Steeped in myth and supernatural allure, the Shāndōng (山东) peninsula on China’s northeastern coast is the stuff of legends. Its captivating landscape – a fertile flood plain fed by rivers and underground springs capped by granite peaks and framed in wild coastline – can’t help but inspire wonder.
A lumpy-headed boy named Confucius was born here and grew up to develop a philosophy of virtue and ethics that would reach far beyond his lectures under an apricot tree. Three centuries later China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang would climb Tài Shān, Shandong’s highest peak, to proclaim a unified empire in 219 BC.
But this place is more than its past. The gorgeous seaside city of Qīngdǎo ranks among the best places to live in Asia. This is the Shāndōng’s real draw: you can climb mountains, explore the legacies of kingdoms of old, and still have time to hit the beach.
Need to know
Sacred mountains are a dime a dozen in China, but in the end the one that matters most is Tài Shān. Its fellow Unesco World Heritage sites Éméi Shān may be higher and Huángshān more photogenic, but Tài Shān has been worshipped since at least the 11th century BC. Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor, chose its summit to proclaim the unified kingdom of China in 219 BC.