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World Cultural Landscape Heritage: Mount Wutai

Editor: zhenglimin 丨CCTV.com

07-08-2015 16:28 BJT

 

Prosperous periods in history

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Mount Wutai’s Buddhism stepped into its first prosperous period. The Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty greatly extended the Lingjiu Temple and also built another 12 temples around it, including the Shanjing Temple and Zhenrong Temple. In the Northern Qi Dynasty, the number of Mount Wutai’s temples increased to over 200. In the Sui Dynasty, the Emperor Wen built five temples on the five peaks, which were the Wanghai Temple on the Eastern Peak, Puji Temple on the Southern Peak, Falei Temple on the Western Peak, Lingying Temple on the Northern Peak and Yanjiao Temple on the Central Peak. Since Mount Wutai was the place where the Bodhisattva Manjusri gave lectures, the Bodhisattva Manjusri was worshipped in all five temples on the five peaks. However, he had five different titles. In the Wanghai Temple it was the Wise Manjusri, in the Puji Temple it was the Intelligent Manjusri, in the Falei Temple it was the Lion Manjusri, in the Lingying Temple it was the Spotless Manjusri, and in the Central Temple it was the Childish Manjusri. From then on, all the people who journeyed to Mount Wutai to worship would go to the five temples to pay their respects. At that time, the name Mount Wutai had frequently appeared in historical books of the Northern Qi Dynasty.

In the glorious age of the Tang Dynasty, Mount Wutai’s Buddhism developed to its second prosperous period. According to the “Legend of Ancient Qiliang,” the mountain had over 300 temples and over 3,000 monks at that time, and Mount Wutai was not only a renowned Buddhist mountain but also a sacred Buddhist land in China, and was known as the head of China’s Four Famous Buddhist Mountains.

It was in the Tang Dynasty when Mount Wutai started to become a sacred Buddhist land and had influence on the whole world’s Buddhism. The Tang Dynasty was a key period in the development history of Mount Wutai’s Buddhism

The glorious Tang Dynasty originated from Taiyuan, and therefore it regarded Mount Wutai as the “moral origin of the ancestors.” When Li Yuan was raising troops to revolt against the Sui Dynasty, he made a wish in front of the Buddha: If he could become the emperor, he would greatly spread the Buddhist spirit. In the Wude second year (619 A.D.), Li gathered senior monks in the capital, and set 10 virtues to administrate Buddhist affairs. After the Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty succeeded to the throne, he revived the cause of Buddhist scripture translations and appointed Prabhakaramitra to take charge. He also tonsured 3,000 monks and built many temples in the old battlefields. In the Zhenguan ninth year (635 A.D.), the Emperor Taizong gave an order, “Mount Wutai was the old residence of the Bodhisattva Manjusri and is a sacred place. It is close to Taiyuan and is the moral origin of our ancestors. Therefore, people must not commit blasphemy towards it.” In that year, 10 temples were built in Mount Wutai and hundreds of new monks were tonsured.

In the battle of seizing the throne, the Empress Wu Zetian attached great importance to the function of the Buddhism. In the Changshou second year (693 A.D.), the celebrated monks including Bodhiruci presented the newly-translated “Baoyu Sutra,” claiming that a female Bodhisattva had appeared in order to whip up public opinion for Wu Zetian’s succession. In the Zhengsheng first year (695 A.D.), the Empress Wu Zetian ordered Bodhiruci and Shikshananda to re-translate the “Avatamsaka Sutra” and the translation was completed in the Shengli second year (699 A.D.). The newly-translated “Avatamsaka Sutra” said, “there is a mountain in the northeastern region named Qiangliang Mountain where many Bodhisattvas once lived. At present, the Bodhisattva Manjusri often gives lectures to 10,000 followers in this mountain.” In Chang’an second year (702 A.D.), Wu Zetian claimed that her soul visited the five peaks of the Mount Wutai, and ordered people to re-build the representative temple of Mount Wutai, named the Qingliang Temple. After the temple was completed, she appointed the master Da De Gan as the abbot of the temple and conferred him the title of “Kaiguogong of the Changping County who enjoyed a high-level treatment and was in charge of the Buddhist affairs of the capital.”

This was the beginning of Mount Wutai’s development into a dominant place in China’s Buddhism as well as a renowned mountain and a sacred land under the feudal rulers’ control.

According to records, from the Emperor Taizong to Emperor Dezong of the Tang Dynasty, “all the nine emperors had regularly visited Mount Wutai and worshipped the Bodhisattva. They were very devout and always held ceremonies seriously.” Obviously, all the emperors from the Emperor Taizong to Emperor Dezong of the Tang Dynasty quite encouraged and had greatly supported Mount Wutai’s Buddhism.

Regarding Buddhist scriptures, the newly-translated “Avatamsaka Sutra” mentions that the Bodhisattva Manjusri’s residence was called the Qingliang Mountain. Furthermore, the “Bodhisattva Manjusri Prajna Sutra” also records that “the Buddha told the warrior attendant: to the Southeast of this continent (India), there is a country named Da Zhen Na (China). In the country there is a mountain named Five-Peak (Wutai). It is the place where the Bodhisattva Manjusri lives and gives lectures to believers.”

Since the Bodhisattva Manjusri’s residence of the “Qingliang Mountain” or “Five-Peak” described in the Buddhist scriptures was quite similar to Mount Wutai in all aspects including appearance, climate and environment, all the Buddhists of the world have regarded this five-peak Mount Wutai with a comfortable climate as the real residence of the Bodhisattva Manjusri in their illusory world. For this reason, Mount Wutai is renowned all over the world and has become a sacred land for Buddhists to worship. Without question, Mount Wutai’s prosperity and international fame is closely connected with the prosperous Tang Dynasty.

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