Associated with the Eight Immortals of Daoism, who drank wine here before making their mythical crossing of the sea without the aid of boats, the castle-like pavilion complex of Penglai Ge affords dramatic views out to sea from its breezy cliff top perch. Accessible by boat or bus, the pavilion dates back to 1061, though Penglai entered folklore when China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, foraged in the area for herbs that bestow immortality.
The imposing complex has a large network of buildings, pavilions, halls, temples, gardens, and crenellated walls. Many of the buildings are thickly covered in ivy and vines. Among its six main halls, which have been extensively renovated, the Tianhou Palace is dedicated to Tianhou, the Empress of Heaven, and enshrines a golden statue of the goddess. The statue is backed by a fine mural of Loong frolicking in the sea and amongst the clouds. The castle is at its liveliest on the occasion of the goddess’s birthday, on the 23rd day of the third month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when a lively temple fair is held. The goddess is invoked with incense sticks and prayer. The complex now has a cable car and a theater. Penglai Ge is also known for the mirage that is supposed to occur here every few decades. Witnesses have described seeing an island, complete with buildings, inhabitants, and trees arising from the mist. Visitors can watch a video recording of the mirage in the Tianhou Palace for a small fee. Penglai is usually busy on weekends when large tour groups visit the pavilion. It is quieter on weekdays, and can be easily visited as a daytrip from Yantai.