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Mountains

By 256BC a system of incorporating inherited animistic, shamanistic and ancestor worship had been organized and mountain worship was a very important part of this represented by the 5 sacred mountains/peaks which represented all known mountains.

The powers ascribed to mountains include the ability to provide water which was very important to an agrarian society like China. Mountains were seen as the source of clouds and ‘clouds breath’, whose visible manifestation was shown in art as trailing wisps of Smokey clouds and regarded as an auspicious omen.

Mountains were seen as the home for all peculiar animals, birds and fish, the deities who presided over mountain ranges were described as composites of two or three creatures - human, dragon, bird, snake or horse. There were many myths and legends associated with mountains in general and with certain mountains in particular. Mt Kunlun was described as the place where a mortal could become a god by reaching the summit.

From the late 3rd century BC the cult of immortals was very important. A belief in a mythical land called Pengiai, an imaginary mountain paradise inhabited by immortals and said to be located in either the western mountains or the eastern seas. It was believed that humans could find this paradise and then they too would gain the elixir of immortality, this was incorporated into Taoism.

The 5 sacred peaks connect heaven to earth and to communicate with the deities on these mountains, emperors ordered the construction of important Taoist temples on the peaks where they also believed that Lingzhi, the magic mushrooms that bestow immortality grow.

When a new dynasty was founded, the new emperor was supposed to visit the mountains, or at least one of them to report to heaven and then receive the heavenly mandate for ruling the whole world.