The Four Sacred Mountains Of Buddhism In China

Mount Emei, the tallest of Chinese sacred mountains.
Mount Emei, the tallest of Chinese sacred mountains.

4. Mount Wutai

Mount Wutai, China.

The highest mountain in Northern China, Mount Wutai, meaning the “five terrace mountain” is well-known for its spectacular landscape and historical significance. The mountain is topped by five open peaks lacking tree cover. The top of the mountain remains snow covered for most of the year. Below the snow cover lies lush forests of evergreen trees dotted with temples and monasteries associated with the Buddhist religion. Many of these religious monuments are centuries old and are thus associated with immense historical, architectural and cultural value. The mountain is host to about fifty-three monasteries. One of the most notable monuments present here is the Foguang Temple’s East Main Hall that was built during the Tang dynasty’s rule in the region. It is the highest surviving timber building of its time and also houses several impressive life-size sculptures made of clay. Another famous building on Mount Wutai is the Shuxiang Temple that was established during the Ming era. Within the temple, there are 500 statues representing stories associated with Buddhism in the form of 3-D pictures. The temples and monasteries on Mount Wutai reflect how ancient Buddhist art and architecture influenced palace building styles in China for more than a millennium. The religious sites on the mountain were visited by several Chinese Emperors and other noted personalities of the country for centuries. Today, the monasteries and temples on the mountain store hundreds of religious scriptures and books that reveal important facts about the history and evolution of Buddhism in China.

3. Mount Emei

The statue of Buddha seen at the top of Mount Emei.

Mount Emei, one of Buddhism’s “Four Sacred Mountains” in China, is located in the country’s Sichuan Province. With an elevation of 10,167 ft, it is the highest of the four sacred mountains. According to tradition, the mountain served as the place where the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra attained enlightenment and also the first Buddhist temple in the country was established here in the first century CE. There is a cluster of about 76 monasteries near the mountain top of Mount Emei that were mostly built during the rule of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The mountain also offers fascinating sunrise viewpoints and spectacular cloud phenomena. The Tibetan macaques living here are famed for their mischievous nature and are often seen accepting food from tourists. The region also hosts a large number of endemic plants species.

2. Mount Jiuhua

A temple atop Mount Jiuhua.

Famous for its natural and historical wealth, scenic beauty, and association with Buddhism, Mount Jiuhua is a mountain located in the Qingyang County in China’s Anhui province. The mountain encompasses an area of about 120 square km of which 114 square km is protected area. In the ancient times, the mountain hosted as many as 360 Buddhist temples and monasteries and was the residence of about 4,000 to 5,000 nuns and monks. Many of the religious monuments have survived to this date and act as Buddhist pilgrimage sites on the mountain. The Huacheng Temple, Dabeilou Temple, Tianchi Temple are some of the notable extant temples on this mountain.

1. Mount Putuo

North Mount Putuo.

Offering a combination of scenic landscapes and Buddhist religious sites, Mount Putuo is the ideal location to experience spirituality amidst nature. The mountain is present as an island in the East China Sea, southeast of Shanghai. It occupies an area of about 12.5 square km and hosts several religious monuments associated with Buddhism. For centuries, the island mountain has attracted millions of visitors including both pilgrims and tourists who have been attracted by the natural, historical, cultural, and religious wealth of the site. Some of the notable temples present at Mount Putuo include the Fayu Temple, Puji Temple, and the Huiji Temple. The monasteries at the site serve as the temporary or permanent residences of a large number of Buddhist monks and nuns from China and abroad. Buddhist education can be received at the Institute of Buddhism, one of the most reputed academic institutes of its kind in the country. The Mount Putuo is also surrounded by some fascinating beaches and houses the critically endangered plant named the Putuo hornbeam.


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