
Styphnolobium japonicum Schott , the Pagoda Tree is a species of small tree or shrub in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae....

(about 1,300 years old), the Welcoming-Guest Pine (500 years old) and the Fifth-Rank Pine, which was named originally by the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, but was replanted about 250 years ago.

Physical Features


Mt. Taishan rises abruptly from the vast plain of central Shandong, and is naturally endowed with many scenic sites. Geologically, it is a tilted fault-block mountain, higher to the south than north, and is the oldest and most important example of the paleo-metamorphic system representative of the Cambrian Period in eastern China. Referred to as the Taishan Complex, it comprises magnetized, metamorphic, sedimentary rock and an intrusive mass of various origins that were formed in the Archean
Archean
The Archean , also spelled Archeozoic or Archæozoic) is a geologic eon before the Paleoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon, before 2.5 Ga ago. Instead of being based on stratigraphy, this date is defined chronometrically...

 Era 170-200 million years ago. Subsequently, in the Proterozoic
Proterozoic
The Proterozoic is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life"...

 Era, the Taishan region began to rise, becoming part of the continent by the end of the era. Uplift continued until the middle of the Cenozoic Era. The gneiss which emerged in the Taishan region is the foundation for all of North China. Cambrian strata, fully emerged in the north, are rich in fossils. Six streams flow from the summit, their water renowned for its extremely low mineral content, slight acidity (pH = 6.3) and relatively high oxygen content (6.4 milligrams per liter (mg/l).

Climate


The area falls within the warm temperate climatic zone. Meterological data are not available.

Vegetation


Vegetation covers 79.9% of the area, which is densely wooded, but information about its composition is lacking. The flora is diverse and known to comprise 989 species, of which 433 species are woody and the rest herbaceous. Medicinal plants total 462 species and include multiflower knotweed, Taishan ginseng, Chinese gromwell and sealwort, which are renowned throughout the country. Some trees are very old and famous, notably the Han Dynasty Cypress
Cupressaceae
The Cupressaceae or cypress family is a conifer family with worldwide distribution. The family includes 27 to 30 genera , which include the junipers and redwoods, with about 130-140 species in total. They are monoecious, subdioecious or dioecious trees and shrubs from 1-116 m tall...

es
(planted 2,100 years ago by Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty), 'Welcoming Guest Pine' (500 years old) and 'Fifth Rank Pine' (named by Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , personal name Ying Zheng , was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC...

 of the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 and replanted some 250 years ago).

Fauna


There are over 200 species of animals in addition to 122 species of birds, but precise details are lacking. Large-scaled fish Varicorhinus macrolepis is found in running water at 300-800 m. Considered a delicacy in the Qing Dynasty, it is one of the five most famous edible fishes in China.

Cultural significance



It has so many reputations from its cultural position. According to historical records, Mount Tai became a sacred place haunted by emperors to offer sacrifices and meditate in the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 over 1,000 years before the Christian era. A total of 72 emperors were recorded as visiting it. Men of letters also came to acquire inspiration, to compose poems, write essays, paint and take pictures. Hence, a great many cultural relics were left on the mountain.

Emperor Lord of Mount Tai


The Emperor Lord of Mount Tai is the supreme god of Mount Tai. According to one tradition, he is a descendant of Pangu.

Bixia Yuanjun


Bixia Yuanjun also known as the "Heavenly Jade Maiden" or the "Empress of Mount Tai" . According to one of the legends, she is the daughter of the Emperor Lord of Mount Tai. Statues of Bixia Yuanjun often depict her holding a tablet with the Big Dipper as a symbol of her authority.

Yanguang Nainai


Yanguang Nainai is the Goddess of Eyesight and often portrayed as an attendant to Bixia Yuanjun.

Songzi Niangniang


Songzi Niangniang
Songzi Niangniang
Songzi Niangniang , also referred to in Taiwan as Zhusheng Niangniang , is a Taoist fertility goddess. She is often depicted as Guan Yin herself in drawings, or alternatively as an attendant of Guan Yin; Guan Yin herself is also often referred to as "Guan Yin Who Brings Children"...

  is the Goddess of Fertility, like Yanguang Nainai, she is often portrayed as an attendant to Bixia Yuanjun.

Shi Gandang


Shi Gandang is a spirit sent down from Mount Tai by Bixia Yuanjun to protect ordinary people from evil spirits.

Dai Miao



The Temple of the God of Mount Tai, known as the Dai Temple , is the largest and most complete ancient building complex in the area. It is located at the foot of Mount Tai in the city of Tai'an and covers an area of 96,000 square meters. The temple was first built during the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

. Since the time of the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 (206 BC – 220 AD), its design has been a replica of the imperial palace, which makes it one out of three extant structures in China with the features of an imperial palace (the other two are the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

 and the Confucius Temple
Temple of Confucius, Qufu
The Temple of Confucius in Qufu, Shandong Province of China, is the "original", largest and most famous of the temples of Confucius in China and East Asia....

 in Qufu
Qufu
Qufu is a city in southwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It is located at 35° 36′ northern latitude and 117° 02′ east, about south of the provincial capital Jinan and northeast of the prefecture seat at Jining...

). The temple has five major halls and many small buildings. The centerpiece is the Palace of Heavenly Blessings (Tian Kuang), built in 1008, during the reign of the last Northern Song Emperor Huizong
Huizong
Huizong is the Chinese temple name of the following rulers:#Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, who reigned from 1100 to 1125...

. The hall houses the mural painting "The God of Mount Tai Making a Journey", dated to the year 1009. The mural extends around the eastern, western and northern walls of the hall and is 3.3 metres high and 62 metres long. The theme of the painting is an inspection tour by the god. Next to the Palace of Heavenly Blessings stand the Yaocan Pavilion and the entrance archway as well as the Bronze Pavilion in the northeast corner. The Dai Temple is surrounded by the 2,100 year-old Han Dynasty cypresses.
Oldest surviving stair may be 6000 granite steps
to the top of the sacred Tai Shan mountain in
China

The site contains a number of well-preserved stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

s from the Huizong
Huizong
Huizong is the Chinese temple name of the following rulers:#Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, who reigned from 1100 to 1125...

 reign, some of which are mounted on bixi
Bixi (tortoise)
Bixi , also called guifu or baxia , is a stone tortoise, used as a pedestal for a stele or tablet. Tortoise-mounted stelae have been traditionally used in the funerary complexes of Chinese emperors and other dignitaries. Later, they have also been used to commemorate an important event, such as...

tortoises. There is a much later, Qianlong-era bixi-mounted stele as well.



Azure Clouds Temple


The Azure Clouds Temple , near the top of the mountain is another grand building complex, a special combination of metal components, wood, and bricks and stone structures. From the Taishan Temple to the Azure Clouds Temple there are numerous stone tablets and inscriptions and ancient buildings on the way. Visitors derive much pleasure from climbing Mount Taishan. From the red gate at the foot of the mountain to the South Heaven Gate at the top are some 7,000 stone steps, which wind their way up the mountain slopes, each step offering a different view.

Other monuments


A flight of 7,200 total steps (including inner temple steps), with 6,293 Official Mountain Walkway Steps, lead up the East Peak of Mount Tai, along its course, there are 11 gates, 14 archways, 14 kiosks, and 4 pavilions.

In total, there are 22 temples, 97 ruins, 819 stone tablets, and 1,018 cliff-side and stone inscriptions located on Mount Tai. These include the Jade Emperor Temple , the Qingdi Palace , a Confucius Temple , the Dou Mu Hall and the Puzhao Temple .

Among the tablets and inscriptions on the top of Mount Tai, the inscription that declares Mount Tai the "Most Revered of the Five Sacred Mountains" on the "Sun Viewing Peak" is particularly renown. It was written by a member of the Aisin Gioro clan
Aisin Gioro
Aisin Gioro was the family name of the Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty. The House of Aisin Gioro ruled China until the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which established a republican government in its place. The word aisin means gold in the Manchu language, and "gioro" is the name of the place in...

  in 1907 and is featured on the reverse side of the 5 yuan bill of the 5th series renminbi
Fifth series of the renminbi
The fifth series of the renminbi is the current coin and banknote series of the Chinese currency, the renminbi. They were progressively introduced since 1999 and consist of ¥0.1, ¥0.5, and ¥1 coins, and ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, ¥100 notes. ¥20 is a new denomination.-First edition:Coins of the first...

 banknotes. Another inscription marks the "Lu-Viewing Platform" from which Confucius took in the view over his home state of Lu and then pronounced "The world is small".

The Wordless Stela stands in front of the Jade Emperor Temple. Legend has it that the emperor who commissioned the stela was dissatisfied with the planned inscription and decided to leave it blank instead.

Other significant places

  • Abandoning-Oneself Cliff , renamed Treasure Life Cliff in the Ming Dynasty
  • Sun Viewing Peak
  • Moon Viewing Peak
  • Lu-Viewing Platform
  • Explore the Sea of Clouds Rock

Infrastructure



Visitors can reach the peak of Mount Tai via a bus which terminates at the Midway Gate to Heaven, from there a cable car connects to the summit. Covering the same distance on foot takes from two and a half to six hours. The supplies for the many vendors along the road to the summit are carried up by porters either from the Midway Gate to Heaven or all the way up from the
foot of the mountain.

To climb up the mountain, one can take one of two routes. The more popular east route starts from Taishan Arch. On the way up the 7,200 stone steps, the climber first passes the Ten Thousand Immortals Tower (Wanxianlou), Arhat Cliff (Luohanya), and Palace to Goddess Dou Mu (Doumugong). The climbing from the First Gate to Heaven (yi1 tian1 men2), the main entrance bordering on Tai'an town, up the entire mountain can take two and a half hours for the sprinting hiker to six hours for the leisure pace. Reaching the Midway Gate to Heaven from First Gate to Heaven is one hour at a sprint up to two and a half hours leisurely. To the northeast of the Palace to Goddess Dou Mu is Sutra Rock Valley in which the Buddhist Diamond Sutra was cut in characters measuring fifty centimeters across believed to be inscribed in the Northern Wei Dynasty. The west route, taken by fewer tourists, is more scenic, but has less cultural heritage.

Cultural references


  • The Chinese idiom "Mount Tai & Big Dipper
    Big Dipper
    The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper or the Saptarishi , is an asterism of seven stars that has been recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures from time immemorial...

    " is an epithet for a person of great distinction.
  • According to ancient historian Sima Qian
    Sima Qian
    Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

    , he said "Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather." Mao Zedong
    Mao Zedong
    Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

     referred to this passage in the 20th century: "To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather." Rage Against the Machine
    Rage Against the Machine
    Rage Against the Machine is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1991, the group's line-up consists of vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello and drummer Brad Wilk...

     also referred to the passage in the song "Year of the Boomerang": "So I'm goin' out heavy sorta like Mount Tai."
  • Taishan (Mount Tai) is referenced extensively in Ezra Pound's "The Cantos," especially the Pisan Cantos.
  • Mount Tai is shown on the reverse side of the 5 yuan bill of the 5th series renminbi
    Fifth series of the renminbi
    The fifth series of the renminbi is the current coin and banknote series of the Chinese currency, the renminbi. They were progressively introduced since 1999 and consist of ¥0.1, ¥0.5, and ¥1 coins, and ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, ¥100 notes. ¥20 is a new denomination.-First edition:Coins of the first...

     banknotes.
  • The 1987 album Hold Your Fire
    Hold Your Fire
    Hold Your Fire is the 12th studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released in the fall of 1987 . The album was recorded at The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, Ridge Farm Studio in Surrey, Air Studios in Montserrat and at McClear Place in Toronto.Rush continued to explore new songwriting...

    by Canadian progressive rock
    Progressive rock
    Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...

     band Rush
    Rush (band)
    Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart...

     contained the song "Tai Shan", referencing drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's
    Neil Peart
    Neil Ellwood Peart , OC, is a Canadian musician and author. He is the drummer for the rock band Rush.Peart grew up in Port Dalhousie, Ontario . During adolescence, he floated from regional band to regional band in pursuit of a career as a full-time drummer...

     journey to Mount Tai.
  • The Dai Miao is featured in Sid Meier's Civilization IV
    Civilization IV
    Sid Meier's Civilization IV is a turn-based strategy, 4X computer game released in 2005 and developed by lead designer Soren Johnson under the direction of Sid Meier and Meier's studio Firaxis Games. It is the fourth installment of the Civilization series...

     as a religious complex that can be built by a Great Prophet, thus establishing a holy shrine dedicated to Taoism
    Taoism
    Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

     in the Taoist holy city.

See also


  • List of World Heritage Sites in China
  • List of Ultras of East Asia

External links