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Monday, December 20, 2010

N. China - Day 3, Part 2 - Taishan: Base-Halfway Gate to Heaven

"Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him." - John Barrymore, last words

***

N. China
Day 3 - 1st November - Taishan: Base-Halfway Gate to Heaven
(Part 2)

Dai Miao had been too interesting, so I was behind schedule in my plan to mount Taishan. Admittedly I'd given myself a lot of time (at least 7 hours), so I wouldn't really have to rush, but I still wanted to be safe.

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I'm sure he's never even heard of Taishan.

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"提 La 米酥. Tiramisu"
Presumably "提拉米酥" didn't sound as nice.

As I was walking from Dai Miao to the start of the route, a woman in a specially-marked car (marking it as part of a tourist service) drove by and offered to give me a lift to the Red Gate (the start of the route). Naturally, there would be a charge for it. I tried to knock the price down but she was firm - presumably it's a standard price for all these cars.

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Taishan welcome plaque

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Start of the road - naturally, I was greeted by shops

I checked out the Guan Di temple.

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Chong Ning Hall: Why the red face?

Guan Di temple was charming, but I was behind time so I pressed ahead.

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Assorted crap. My walking stick was very pro - it was collapsible.

One shopkeeper tried to sell me a stick for 2¥. I told him "No thanks, I have a stick already"; "拐杖" is one of the very useful words I've learnt from Jin Yong. I did get one of the cheesy red headbands for 1¥ (though no one wore them, so I didn't either)

There was an American heading up also. I engaged him in conversation and found that he was a marathon runner from New York, so this would be no sweat for him. Once I found out this out, I told him that "I'm going to take photos" (I really did!) and let him press on ahead.

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First gate to Heaven

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The first gate has something to do with Confucius mounting something (presumably an elaborate word for the mountain)

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The Red Gate

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Path to another temple I did not take

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Desolate rocks

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People in the woods below

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Rocks with words

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"悠悠森林情,寸寸防火心
Air is dry and woods are inflammable. Please do not use fire"

It sounds better in Mandarin (I didn't know some of the characters, but it's a common fire slogan online so the phrase was easily found).

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Woman whacking mop at river

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Zuixin River

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Communist monument

Only after I'd walked for almost half an hour did I encounter the ticket booth.

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10,000 Immortals Tower

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Weather forecast

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Ticket prices. Notice that off season is a ridiculous 2 months (December-January), and that insurance is only twice the price of that at Dai Miao. I don't trust their insurance underwriting. Also, they charged me 2¥ more than the prices listed there, gah. On the upside, your ticket also serves as a pre-stamped postcard.

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Revolutionary Martyrs Monument

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The obligatory vendors - they sure do make life better, even if you lose some charm. I stopped for a bite.


The making of a Shandong Bing (Chinese crêpe)

An egg is cracked and cooked on a carbohydrate-based skin. A raw spring onion is added, as is a bean sauce. A sausage (!) is then added to the mixture, which is wrapped up.

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My bing (4¥). The spring onion was VERY hot, and impossible to bite off in one bite - so I had to eat the whole spring onion at the start.

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He begged for some

It was alost noon, but cocks were still crowing. Who came up with the idea that they crow with the sunrise?!

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IIRC this was fried radish

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The way that lay ahead after my meal snack

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Stone with words on it. The house behind makes it less Romantic.

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Living beside Taishan

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Rocks with words were a common sight along the route

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"Cliff inscriptions on joint surfaces" - apparently you don't do your calligraphy on raw rock, but must wait for it to split. Incidentally, Taishan is also a Geopark so it's not just Human heritage there but Natural as well.

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Chickens

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Hot bubble tea was a strange thing to see advertised

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This gate marked the Doumu Palace - "the only Buddhist temple in the middle axis of Mount Taishan"

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Doumu Palace


Probably due to the lack of truly religious (as opposed to occasionally religious) people in China, many temples played religious music. Doumu Palace was where I first encountered this tune, which I heard in a few other places throughout China.

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Stele

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Statue

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Locks on incense brazier

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Another statue

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"Sleeping-dragon Pagodatree"


Sleeping Dragon Pagoda Tree

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More crap on sale

One of my guidebooks said that if I walked 1km I would find a rock with a Buddhist sutra inscribed on it. That sounded too far so I decided to ignore it. I did see a sign pointing out a sight 300m away though.

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Rocks

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Vegetable garden on the mountain, and cock

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More rocks

I found out that this 300m diversion had led me to the Diamond Sutra after all. There was something wrong with the distances specified either in the book or on the signs on the mountain. I was inclined to think it was the latter since the paths seemed longer than they were supposed to be, but that was probably due to fatigue and inclination.

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"Diamond Wisdom Sutra" from 1,400 years ago


View of Diamond Sutra rocks

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White Cock. You will notice a woman holding one of the cheesy red headbands - but she didn't wear it.

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Wood

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Wood and inscription

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"Feng'an Stele" dedicated to Sun Yat-Sen

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Dried Lingzhi - the vendor said it was to bring home. That didn't really make sense - people would only buy such stuff at the end of their journey (presumably)

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"100 year old stick"

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Many vendors sold this vegetable (presumably a sort of cucumber). I didn't trust the water.

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Fallen tree

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"Four Scholar Trees". Presumably the fallen tree was the last of them.

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"Taishan Daughter Tea - the authentic taste". It's called that because young girls used to pick and prepare the tea.

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"灌瓶壹元"
The vendor said this was potable, but I didn't have a Chinese stomach, so I decided not to risk the 1¥/bottle water.

Incidentally, I have just learnt that the "壹" character means "one", and is: "an elaborate form of "one", used in writing cheques etc to prevent mistakes and forgery". Presumably there's a way of preventing "two" from becoming "three". Or maybe the prospect of a 50% loss (as opposed to 100%) is not sufficient to motivate the creation of a new Chinese character.

At this point, I decided that I needed aid. There were no porters, so for the second time in my life I called on the Forces of Darkness and bought a 10¥ can of Red Bull.

The first time I'd had Red Bull, it'd zombified me - pulling me back from the Realm of the Drowsy, so I was present in body but not in spirit. Here, since my problem was not sleepiness it did give me a boost of energy - which lasted me all of, oh, 66 steps. Since the mountain had 6,600 steps, it meant that I'd have needed... 100 cans of Red Bull to climb it at full speed. Which probably would've given me a heart attack.

What I *really* needed was wings to fly up the mountain. I asked the vendor, and he said that ad wasn't screened in China.

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Huitian Pavilion

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Statuettes for sale

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This gate marks the point at which an Emperor had to get off his horse and get onto a sedan chair, as the horses refused to proceed any further.

Another guy I met on the way up thought I was Cantonese.

People kept asking me to pay my respects to Buddha (read: Buy Their Incense). I should've told them: "我自为毛主席烧香" ("I only burn incense for Chairman Mao")

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River and cliff

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Red Tree. I speculated that when people gave up climbing the mountain they hung their lucky headbands here. I told someone that later and got told my theory was wrong :(

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Mountainside

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The sight that told me I was almost at the Halfway Gate to Heaven - where I could take a break (and decide whether I would give up and take the cable car!)

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Another temple just outside the Halfway Gate to Heaven

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Halfway Gate to Heaven

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Horseplay at the Halfway Gate to Heaven. Maybe the climb got them frisky.

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Closed shrine

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At first I thought the white spots was ash from the incense burnt at the many temples at the Halfway Gate to Heaven. Then I realised they were flying creatures. UGH.

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Mountainside view

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The smart people take the cable car

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Middle Gate to Heaven

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Bus station for buses from the base
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