Mt. Wutai

Guide map of Mt. Wutai
Map of Wutai Mountain
 Mt. Wutai Pictures
The most holy land of Chinese Buddhism, Mt. Wutai lies in Wutai County in Xinzhou Region, Shanxi Province. 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 four sacred Buddhist Mountains. It covers an area of 2,837 square kilometers (1,095.4 square miles), and its five 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 "Wutai Shan" (Mountain of Five Terraces). With the average altitude over 1,000 meters (over 3,281 feet), its apex, the summit of the northern peak which is famed as being the "Roof of Northern China", reaches 3061.1 meters (10,043 feet). 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 the mountain its reputation as a colorful and notable scenic resort.

Scenery

The beautiful scenery here 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

Tayuan Temple, Mt. Wutai
Great White Pagoda in 
Tayuan Temple, Mt.Wutai
1 kilometer (0.6 mile) east of Taihuai Town in Wutai County, there is Wanghai Peak. Visitors standing on the top of the peak 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. Wutai, 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

It is said that this mountain 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

Xiantong Temple, Mt.Wutai
Xiantong Temple
It 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. Wutai 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. 

Tayuan Temple

Tayuan Temple
Tayuan Temple
The 75.3-meter-high (247-feet-high) Tayuan Temple is the symbol of Mt. Wutai, 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.

Manjusri Temple

Legend has it that Wenshu Bodhisattva dwelt in it, 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. 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 (1644-1911) both went there and left ever-lasting epigraphs.

Shuxiang Temple

Shuxiang Temple, Mt.Wutai
Shuxiang Temple
It 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.

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 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

Shancai Cave, Mt.Wutai
Shancai Cave
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, 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. Wutai) 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.

Admission Fee: CNY 168 (April 1 to October 31)
CNY 140 (November 1 to next March 31)
Other fees: Eco-bus: CNY 50 (It's valid for three days)
Dailuo Peak cable car: CNY 35 (up-bound), CNY 30 (down-bound)