A giant Taoist mural from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) depicts a grand inspection by the deities of Mount Taishan, which features forests, palaces, bridges and 697 people.
Mount Taishan, with its dense forests and ancient temples, has been the site for imperial pilgrimages for roughly 2,000 years, according to UNESCO, and the artistic masterpieces found throughout the mountain are in perfect harmony with the natural landscape.
Standing 1,545 meters above sea level, the mountain is by no means the tallest in China, but it is among the first to be blessed with the sunrise's golden hues because of its geographical location in East China. It was regarded in ancient times as the closest position to the sky.
Over 3,000 years, Chinese emperors have made pilgrimages to Mount Taishan to pray to the gods. Scholars and poets have marveled at the majesty of the mountain and composed poems and prose in honor of it, some inscribing them on the mountain.
Twelve emperors, beginning with Qin Shihuang, the first emperor that unified China in 221 BC, have paid homage in a ritual called "Fengshan Sacrifices" at Mount Taishan, said Lyu Jixiang, a researcher with Taishan's management committee.
"There are more than 2,000 rock inscriptions and stone tablets testifying to visits by emperors and scholars," said Lyu.
Lyu said more than 10,000 poems and works of prose have been found.
Located at the foot of the mountain, the Dai Temple is a must-see. Measuring 405 meters by 236 meters, Dai Temple is the largest and best-preserved structure on Taishan. Built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) as a site at which emperors paid their respects to the gods, the temple was expanded and renovated by rulers of the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.
Han Emperor Liu Che (141-86 BC) visited Mount Taishan ten times. It is said the emperor planted 1,000 cypresses at the Dai Temple, thought only five survive today. Two of the five have had their barks stripped but surprisingly some of their branches are still greeting tourists with green leaves.
The Tiankuang Hall, the temple's main structure, houses a giant Taoist mural that is 3.3 meters high and 62 meters long and depicts the god of Taishan Mountain on an inspection tour. The mural details forests, palaces, bridges, riding beasts and 697 people and was painted during the Song Dynasty.