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Wutai Shan

Wutai Shan , also known as Wutai Mountain or Mount Wutai, located in Shanxi, China, is one of the Four Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism.

Each of the four mountains are viewed as the abode or place of practice of one of the four great bodhisattvas.

Wutai is the home of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri or Wenshu Chinese.

It takes its name from its unusual topography, consisting of five rounded peaks (North, South, East, West, Central), of which the North peak, called Beitai Ding or Yedou Feng, is the highest, and indeed the highest point in northern China.

Wutai was the first of the four mountains to be identified and is often referred to as "first among the four great mountains." It was identified on the basis of a passage in the Avatamsaka Sutrawhich describes the abodes of many bodhisattvas. In this chapter, Manjusri is said to reside on a "clear cold mountain" in the northeast. This served as charter for the mountains identity and its alternate name 'Clear Cool Mountain'

The bodhisattva is believed to frequently manifest himself on the mountain, taking the form of ordinary pilgrims, monks, or most often unusual five-colored clouds.

Chongshan Monastery

Initially built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Chongshan Monastery (Temple for Appreciating Kindliness) was once called White Horse Monastery (Baima Si). It is located in Huangmiao Lane, Wuyi Road, Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province. In 1383, in memory of his mother, Zhu Gang, third son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) had the monastery rebuilt and extended, renaming it Chongshan Monastery.

Construction was completed in 1391. The layout of the splendid palace-like monastery is evident from the extant Chongshan Monastery Construction Plan. Covering an area of 245 mu (40.4 acres), the Chongshan Monastery was obviously magnificent.

However, during the reign of Emperor Tongzhi (1856-1875) of the Qing Dynasty, the monastery was almost reduced to ashes. Today only one-fortieth of the monastery survives, including the Bell Tower, the Dabei Hall, and the east and west wing rooms. Local governments have restored some of its former brilliance to the monastery.

In these surviving monastery buildings are three splendid treasures. One is the sutras. Chongshan Monastery is famous for the original edition of the sutras of the Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties kept here. The oldest sutra has a history of over 1000 years. The second treasure is the 'Gem Paintings,' copies of two frescos still retaining their bright colors after 500 years. The third treasure is three gilded Ming Dynasty mud statues of Bodhisattvas all about 8 meters (26.2 feet) high. In the middle is Kwan-yin Goddess of Mercy, with her one thousand hands and eyes. All three statues still retain their florid colors and smooth lines, rare artworks of the Ming Dynasty.

A Buddhist temple, Chongshan Monastery has become a key cultural relic under the protection of Shanxi Province and home to the Buddhist Association of Shanxi Province. The precious sutra and Taoist scriptures are not only examples of Chinese woodblock printing history, but of ancient Chinese calligraphy and carving arts luring accomplished monks, scholars and tourists.

Jinci Temple

Located 25 kilometers (16 miles) to the southeast of downtown Taiyuan City, Jinci Temple is a combination of historical cultural relics and beautiful landscapes. The welcoming boughs of a multitude of ancient trees provide an eye-catching entrance to the temple. Beyond this, the numerous halls, cabinets, pavilions and bridges are guaranteed to keep any visitor enthralled. Jinci Temple is world-famous because it is an ancient ancestral temple, something which is rare in China.

Jinci Temple has a long history, which can be traced back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC to 711 BC), when King Cheng made his younger brother Yu a leader of one of his states. Yu was an intelligent leader who devoted all his energies to making the state prosperous, so his descendants built a temple for him after his death, in order to honor his achievement.

 Saint Mother Hall, the oldest building in the temple, is one of the main reasons that so many visitors come to the temple. Together with the Flying Bridge across the Fish Pond, and the Offerings Hall, these exquisite buildings provide evidence of a new era in Chinese architecture. For example, the Flying Bridge across the Fish Pond is the only one of its kind that exists now; accordingly, it plays an important role in an investigation of the ancient bridges of China.

There are three additional wonders that draw people from across the world to the temple. These are: The Figures of The Maidservants, the Zhou Cypress and the Never Aging Spring. Each of the Figures of the Maidservants that stand in the Saint Mother Hall, colored clay sculptures made during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), are unique. Whether these statuettes are washing, sweeping or dancing, they are all sculpted in a vivid and natural way.

 Jinci Temple was, to a certain extent, an imperial garden. Accordingly, some three hundred tablets were inscribed for it with writings by emperors, officials and poets, and these now line a scenic path in the temple. The most famous stele was written by the Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty in 646, and it was kept in a pavilion which is now known as 'Zhen Guan Bao Han Pavilion'. Taizong was one of the great emperors of Chinese history. The time from which he inherited the throne from his father became known as the Prosperity of Zhenguan, and people referred to the calligraphy written by him as ' Bao Han', meaing a kind of treasure.

Twin Pogoda Temple

The Twin Pogoda Temple (Shuang Ta Si), also known by the name 'Yongzuo Temple' (Yong Zuo Si), is located in the southeast of Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province. There are two 53-meter-tall pagodas standing in the temple, hence the name 'Twin Pagoda Temple'. History records reveal that the temple and two pagodas were built under the Emperor Wanli's order in 1608 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Each of the pagodas has 13 stories and is made entirely of bricks and stone. The exterior was sculptured in the shape of an octagon and decorated with the exquisite flying eaves. An internal staircase was added so that visitors can climb to the top of the pagoda and gaze far afield.

All of the buildings in this temple were constructed with bricks. The brick-carved posts and brackets of the temple perfectly demonstrate the features of ancient Chinese architecture. It's worth mentioning that a rare collection of steles have been stored in the temple that contain the handwriting of famous ancient Chinese calligraphers from various dynasties such as Wang Xizhi (303-361), Yan Zhenqing (709-785), Liu Zongyuan (773-819), and Su Dongpo (1037-1101).

The best time to visit the temple is in spring (April and May) when all the peony and cloves are in their full bloom. These beautiful flowers are said to have been planted during the Ming Dynasty and their beauty indeed makes the old temple more elegant and appealing.


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