The forward-thinking coastal province with a Taoist heritage

Though many places along the Yellow River assert to be the birthplace of Chinese civilization Shandong’s claim is impressive. A litany of historic heavyweights hail from this province ‘East of the Taihang Mountains’ including East Asia’s most influential sage, Confucius. But do not be fooled into thinking this province has its head in the past: Shandong is forward-facing and cosmopolitan.

Coastal cities like Yantai, Qingdao and Weihai are popular beach resorts for Beijingers on holiday and vineyards cover the hills as Shandong seeks to pioneer China’s wine industry. The province is linked together by a high-speed railway network making it very easy to cover long distances quickly.

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Temples and Tsingtao by the seaside

Philosopher Confucius might have been largely ignored in his lifetime but his ideas inform the basis for East Asian culture today and his birth city of Qufu is a place of pilgrimage (do not miss the Confucius Temple). But beyond the incense smoke and old buildings of the walled city, Qufu is also a great place to eat out, particularly on Xiguan Street in the Muslim Quarter, where plates of barbequed lamb and noodles make for much-needed fuel if you are going to attempt to negotiate Shandong’s second most famous tourist attraction – Mount Tai .

One of the most sacred sites in Taoism, MountTai’s eastern location means the faithful associate it with sunrise and thus rebirth. Today, devotees come in their droves to climb the 6,293 steps up the mountain face to reach the exulted Jade Emperor Peak at the summit. It is a tough hike but worth it for the stunning panoramas of the surrounding countryside. More vistas can be found at Penglai Pavilion at the top of Danya Mountain, not far from the port city of Yantai. The city itself also has plenty to do but highlights include the Changyu Wine Culture Museum which charts the burgeoning Chinese wine industry (do not miss the 100 year-old underground cellar) and sandy Laishan Beach .

A few hours south of Yantai is the coastal city of Qingdao, renowned for its seafood restaurants (try Yishui Renjia Restaurant for fresh crabs and steamed dumplings) and being the home of China’s famous beer brand Tsingtao (the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival, which takes place in October, is a nod to Germany’s Oktoberfest). Just as popular as the beer, are Qingdao’s beaches, named simply by number. They can get pretty crowded at the weekends so getaway by crossing the Jiaozhou Bridge and spend the day at one of the 69 islands that belong to the city. Or take the ferry to sandy Golden Beach on Xuejia Island – the ideal place to watch the sunset.

The capital of the province is Jinan, best known for its 72 natural springs which flow into Daming Lake. It is set in a picturesque park where lotuses bloom in summer and you can hire a pedalo and admire your surroundings from the tranquil water.

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