Assessment of the World Heritage Committee
The imperial palaces and temples in the ancient building in the Wudang Mountains reflect the common customs and the architecture of religious buildings as well as artistic achievement during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The ancient building complex is located at the beautiful Wudang Mountains in Hubei Province, and began to take shape in the Ming Dynasty. The Taoist buildings can date back to the 7th century, which represent the highest level of Chinese art and architecture for thousands of years.
Chinese name: Wu Dang Shan Gu Jian Zhu Qun
English name: Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
The imperial palaces and temples in the ancient building in the Wudang Mountains reflect the common customs and the architecture of religious buildings as well as artistic achievement during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Based on the standards C (I) (II) (VI) for selecting world cultural heritage, the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains was listed in the World Heritage List on December 15, 1994.
The Wudang Mountains, also known as Taihe Mountain or Xuanyue Mountain, is located to the southwest of Danjiangkou, Hubei Province and is a famous Taoist holy land in China. According to legend, the Emperor Zhenwu, who was worshiped by Taoists, was immortalized there. Wudang means that no one can undertake this post except Zhenwu. The Wudang Mountains have many natural and manmade landscapes. The natural landscapes, including three ponds, nine brooklets, nine wells, nine platforms, 10 pools, 10 stones, 11 caves, 24 caves, 36 cliffs and 72 peaks, are beautiful and splendid.
The Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties all left buildings in the Wudang Mountains and the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains was founded during the reign of Emperor T'ai-tsung (627-649) of the Tang Dynasty. T'ai-tsung Li Shimin ordered his people to construct the Wulong Ancestral Hall. In the Song Dynasty, the Wudang Taoism that worshiped the Emperor Zhenwu and directly served the royal family was basically formed. However, in the late Yuan Dynasty, most of the ancient buildings in the Wudang Mountains had been destroyed by wars. The Ming Dynasty was the most vigorous period for the development of the Wudang Mountains. Emperor Zhu Di gave the Wudang Mountains the title of “Dayue,” and Emperor Zhu Houcong called it the “Zhishi Xuanyue,” which was the most honored among all Five Mountains. During this period, a large number of buildings were constructed in the Wudang Mountains.
According to the historical records, Emperor Zhu Di believed in Taoism and ordered 300,000 people to enter the Wudang Mountains in 1412 (the 10th year of the Yongle Period during the reign of Emperor Zhu Di in the Ming Dynasty) after the construction of the Forbidden City, the Imperial Ancestral Temple, Altar of Land and Grain, and Temple of Heaven in Beijing were finished. They built many buildings and over a 13-year span, they constructed relevant and complete architectural complexes from the Jingyue Palace in the Yun County (today’s Danjiangkou) to the Jinding of Tianzhu Peak stretching 70 kilometers, which included nine Taoist temples, nine palaces, 12 kiosks, 36 nunneries, 39 bridges and 72 temples. There are more than 20,000 palaces and 400 temples that cover an area of 1.6 million square meters. In 1552 (the 31st year of the Jiajing Period in the Ming Dynasty), the memorial archway “Zhishi Xuanyue” was constructed and the architectural complex in the Wudang Mountains was basically formed.
Hundreds of years later, only the ruins remain of many Taoist temples, and the existing Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains mainly consists of the Taihe Palace, Nanyan Palace, Zixiao Palace, Yuzhen Palace and the remains of the Yuxu Palace and Wulong Palace, as well as over 200 temples of all kinds. The area of the structures reaches 50,000 square meters and the entire complex covers a total area of more than 1 million square meters. The scale is still very large. The major cultural heritage sites which were listed in the World Heritage List include the Taihe Palace, Zixiao Palace, Nanyan Palace, Fuzhen Temple and the “Zhishi Xuanyue” memorial archway. In addition, the Taoist temples in the Wudang Mountains also preserved 1,486 different statues, 409 inscriptions, 682 religious tools and objects, at the same time it also has a large collection of books and religious text which are also precious cultural remains.
The essence of Wudang Taoism, Wudang Taoist music and Wudang martial arts are also derived there and added new content to traditional Chinese culture.
Authenticity and completeness
The Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains has gone through many years and the existing four Taoist palaces, remains of two palaces, two Taoist temples and many shrines and temples have preserved their original state in terms of layout, planning, style, materials and craft.
The existing large scale, high planning, strict structure, exquisite decorations and numerous idols and objects of the buildings in the Wudang Mountains are unique in the existing Chinese Taoist architecture.
The Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains reflects the elite decorative art of ancient Chinese architecture, and reached a perfect state in architectural art and aesthetics. The Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains has a tight general plan, is clear distinguished, and a rational layout. The selection of the architectural sites pays much attention to the environment and the layout of the mountain and river. The complex has many kinds of building types and uses many different materials and they are either magnificent or small and exquisite, surrounded by mountains or border on the dangerous cliffs. Therefore, the complex has reached a high harmonious relation between buildings and nature. The complex has strong architectural rhythm and talented creativity. The various plans, structures, decorations and furnishings all come up to a higher technological and artistic achievement.
The building complex in the Wudang Mountains was constructed when Emperor Zhu Di was expanding diplomacy, he advocated Taoism in domestic and inoculated people with the idea that God granted imperial power in order to consolidate his governance. The building complex has an important historical and ideological meaning.
The Jin Hall in the Wudang Mountains and the statues as well as the altars in the hall are all distill gold casted in bronze, the mass of the castings is large and it was casted by using the lost wax process (wax mould) and represents the development of science and technology and the foundry industry in the early Ming Dynasty (15th century).