Shanxi - Mt. Wutai
The most holy land of Chinese Buddhism, Mt. Wutai lies in Wutai County in Xinzhou Region. It is rated on both the list of the first group of national scenic spots designated by the State Council, and the list of the Top 10 scenic spots in Shanxi Province. It is as famous as Mt. Emei in Sichuan Province, Mt. Putuo in Zhejiang Province, and Mt. Jiuhua in Anhui Province, all of which are renowned as the 4 sacred Buddhist Mountains.
Mt. Wutai covers an area of 2,837 square kilometer, and its 5 main peaks, positioned east, south, west, north, and in the middle, embrace one another with broad and plain terraces rather than forests on their tops.
That is why it bears the name "Wutaishan" (Mountain of Five Terraces). With the average altitude over 1,000 meter, its apex, the summit of the northern peak which is famed as being the "Roof of Northern China", reaches 3,058 meter.
Besides the religious aspect, the beauty of rising and falling ridges of mountains, exotic rocks, crisscrossed gullies, crystalline waters and towering green forests also gives Mt. Wutai its reputation as a colorful and notable tourist resort. The beautiful scenery of Mt. Wutai is a masterpiece of exquisite acts of nature, predominantly visible over the 5 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 east of Taihuai Town in Wutai County, there is Wanghai Peak. Visitors standing on the top of the peak, east of Mt. Wutai, can appreciate the height of 2,795 meter. 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 meter and is 13 kilometer 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 meter high, and 12 kilometer 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 kilometer north of Taihuai Town, is the highest point of Mt. Wutai, as well being the highest in Northern China, at 3,058 meter. On the terrace of the peak, there is a natural pool that is over 300 square meter. 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.
It is said that this mountain, one of the 4 holy Buddhist Mountains, is the dwelling place of Manjusri Bodhisattva. 360 temples were built here dating back to the Tang dynasty, but now only 47 of them exist. Over the years, incalculable numbers of pilgrims and visitors have come here. Among these magnificent temples, 5 are the most famous: Xiantong Temple, Tayuan Temple, Manjusri Temple (Summit Bodhisattva), Shuxiang Temple, and Luohou Temple.
• Xiantong Temple
Xiantong Temple has the longest history and is the most prestigious. Occupying an area of 80,000 square meter, it was built initially in 68, during the Eastern Han dynasty, with the additions built by succeeding dynasties.
Now it plays the most important role among the temples, therefore, the Buddhist Association of Mt. Wutai is situated there. The court-styled construction of it includes 7 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; its toll can be heard around the entire mountain.
• Tayuan Temple
The 75.3 meter high Tayuan Temple is the symbol of Mt. Wutai. 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.
• Manjusri Temple
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. In the time of Emperor Yongle of Ming dynasty, Lamaists began to be stationed in Mt. Wutai, and the great Lama resided there. From then on, it became the principal temple of Lamaism. Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing dynasty both went there and left ever-lasting epigraphs.
• Shuxiang Temple
Shuxiang Temple is the southwest neighbor of Tayuan Temple. Built in Yuan dynasty, it covers 6,400 square meter, 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.
• Luohou Temple
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 5 temples but don't have the time or because of other reasons, Dailuo Peak (Dark Green Snail Peak) is a wonderful place to visit, because Wufang Manjusri Palace houses statues resembling the 5 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.
Mt. Wutai 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.
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