Archaeologists have uncovered an estimated 7000 burial objects, including 124 musical instruments of eight different kinds (64 bronze bells, several zithers with five or six strings, drums, etc.), 140 finely-worked ritual vessels in bronze and numerous painted objects.
Stretching over a distance of more than 400km/250 miles, the Mount Wudangshan range (150km/93 miles west of Xiangfan) is one of the Taoist Holy Mountains. Its highest point, Peak of Heavenly Pillars (Tianzhu Feng), is 1612m/5290ft; there are 71 other mountains in the range which, although not so high, are no less impressive. All have fairy-tale names such as the Peak of The Taoist Child, The Young Maiden, The Heavenly Steed and The Five Old Men.
The Temple of the Five Dragons was first built on one of the mountain slopes during the Tang period (618-907). Other religious buildings were added between the 10th and 13th c., but nearly all of them were victims of wars during the late Yuan era (1271-1368). In 1412 the Ming Emperor Chengzu ordered large numbers of Taoist temples to be built on Mount Wudangshan. This mammoth task took more than 300,000 workers nearly ten years to complete; they erected 8 palaces, 38 monasteries, 72 temple halls, 39 bridges and 12 pavilions, most of which have survived to this day. The various complexes were extended in 1552-53.
Entrance to the religious precincts is through Gateway to the Mysterious Mountain, 20m/66ft high and 13m/43ft wide and built in the year 1552. The finely-carved bas- and high-reliefs on the four gate pillars portray the legends of the Eight Immortal Taoists. 1 km/1100yd from the Gateway to the Mysterious Mountain the visitor will see the Palace of the Meeting with the True Immortal, which was built in 1417 in memory of Zhang Sanfeng who was known as the “True Immortal”, because he turned down an invitation from two Ming emperors.
The palace contains several large rooms, a gateway and covered walks. In the main hall there is a bronze statue of Zhang Sanfeng.
The Temple of Yuxu Gong was built in 1413, and at that time it had 2000 rooms, making it the largest such temple on Mount Wudangshan. Only the Red Gate, the Red Wall and a pavilion with steles have survived.
The Temple of Fuzhen Gong, also built during the reign of the Yongle emperor (1402-14), blends harmoniously with the surrounding landscape.
7km/4’/2 miles further on stands the Palace of Purple Clouds, built in 1413 and still in a good state of preservation. In the main hall pilgrims pay homage to several Taoist deities, including the Jade Emperor and the God of Reason.
On the way to the Peak of Heavenly Pillars (Tianzhu Feng) the climber will pass the Palace of the Greatest Harmony, built in 1416. The main hall is flanked by a Drum Tower (Gu Lou) and a Bell Tower (Zhong Lou), in which hangs a bronze bell which also dates from 1416.
The main purpose of climbimg the Peak of Heavenly Pillars is to visit the Hall of Gold; standing on a stone platform, this building appears to be made of wood but in fact is all in gilded bronze. The individual bronze sections were cast in 1416 and then fixed together. This masterpiece of the art of casting is 5-54m/18ft 2in. high, 14ft 6in. tall and 10ft 4in. deep. The statues, furniture and ritual plate are also all made of bronze. The most important object is the sculpture of the Taoist god Zhenwu Dijun, which weighs ten tonnes. The statues surrounding him are of his successors-the Golden Child, the Jade Maiden, the Fire General and the Water General.
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