Mount Lao, or Laoshan (simplified Chinese: 崂山; traditional Chinese: 嶗山; pinyin: Láo Shān) is a mountain located near the East China Sea on the southeastern coastline of the Shandong Peninsula in China. The mountain is culturally significant due to its long affiliation with Taoism and is often regarded as one of the "cradles of Taoism". It is the highest coastal mountain in China and the second highest mountain in Shandong, with the highest peak (Jufeng) reaching 1,132.7 metres (3,716 ft). The mountain lies about 30 kilometres (19 mi) to the northeast of the downtown area of the City of Qingdao and is protected by the Qingdao Laoshan National Park that covers an area of 446 square kilometers.
Mount Lao consists of granite. The mountain's landforms were formed due to the action of glaciers during the Quaternary and erosion by meltwater released from the icecap that covered a large portion of Shandong during the late Pleistocene.
Laoshan is known as one of the birthplaces of Taoism. It is the place where the Complete Perfection School of Taoism (Chinese: 全真; pinyin: Quánzhēn) developed. In 412 CE the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Faxian landed near Laoshan on his return from India. In the course of history, the mountain has been known by various other names, which includes different spellings of "Laoshan" (劳山, 牢山) as well as entirely different names such as Mount Futang and Mount Ao (鰲山). The latter name was used by the Taoist Qiu Chuji who served as the top religious affairs official to Genghis Khan.
In the course of history, numerous palaces, Taoist temples, and nunneries have been constructed on Mount Lao. At the peak of Taoist worship, Mount Lao was home to about 1000 monks and nuns. However, many of these structures have not survived to the present. Major sites on Mount Lao are:
The largest temple complex on Mount Lao is that of the Temple of Supreme Purity (Chinese: 太清宮; pinyin: Tàiqīng Gōng; lit. 'Supreme Purity Palace'), a Taoist temple that was first built during the Northern Song dynasty with the present structures dating to the reign of the Wanli Emperor in the Ming dynasty. The temple is located near the coast, below Pantao Peak on the southeastern foot of Mount Lao and is hence also known as the Lower Temple (Chinese: 下宮; pinyin: Xià Gōng), The main structure of the temple is the Hall of the Three Pure Ones (Chinese: 三清馆; pinyin: Sānqīng Guǎn) with houses statues of the Taoist Trinity (the Grand Pure One, the Supreme Pure One, the Jade Pure One). It is flanked by the Three Emperors Hall (to the left, Chinese: 三皇馆; pinyin: Sānhuáng Guǎn) and the Three Officials Hall (to the left, Chinese: 三官店; pinyin: Sānguān Diàn). The Three Emperors Hall enshrines statues of Fuxi, Shennong, and the Yellow Emperor. In the Three Officials Halls are the statues of the Three Gods (the God of Heaven, the God of Earth, and the God of Water) along with other statues, such as of the warrior god Xuan Wu and of Lei Gong, the God of Thunder. Two ancient Cypress trees in front of the Three Emperors Hall are said to have been planted during the Han Dynasty. Two old camellia trees are standing in front of the Three Officials Hall. On the walls outside of the Three Emperors Hall an imperial decree by Genghis Khan granting Daoism protection. A natural feature on the grounds of the temple is the Shenshui (Immortal Water) Spring that is fed by Mount Lao's considerable underground waters. The Qing dynasty writer Pu Songling is said to have resided in the Temple of Supreme Purity in his later years. His stories "The Taoist Priest of Laoshan" (Chinese: 崂山道士; pinyin: Láoshān Dàoshì) and "The Flower Nymphs" (Chinese: 香玉; pinyin: Xiāngyù) from the collection Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio are set on Mount Lao with the latter story specifically referring to peonies and camellias in the Temple of Supreme Purity.
The Temple of Great Purity (Chinese: 上清宮; pinyin: Shàngqīng Gōng) also known as the Upper Temple (Chinese: 上宮; pinyin: Shàng Gōng) is located on the southeastern slope of Mount Lao above the Temple of Supreme Purity. It was established during the Song Dynasty and rebuilt during the Yuan Dynasty, in the years 1297 to 1307. It is one of the oldest extant structures on Mount Lao. Like the Temple of Supreme Purity, the Temple of Great Purity features a spring. The spring in the Temple of Great Purity is called the "Shengshuiyang (Ocean of Holy Water) Spring".
The Hualou Temple (Chinese: 华楼宮; pinyin: Huá lóu Gōng) was established by the Daoist Liu Zhijian during the Yuan Dynasty (in 1325) and subsequently rebuilt during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, as well as during the Republican era.
Mount Lao is featured in many legends and local traditions. For example, the mountain is said to have been visited by the emperor Qin Shi Huang and Emperor Wu of Han, both hoping to meet immortals and gain immortality there.
The martial arts style of the Northern Praying Mantis is attributed to Wang Lang, who is said to have developed while living on Mount Lao. Wang Lang is commemorated by a contemporary stone statue on the mountain.
Many gamblers visit Mount Lao for the famous tree located in the mountain, as it is said that three pats of the tree's trunk will bring instant luck for those seeking money.
Laoshan is a popular tourist site with a 5A government rating. During the 2012 Golden Week, it received about 176,000 visitors. There are six designated scenic areas on Mount Lao: Taiqing (太清景区), Chessboard Stone (棋盘石景区), Yangkou (仰口景区), Jufeng (巨峰景区), Beijiushui (北九水景区), and Hualou (华楼景区).