Mount Wutaishan is one of the four mountains which are holy to Buddhists, theotherthree being Putuoshan in Zhejiang province, Jiuhuashan in Anhui province and Emeishan in Sichuan province. The word “wutai” means “five terraces”; the mountain was so called because of its five terraceshaped peaks. The north peak(Dou Feng), at 3058m/10,036ft, is the highest in the chain. Mount Wutaishan lies some 200km/77 miles from Taiyuan, from where there is an overland bus service which passes through some impressive mountain scenery en route to Wutaishan.
As long ago as the Eastern Han period (24-220) there was a monastery on the mountain dedicated to Wenshu Pusa, God of Wisdom; over the centuries the number of monasteries has increased to several hundred. From the beginning ofthe Tang era (618-907) the monks living on Mount Wutaishan maintained close contact with their fellow believers in Japan, Indonesia and Nepal. Mount Wutaishan enjoyed a further halcyon period during the Ming period (1368-1644).
Today there are 58 monasteries in all on the mountain, most of them containing Buddhist sculptures. Attempts are at present being made to restore those buildings which remain.
Mount Wutaishan The Temple ofthe Manifestation, north of Taihuai, a village in the central Temple ofthe part of Mount Wutaishan, is one ofthe oldest Buddhist temple complexes Manifestation anywhere in the world. It was founded in the 1st c. a.d. and later frequently (Xiantong Si) altered and extended until its total area reached its present 8ha/20 acres. Numerous ancillary buildings are grouped around the seven main temples. Note particularly the Bronze Hall and Bronze Pagodas. The Temple of the Pagodas lies to the south of the Temple of the Manifes- Temple of tation, of which it originally formed a part. It was in the Ming period the Pagodas (1368-1644) that it became a temple in its own right. It was then that the (Tayuan Si) 50m/164ft high pagoda – the emblem of Mount Wutaishan and which houses a Shakyamuni relic – and the wooden arched gateway at the entrance were built.
According to a legend dating back to the Northern Wei period (386-534), the Monastery of the Bodhisattva north of the Temple ofthe Manifestation on Lingiju Feng Peak was the residence of Wensha Pusa. The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors stayed here quite often and left behind inscriptions carved on two stelae which can still be seen today. Particularly impressive is the rectangular stone tablet, measuring 6m/20fttall and 1 by 1 m/39 by 39in. across, with Qianlong’s calligraphy in four languages (Chinese, Manchurian, Mongolian and Tibetan).
The Taoist Monastery of Eternal Joy near Ruicheng, a small town 400km/250 miles south-west of Taiyuan, was originally built between 1247 and 1262 by the Huanghe near Yongle, the birthplace ofthe immortal Taoist Lu Donghin (8th c.). The whole complex of buildings we see today took about 120 years to complete; the famous wall-paintings are also from that same period. In 1959, when the Sanmenxia hydraulic engineering project was carried out in the region around Yongle, the monastery was moved to the slopes of a picturesque hill near Ruicheng.
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