I half expected to reach the summit of the sacred mount Taishan and find an old Confucian sage sitting in a dark room enveloped by incense, already knowing the answers I need but only prepared to give them to me if I can cut the wings off of a fly with one sword swipe.

This is not the case. I can only describe what can be found there not in terms of what there is but how it is:  haunting, cleansing, closer to the heavens than this earth. Maybe it was the exhaustion, but it felt heavy. With everyone wearing oversized dark green coats huddled together in corners and against temple walls to protect against the cold, rain, and wind it resembled a refugee camp, but one filled with people in search of enlightenment and salvation.

Some advice: climb Taishan at night with the locals. It’s just better. If you’re going to be awesome like me bring a torch and listen to Hans Zimmer’s “Time”. I’d be surprised if this place at night didn’t inspire the Inception soundtrack.

Climb the 7000+ steps with the smile. What you’re doing is fucking cool.

1 holy mountain down, 4 to go.