Tianmen Mountain and the Stairway to Heaven

Among the most unique experiences China offers, the Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park stands out. The mountain is more than 1500 meters tall and visitors often call it the most beautiful mountain in the world. It is also home to a cave entrance which the Chinese call the “Stairway to Heaven.”

stairway to heaven

Tianmen Mountain has the longest passenger cableway in the world. This cableway helps the visitors get the full Tianmen experience by reaching towards the top from the bottom. Moreover, the mountain has a lot of cliff paths and stairways for other visitors who want to get to the summit by themselves.

tianmen mountain cableway

One of these stairways is different from the others as the Chinese believe that it actually leads to Heaven. The Stairway to Heaven comprises 999 steps that lead to the Cave Square of the mountain. The stairway starts at 1,105 meters and ends at 1,170 meters with a total length of 218 meters.

tianmen mountain cave

The word “tianmen” comes from “tian” which means Heaven in Chinese. Tianmen means sky gate which quite literally depicts its importance as the door to the upper levels of Chinese spirituality.

tianmen mountain

The reason why Tianmen Mountain is sacred to the Chinese goes back to their Taoist beliefs. According to the legend, one day there was a huge boom that came from the sky. 5 clouds hovered over the mountain and the Jade Emperor, the supreme God in Taoism, spoke to people.

tianmen mountain

The Jade Emperor gave his blessings to the listeners and vanished. After this event, the Chinese renamed the mountain because they believed the mountain had a connection with the Gods and Heaven. The Stairway to Heaven is a representation of this legend.

tianmen mountain

At the end of the stairs and after the cave, there is a temple called the Altar of Tianmen where people pray. The fact that there are exactly 999 steps is not a coincidence or convenience. The Chinese associate number 9 with infinity and the steps signify the infinite nature of Heaven and Earth.

the stairway to heaven and cave

Along the stairway, there are 5 platforms to rest and receive blessings which are “You Yu”, “Qin Se”, “Chang Sheng”, “Qing Yun” and “Ru Yi.” The names represent the five blessings that are essential to all life in Taoism such as wealth, happiness, long life, power, and luck. Tianmen and the stairway hold an important place in Chinese culture while being a beautiful touristic attraction for others.

the cave up close