In Taoism, Sōng Shān (嵩山) is considered the central mountain (中岳; zhōngyuè) of the five sacred peaks, symbolising earth (土; tǔ) among the five elements and occupying the axis directly beneath heaven. Despite this Taoist persuasion, the mountains are also home to one of China’s most famous and legendary Zen (禅; Chán) Buddhist temples: the inimitable Shàolín Temple. Two main mountains crumple the area, the 1494m-high Tàishì Shān (太室山) and the 1512m-high Shàoshì Shān (少室山) whose peaks compose Sōng Shān about 80km west of Zhèngzhōu.
At the foot of Tàishì Shān, 12km southeast of the Shàolín Temple and 74km from Zhèngzhōu, sits the squat little town of Dēngfēng (登封). Tatty in parts, travellers use it as a base for trips to surrounding sights or exploratory treks into the hills.