Dài Temple information
Lonely Planet review
This magnificent Taoist temple complex is the place in town where all the roads lead, being the traditional first stop on every pilgrimage route up the mountain. It is dedicated to the Lord of Tài Shān, whose responsibilities include deciding the length of every person’s life. The grounds are an impressive example of Song-dynasty (960–1127) temple construction with features of an imperial palace, though other structures stood here a millennium before that.
Most visitors enter from the north through the Hòu Zài gate (候载门) at the end of Hongmen Lu. Entering from the south through the Zhèngyáng gate (正阳门) allows you to follow the traditional passage through the temple and up Hongmen Lu to Red Gate Palace , and the start of the Tài Shān ascent.
From the south end, two lions flank a memorial gate and watch cars pass by on Dongyue Dajie. Beyond is the Yáocān Pavilion containing a hall dedicated to the grandmother of Tài Shān (Taishan Laomu), Bixia, and Songzi Niangniang, a deity to whom couples wanting children dutifully pay their respects. The splendid Dàimiào Fāng , a páifāng (ornamental arch) decorated with four pairs of weathered lions and dragon and phoenix motifs, towers just before the Zhèngyáng gate.
Inside the complex, the courtyards are filled with prized examples of poetry and imperial records. Fossilised-looking bìxì (the mythical tortoise son of the dragon), dating from the 12th century onward, carry stelae (stone slabs or columns decorated with figures or inscriptions) on their backs documenting everything from the civil exam process to emperors’ birthdays. Across the way, the Han Emperor Wudi is said to have planted some of the massive, twisting trees in the Han Cypress Tree Pavilion 2100 years ago. The main hall is the colossal, twin-eaved, nine-bay-wide Hall of Heavenly Blessing , which dates to AD 1009. The dark interior houses a marvellous 62m-long Song-dynasty fresco depicting Emperor Zhenzong as the god of Tài Shān. Take time to scale the walls over the Hòu Zài gate to see what’s in store for your pilgrimage up the mountain.