While I was in Shanghai to shoot photos, I learned that once in his life, every Chinese must pay his respects to the five holy mountains of China by making a nocturnal climb. My Chinese friend Er Peng accompanied me one night on an ascent of holy Mount Taishan in Shandong Province. We began our climb at one o’clock in the morning so that we could reach the summit in time to watch the sunrise from the peak. The night was warm and humid at the foot of the mountain. I began the climb in short pants and a T-shirt, with my camera equipment strapped to my back. The path for pilgrims leads toward the summit as a series of stairs. The irregular heights of the steps, which varied by as much as fifty centimeters, were frustrating for me in the darkness. I repeatedly stubbed my toes against risers where I had expected stairs to be lower. Er laughed out loud each time I shouted “ouch”: he was accustomed to night hiking from his military service in the Chinese army. We finally reached a rest stop, where I bought a little flashlight for thirty cents. Now I could climb more quickly, but I nonetheless felt like a snail as I watched other pilgrims pass me by and continue jogging up the stairs. The weather grew colder and at precisely the point where the cold was no longer bearable, we found a little hut where olive-green felt overcoats from Chinese army surplus were available for rent. We were issued a number as though it were a coat check. Er Peng left his wristwatch as a deposit. Finally properly clad, we continued our ascent toward the summit, where we found hundreds of people perched like a colony of birds along the rocky rim of the peak, each one nearly motionless, uniformed and speaking, if at all, only in whispers. It was a meditative scene, like an archaic memory or the silhouette of a birdman slowly appearing from the darkness of the misty night. Only now did I understand that I was standing at the summit above the clouds. As though on a giant stage, the sun obeyed the command of some hidden stage manager and rose like a round, red-painted, cardboard cover through pale grey cotton wadding. All around I heard people whisper the word yume (sun). As though a great theater production had just concluded, the pilgrims silently departed from the summit. It all seemed as though nothing had happened, and suddenly the world appeared to me just as it must have looked for millions of years before human beings came into existence. In that same moment, my own existence lost its meaning.