In the northeast, Shandong province (山东) is not particularly large, but has a very important place in the history of China. Boasting both the home of Confucius and several sites important to the development of Taoism, Shandong can be said to be one of the birthplaces of Asian culture. However, it sits below the radar for most tourists, most people head to Shandong province either for training Kung Fu or teaching English.
The eastern coastal cities of Qingdao, Yantai and Weihai are reasonably wealthy and more modern, with some pretty coastline and small fishing villages, while the western part of the province is much poorer and heavily polluted, but is where most of the history is and has more sites. Both parts of the province are hotbeds for martial arts, the coastal areas being known for its Praying Mantis as well as Tongbei Quan, while the western inland parts have excellent Chang Quan, Tan Tui, Mizong Quan, Shaolin and Taiji Quan.
Shandong cuisine is regarded as one of the top 8 cuisines in China, and was the preferred cuisine of many Emperors. Nowadays, Shandong food is known for being salty and homely, and in the eastern part of the province, focuses on seafood. Drinking is another big part of Shandong peoples lives, and Shandong people love to show their hospitality through sharing Bai Jiu (Chinese liquor) with their guests; but be warned, they are known to handle their drink, and will expect you to do the same!
In Chinese Taoism there are five sacred mountains, which are said to be the limbs and head of Pangu, the man who created the world. Taishan is the eastern and most important of these mountains. It is in the western part of Shandong province, close to the provincial capital of Jinan. It is said that if one climbs to the top, they will live for 99 years. The peak has a beautiful temple where Taoist priests still live and actively practice Taoism. Be aware however, during holiday seasons, the mountain can get extremely crowded!
The birthplace and hometown of Confucius (Chinese name Kong Fu Zi), Qufu houses the sage’s tomb, family temple and palace. In fact, members of the Kong family still live here, and rituals unchanged for thousands of years are still practiced here regularly. The main sights in Qufu are fairly close together and there is not much to see outside of this main area. Qufu is fairly close to Taishan and both places can be visited together.
Close by is the town of Zoucheng, which is the home of Mencius, another important sage of Confucianism. I haven’t been to Zoucheng, but heard that it is more laid back and less touristy than Qufu.
Formerly a German colony, Qingdao, also spelt Tsingtao, is a pleasant seaside city in the east of Shandong province. There is still a lot of German architecture here, some lavish mansions as well as many smaller streets which feel just like walking around Europe. The city boasts some great seafood as well as the world famous local beer Tsingtao. A lot of Qingdao is very modern and has a really international feel to it now, with a good bar and club scene and diverse dining options. There are several beaches, which are popular with Chinese tourists, and locals who can be seen in their speedos no matter winter or summer! Qingdao also has a thriving Kung Fu scene, with styles such asPraying Mantis, Taiji Quan, Tongbei Quan and Chang Quan being popular.
Nearby is Laoshan, another mountain important in Taoism. There are several large temples here, as well as many villages produce some really good tea.
Another seaside city, Yantai is what Qingdao was 20 years ago. While also rapidly modernizing, Yantai still has a slower feel to it. There aren’t many sights to see in the city itself, but the outskirts have some cool things to see, such as Penglai Pavilion, an imposing castle built on top of a cliff overlooking the sea. Kunyu Shan is another important mountain in Taoism, it is where Wang Chong Yang lived with his disciples. He started the Quan Zhen school of Taoism which is the major sect in northern China (there is also a live in Kung Fu school). The rural areas around Yantai grow some excellent fruit, the most famous being apples and pears. The local wine, Zhangyu, is also highly regarded in China. While Yantai lacks sights, the main appeal in my opinion, is the Kung Fu practiced here. There is a huge amount practiced here, considering the size of the place. Being the hometown of Praying Mantis, you can also find some great Chang Quan, Tongbei Quan. Taiji Quan, Xingyi and Shaolin.