It's regarded as one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China, the other three being Mt. Emei in Sichuan Province, Putuo in Zhejiang Province, Jiuhua in Anhui Province. The names of those mountains came from five peaks - Central Peak, East Peak, West Peak, West Peak, South Peak, and North Peak.
Wutai Mountain has the longest and most prestigious history in the four well-known Buddhist Mountains.
Located in Wutai Country of Shanxi Province, 240 kilometers from the provincial capital of Taiyuan, the mountain is actually a cluster of five terrace-like peaks -- East Terrace, West Terrace, South Terrace, North Terrace and Central Terrance, hence the name Wutai (Five Terraces). The North Terrace is the highest peak -- about 3,058 meters above sea level -- and is named as the Roof of North China. Wutai Mountain covers 2,873 square meters, spanning more than 100 kilometers.
Of the four major Buddhist Mountains in China, Wutai Mountain has the longest and most prestigious history. It is the only Chinese mountain mentioned in Buddhist scriptures. Located in Shanxi Province's Wutai Country, 240 kilometers from the provincial capital of Taiyuan, the mountain is actually a cluster of five terrace-like peaks, hence the name Wutai (Five Terraces). Its cool and pleasant summer climate has also given rise to another name: Qingliang (Cool and Pleasant) Mountain. The mountain is called a "cool platform" and has been regarded as an ideal place for escaping summer heat since ancient times.
For hundreds of years, Wutai Mountain has been China's most sacred Buddhist ground mainly because it was where the highly revered Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom, once lived and taught Buddhism. As the most trusted aide of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, he drew emperors from various dynasties here on pilgrimage, adding more significance to the mountain. Furthermore, Wutai Mountain is China's only holy mountain where both Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Lamaism are practiced. Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Lcangskyahothogthu (a living Buddha) have visited and preached here, some are even buried here.
Wutai Mountain's Buddhist tradition dates back to the Yongping period (58-75) of the Eastern Han Dynasty, when the first temples were constructed. In later dynasties building and repairing of the temple continued, resulting in a large complex of ancient structures. In its heyday, the mountain had over 300 temples housing more than 10000 monks. Today, 47 of these temples are still in good condition and within their walls is a rich legacy of over 100000 superb sculptures and paintings, along with a great quantity of Buddhist cultural relics.
Wutai Mountain is a famous scenic spot under national protection. It is famous for its Tibet-like bright blue sky and the breath taking natural beauty -- beautiful surroundings, with trees covering ancient temples and monasteries. The buildings look exceptionally impressive, and the stone carvings are of superb craftsmanship. The painted sculptures are of various shapes and types and no two sculptures are of the same kind.
In the mountain area, spring arrives in April, and snow falls in September and even in mid-summer, it is cool and pleasant. The cool and pleasant summer climate of Wutai Mountain has also given rise to another name: Qingliang (Cool and Pleasant) Mountain. The mountain has been regarded as an ideal place for escaping summer heat since ancient times.
Today, most of the temples are still in good condition. Within their walls is a rich legacy of over 100,000 superb sculptures and paintings, along with a great quantity of Buddhist cultural relics.
For hundreds of years, Wutai Mountain has been China's most sacred Buddhist ground mainly because it was where the highly revered Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom, once lived and taught Buddhism. Numerous temples on Wutai Mountain contain many relics and have different features.
With a history of 1,200 years, the main hall of the Nanchan Temple on the mountain, which houses 17 painted figurines, is the earliest wooden structure of its kind preserved in China today. And it's a real treasure of China. Its eaves stretch out, and the hall has not a single column. Its outer appearance looks simple and its structure concise, which are similar in style to the Tang Dynasty art.
The Big White Pagoda for Buddha's Sarira, the symbol of the Wutai Mountain, is said to have been built there before the Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The pagoda, in Nepalese style, has a base circumference of 83.3 meters and is 75.3 meters high. Inside the pagoda, there is small India-made iron stupa, where some remains of Sakyamuni are kept.
Xiantong Temple is the oldest temple in China and also the biggest on Wutai Mountain. Originally built in the Eastern Han Dynasty, it has been placed under state protection. Covering eight hectares, the temple has 400-odd halls. Inside, there are 3 pure copper halls cast in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), engraved with fine patterns and bronze Buddhist figurines. On the sides, two 13-storied bronze towers also made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), each with a height of eight meters, are covered with cast Buddhist figurines, carved patterns and various inscriptions.
For hundreds of years, Wutai Mountain has drawn emperors from various dynasties here on pilgrimage, adding more significance to the mountain. Furthermore, Wutai Mountain is China's only holy mountain where both Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Lamaism are practiced. Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Lcangskyahothogthu (a living Buddha) have visited and preached here, some are even buried here.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a Buddhist academy was established here, attracting believers from both at home and abroad through the ages, such as India, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, Nepal and Sri Lanka, etc.
Mt. Wutaishan Scenery
The beautiful scenery of Mt. Wutaishan is a masterpiece of exquisite acts of nature, predominantly visible over the five main peaks: Wanghai Peak in the east, Guayue Peak in the west, Jinxiu Peak in the south, Yedou Peak in the north, and the central Cuiyan Peak.
Wanghai Peak (Peak Overlooking the Sea) in the east
1 kilometer (0.6 mile) east of Taihuai Town in Wutai County, there is Wanghai Peak. Visitors standing on the top of the peak, east of Mt. Wutaishan, can appreciate the height of 2,795 meters (9,169.9 feet). It is wonderful to see the sunrise in the morning from this location. Out of a sea of floating clouds and writhing mist, the sun rises with thousands of golden rays. It fills visitors with amazement, as they can believe it is the sun rising above the real sea.
Guayue Peak (Hanging Moon Peak) in the west
Guayue Peak reaches an altitude of 2,773 meters (9,097.8 feet) and is 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) west of Taihuai Town. This peak provides unique imagery in the evening when visitors can see the elegant and serene sight of the graceful but hazy moon hanging above dense pine trees.
Jinxiu Peak (Splendor Peak) in the south
Jinxiu Peak is 2,485 meters high (8,152.9 feet), and 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Taihuai Town. This peak's beauty is in the colorful flowers that grow all over it, and emit scents and perfumes from early May until late August. They decorate the peak by making it look as if it is wearing a floral silk coat.
Yedou Peak (Peak of Flourishing Leaves) in the north
This peak, 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) north of Taihuai Town, is the highest point of Mt. Wutaishan, as well being the highest in Northern China, at 3,058 meters (10,032.8 feet). On the terrace of the peak, there is a natural pool that is over 300 square meters (358.8 square yards) From the terrace looking towards the north, Mt. Hengshan looms blanketed in endless greenery.
Cuiyan Peak (Peak of Green Rocks) in the middle
According to its name, one can guess the scenery of this peak. The rocks are green not because of their own color, but because of the moss on their surface. The huge rocks resemble moving dragons when seen in sunlight, from which the name "dragon-writhing rocks" has been derived.
Buddhist Temples in Mt. Wutaishan
It is said that this mountain, one of the four holy Buddhist Mountains, is the dwelling place of Manjusri Bodhisattva. 360 temples were built here dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) but now only 47 of them exist. Over the years, incalculable numbers of pilgrims and visitors have come here. Among these magnificent temples, five are the most famous: Xiantong Temple, TayuanTemple, Manjusri Temple (Summit Bodhisattva), Shuxiang Temple, and Luohou Temple.
Xiantong Temple has the longest history and is the most prestigious. Occupying an area of 80,000 square meters (95,682 square yards), it was built initially in 68, during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), with the additions built by succeeding dynasties. Now it plays the most important role among the temples, therefore, the Buddhist Association of Mt. Wutaishan is situated there. The court-styled construction of it includes seven palaces, in one of which Wenshu (Manjusri) Bodhisattva's statue was engraved and worshiped. The copper bell in front of the gate is the biggest bell on the mountain, with a weight of 9,999.5 jin (22,045.9 pounds). Its toll can be heard around the entire mountain.
The 75.3-meter-high (247-feet-high) Tayuan Temple is the symbol of Mt. Wutaishan, so it becomes a "must-see". Principally it possesses the white Tibetan-style dagoba also called Dabai Pagoda (Big White Pagoda). Since it stands in front of the other temples in Taihuai, it is even more eye-catching. Accompanying the graceful temple, there is also Wenshufa Pagoda where it is said that Manjusri Bodhisattva's hair is preserved, and the Dacangjing Pavilion (Collecting-Lections Pavilion) where volumes of lections were collected.
Legend has it that Wenshu Bodhisattva dwelt in the temple, so it is also called "ZhenrongYuan" (real appearance) or "Bodhisattva Summit". It was built originally in Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). In the time of Emperor Yongle of Ming Dynasty (1368 -1644), Lamaists began to be stationed in Mt. Wutaishan, and the great Lama resided there. From then on, it became the principal temple of Lamaism. Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) both went there and left ever-lasting epigraphs.
Shuxiang Temple is the southwest neighbor of Tayuan Temple. Built in Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), it covers 6,400 square meters (7,654.6 square yards), and encompasses over 50 palaces and halls. Among them Manjusri Pavilion is the largest one in the center of the Taihuai County, with Manjusri Bodhisattva's statue in it. A clear spring flows out of the temple named "Banruo" or "Prajna", meaning "adding wisdom", whose water was used in the courts.
To the east of the Xiantong Temple, Luohou Temple was set up as a Lamaist temple in the Tang Dynasty. One of its wonders is a wooden lotus-shaped flower. Machinery turns it and the wooden petals open and close. Inside are carved Buddhist figures on a square platform.
For tourists who want to visit all Manjusri Bodhisattva's statues in the five temples but cannot for time constraints or other reasons, Dailuo Peak (Dark Green Snail Peak) is a wonderful place to visit, because Wufang Manjusri Palace (Palace of Manjusri Bodhisattvas from five directions) houses statues resembling the five Manjusri Bodhisattvas of each terrace. It is located to the east of the temple group in the center of Taihuai Town. 1,080 steps lead to the top of the snail-shaped peak and a cable car is also available for convenience.
Besides these temples, there are other exquisitely constructed ones, such as Jinge Temple (golden temple), Nanchan Temple, Dailuoding, Shifangtang, Wangfo Temple, and so on.
Other Resources on Mt. Wutaishan
Mt. Wutaishan is resplendent in many resources owing to its natural conditions and important role in Buddhism.
Over 600 species of plants can be found on the Mountain, of which more than 150 species of grass can be used as rare herbs. Special local produce, Taimo, (mushrooms grown on the tops of peaks of Mt. Wutaishan) is of quite high nutritional value and with a delicate taste.
Since many temples are interspersed in the mountain, numerous art works were cared for and have been preserved as relics-sculptures, murals, calligraphy, as well as architecture. Pagodas built in the style of those in ancient India added new types to traditional ones. Nanchan Temple and Foguang Temple, built in the Tang Dynasty, are representatives of the ancient wooden style of construction, and have the longest history amongst the temples in the mountain
No wonder after visiting Mount Wutai, people think that the whole mountain does not only own the beautiful scenery but it is really "A hundred palaces of art in a single history book of Buddhist kingdom".
If you are Buddhists, Mount Wutai is the right place for you to purify your hearts, if you are interested in historical relics and old constructions, you are recommend to come here. You won't be empty-handed, just like those who have been back from a mountain of treasures; If you are someone who want to enjoy a quite and relax holiday, Mount Wutai bring you undisturbed fairyland.
Naturally, it can provide every traveler with a delightful cool world with beautiful landscape.
Buses go from Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, as well as from Datong, in the northern part of the province, to Taihuai in about 5 hours.