Two Approaches to Climbing Mountains
A comparison of the different approaches to climbing shown by Chinese people and Westerners reveals two distinct cultural attitudes and tastes.
Westerners love to brave wild, steep high mountains and perilous cliffs, finding pleasure in the conquest of nature and danger. This way of climbing exhibits man's strength, knowledge, technique and daring. The Western "martial approach" to climbing was introduced with the Mount Taishan Climbing Festival. It takes less than an hour to run from the Temple of Mount Taishan to Jade Emperor Peak, but this submission of nature through strength and speed, whilst stirring and exciting, allows no time to enjoy the beautiful scenery en route. It is an approach that stresses objective and result, rather than process and enjoyment; it reminds me of the earthshaking shout in Goethe's Faust, "You are so beautiful. Please, linger for a while!"
The way Chinese climb is quite different from that of Westerners; it is a "scholastic approach" displaying a profound attitude toward nature. The Chinese take no shortcuts, deliberately taking the roundabout way so as to take in and enjoy as many views as possible, and when inspiration comes, writing poetry to inscribe upon the cliffs. Gradually, this famous mountain, where so many learned men have trodden and masters of engraving plied their craft, has become covered with stone inscriptions and Mount Taishan has become a splendid book. Mount Taishan's wealth of scenic beauty and stone inscriptions mean that there is only one way to climb the mountain -- the Chinese way.