Shigandang is the traditional heritage of worshiping spiritual stones now commonly practiced in Tai'an, Shandong province.
The Shigandang custom of worshiping spiritual stones has long been a common belief for Chinese people, and was listed among the first batch of national intangible cultural heritages announced by the State Council in 2006.
Shigandang was, according to legend, a brave and strong man from Mount Tai who was renowned for warding off evil spirits. His spirit lives on today through an ornamental stone tablet engraved with the Chinese characters of Shigandang, which is often found erected at certain points on bridges and roads, or inlaid in the walls of houses across China.
A Tai'an local artist depicts the legend of Shigandang through illustrations. [Photo/tssgd.com]
Folklore tells that Mount Tai has bred many gods, among whom Shigandang is a brave and strong god renown for chasing away evil and eliminating demons. Tai'an residents all prayed to him to keep evil at bay. Because he was too busy to visit every household, locals began inscribing his name on stone tablets to scare away evil.
During the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279), people would have stones carved with the Chinese characters Shigandang to set at important places. After the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), this belief was integrated with the worship of Mount Tai, the sacred mountain between heaven and earth, where ancient Chinese emperors prayed for the peace of the country.
This developed into a unique custom in Tai'an. Thus, the mountain is also called "Mount Tai Shigandang", and is often associated with sunrise, birth and renewal.
Many other legends about Shigandang have prevailed in Tai'an, and many other art forms display this unique custom, including Shandong Bangzi (Wooden Clapper Opera), shadow puppetry, calligraphy and painting.
This custom is widely influential in China, as well as in other countries and regions such as Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea.
First held in September 2011, the annual Shigandang cultural festival has become an important part of Mount Tai International Climbing Festival.