Mount Kunyu is located on the Shandong Peninsula (aka Jiaodong Peninsula) in the Yellow Sea, just south of the Liaodong Peninsula which lies across the bay to the north, Liaodong Peninsula being the part of China that is contiguous with the Korean Peninsula. Together, the Jiaodong and the Liaodong Peninsulas are the pincers, as it were, that encircle the Gulf of Bohai, the bay that lies closest to the capital, Beijing. The Hai He River, which empties into the Gulf of Bohai, connects to the Yongding River ("River of Eternal Stability"), which in turn connects to Beijing, where, about 15 kilometers southeast of the capital, a famous bridge crosses the Yongding, namely, Luguo Bridge, aka Marco Polo Bridge, and famous not only for the compliment paid to it by the renowned Italian explorer, but also for the hundreds of depictions of lions that adorn the bridge - some as complete statues, others as busts, and still others in the form of bas-relief figures - and which makes the bridge unique in the world (to learn more about Marco Polo Bridge, click here).
Mount Kunyu lies about 25 kilometers inland from the southernmost point of the East China Sea - which corresponds to the southeastern quadrant of the Yellow Sea - roughly midway between the coastal cites of Yantai to the west, and Weihai to the east. Mount Kunyu's highest point is Taibo Peak, at about 920 meters above sea level, and the highest peak of the eastern flank of Shandong Peninsula. The mountain is famous for its natural beauty: its towering peaks that link up to form staircase-like ridges, its tall, ancient trees, and its clear, spring-fed streams that lead to precipitous waterfalls.
But Mount Kunyu is also famous for its religious-cultural heritage, since it was revered by both Taoist monks and Chinese emperors, the latter often arriving to Mount Kunyu in search of the elixir of life, the belief in the existence of which was widespread at the time. For example, Emperor Wu Di of the Western Han (BCE 206 - CE 009) Dynasty, who ruled from BCE 140-87, came to Mount Kunyu in search of the elusive elixir that Taoist monks believed to exist and which it was believed could confer immortality (a later, Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty emperor, Emperor Jiajing, would in fact die as the result of drinking mercury in the belief that the substance would confer eternal life - in general, it was believed that long-lasting substances such as jade and cinnabar, as well as precious metals like gold, possessed elixir-of-life properties).
Mount Kunyu was revered among Taoist monks and teachers, as indicated, as an especially auspicious site. The Quanzhen Sect of Taoism, founded by Wang Chongyang, though not originating on Mount Kunyu itself, was founded in nearby Muping County (eg., the city of Yantai lies in Muping County), and Wang's disciple, Wang Chuyi - who was once summoned to the imperial court of Emperor Shizong of the Jin (CE 1115-1234) Dynasty to host the annual springtime ritual offerings - spent a great deal of time practicing and teaching Dao (the alternative spelling of Tao, meaning "the way", "the path") on Mount Kunyu. At the death of Wang Chuyi in CE 1217, Emperor Shizong conferred the posthumous title of ''Jade Sun Perfect Man Who Realizes Mystery and Universal Salvation' upon the famous disciple of the founding father of the Quanzhen Sect of Taoism.
Mount Kunyu was popular with later Chinese monarchs as well. For example, Emperor Yongzheng, the first Qing Dynasty emperor, and who ruled from 1722-1735, spent time on Mount Kunyu on three different occasions during the ritual Southern Inspection (by the time of the Qing Dynasty, power had become solidly centralized, with the result that China had become an enormous realm, requiring annual imperial visits to the farthest reaches of the empire in order to engender loyalty to the crown). The mountain was popular not only with emperors and monks, it attracted innumberable members of the literati - writers, poets, calligraphers, and painters - who built retreats on the mountain where they could pursue their respective artistic inspirations. Inscriptions and stelae are spread about the mountain, bearing witness to the presence of these scholars and artists.
In more recent times Mount Kunyu and Shandong Province underwent a more humiliating set of experiences, since the province had been under German influence as part of the so-called Unequal Treaties concessions that began in the middle of the 19th century with the Treaty of Nanking. When Germany, after its defeat at the end of WWI, relinquished control over Shandong Province, the province was transferred not back to China as expected, but to China's neighbor and rival, Japan. It later transpired that the Chinese Premier (this under the Republic of China), Duan Qirui, had used the province as collateral for a loan from Japan, and in lieu of sufficient funds to repay the loan, the province had been turned over to the Japanese state.
All of these historical events have left their mark upon Shandong Province, and upon Mount Kunyu in particular, inspiring a renewed nationalism towards the once lost province that had enjoyed such a central role in the country's religious and cultural past. While kings and governments come and go, mountains tend to remain. Visitors to Mount Kunyu may thus wish to reflect on the transitory nature of human existence while enjoying the marvels of the mountain's enduring natural beauty.