Ascent to Mountain Tai
On the south side of Mount Tai flows westward the River Wen, while on its north flows the River Ji. The streams south of the mountain all pour into the former and those north of the mountain all pour into the latter. The dividing line between the north and the south is the Great Wall of ancient times and the highest peak Riguan is situated fifteen li south of it.
In the twelfth month of the thirty ninth year of the Qianlong period, I set out from the capital in a snowstorm, passing by the counties of Qihe and Changqing, then took my way through the northwest valleys of Mount Tai, and crossing the Great Wall, arrived at Tai'an. On the twenty-eighth of that month I started the ascent to the mountain from its south side, together with Zhu XIaochun, alias Ziying, the prefect. It was a climb of forty five li, the path being all paved with stone steps, altogether more than seven thousand in number. Right on the south side of the mountain the land was furrowed by three valleys. The middle one, with its water skirting Tai'an Town, was namely Huanshui as called by Li Daoyuan, the famous geographer. At the outset we followed the route along the middle valley. Having almost halved the way, we traversed the middle ridge, and bending towards the west valley, finally gained the summit. In olden times, people used to follow the route along the east valley, which was overlooked by Tianmen (the Heavenly Gate), the valley was called ancients Tianmenxishui, a place quite out of our way. The precipices standing in the way as we climbed via the middle ridge as well as the summit were called by people Heavenly Gates. The path was enshrouded in fog and was slippery for being crusted with ice, and we were almost unable to tread up the stone steps. But the moment we made the summit, we saw that the dark green mountain was laden with snow, and the sky in the south was suffused with its dazzling light. With the town bathed in the twilight of sunset, the River Wen and Culai Hills were picturesque, and the mountain was girded with a belt of fog.
On the last day of the twelfth month Zhu and I sat in Riguan Arbour before daybreak to wait for the sunrise in spite of the snow swirled up by a gale and striking us on the face. East of the arbour, right under our feet, the vacant space was all spread with clouds, in which several dozen cubes as white as dice were slightly visible. These proved to be the mountain tops. At the farthest horizon there emerged a streak of strange hue, which changed in another moment into a variegated line. The rising sun as scarlet as cinnabar seemed to be supported by a vibrating red glow, which was said to be issuing from the East Sea. Turning around, we saw that the peaks west of the arbour, whether lit by the sunlight or not, were tinged red, white or dappled, and looked as if they were bowing low.
West of the arbour was the Temple of the King of Mount Tai and the Temple of Princess Bixia. To the east of the latter was the palace of our Emperor. That day I saw some inscriptions carved on stones from the Xianqing period of the Tang Dynasty, and those of more ancient times were all obliterated. As for the stone tablets that stood out of the way, we had not time enough to go and appreciate them.
It was in the main a rocky mountain with little earth. The rocks, greenish black, were for the most part square, and round stones were quite scarce. Bushes were few and pines, grown out of the stone crevices, were many, having all leveled tops. Ice and snow prevailed and no waterfalls could be seen, nor any traces of birds and beast. Within several li around Riguan Arbour no trees were visible, and snow was knee-deep.（谢百魁 译）