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World Cultural Landscape Heritage: Mount Wutai

Editor: zhenglimin 丨CCTV.com

07-08-2015 16:28 BJT

 

Buddhism was very popular during the Tang Dynasty, especially the Manjusri Bodhisattva who was highly respected by Buddhists. There was a rule during the Tang Dynasty that all temples in the country must worship the statue of the Manjusri Bodhisattva in their dining halls. As the government and the public all worshiped the Manjusri Bodhisattva and considered Mount Wutai as the holy land of Buddhism, Mount Wutai became unprecedentedly prosperous and cultivated many famous monks, and Cheng Guan was one of the prominent representatives.

Cheng Guan (738 to 839) was from Yuezhou’s Shanyin (Shaoxing of Zhejiang Province), and his family name was Xiahou and his first name was Daxiu before he became a monk. He became a monk in the Baolin Temple of Yingtian when he was 11 years old and received the tonsure ceremony when he was 14 years old. He made an oath to travel around Mount Wutai and visit all temples there when he was 39 years old. He stayed at the Great Huayan Temple to study and teach the Hua-yen Sutra for five years after visiting all famous temples of Mount Wutai. Afterwards, Cheng thought that the old comments of the Hua-yen Sutra were too complex. Therefore, he planned to make new comments for the Hua-yen Sutra. Cheng put himself in the Zhishu Pavilion of the Great Huayan Temple and began to make new comments for the Hua-yen Sutra on April, 8, 784, the first year of the Xingyuan under the reign of Tang Dezong. On Nov. 5, 787, the third year of Zhenyuan under the reign of Tang Dezong, the 60-volume “Dafangguangfo Comments of the Hua-yen Sutra” was eventually completed. Tang Daizong even saluted Cheng as a teacher during his reign, and Tang Dezong also called him a “Professor Monk” and gave him the title of “State Master Monk” as well as listed him in the list of Buddhist masters. Tang Xianzong even gave him a golden seal to allow him to command all monks in the country and be responsible for Buddhist affairs. Both Tang Muzong and Tang Jingzong respected Cheng and gave him the title of “Dazhao State Master Monk.” In the fifth year of Taihe under the reign of Tang Wenzong, the Emperor received Xinjie from Cheng, and in the first year of Kaicheng, the Emperor bestowed Cheng crops, wealth and food for Cheng’s 100-year-old birthday and conferred him as the “Datong State Master Monk.” Government officials also respected him and saluted Cheng with eight commandments of etiquette.

Cheng served under nine emperors and was considered as a teacher by seven emperors. He died at the age of 102 in 839, the fourth year of Kaicheng under the reign of Tang Wenzong, and when Cheng was died, Tang Wenzong did not even go to court for three days. He also ordered government officials to dress in white mourning dresses and held a solemn funeral for Cheng. Cheng was regarded as the “Fourth Progenitor of the Hua-yen School.” Mount Wutai cultivated a large number of famous monks and this is also an important mark on the formation of the Buddhist Holy Land Mount Wutai.

Another mark on the formation of the Buddhist Holy Land Mount Wutai is the large-scale construction of Buddhist temples and the increase of monks. There were more than 70 grand scale Buddhist temples in Mount Wutai during the Tang Dynasty.

The number of monks was increasing as the establishment and expansion of Buddhist temples. There were a total of about 10,000 monks and nuns in Mount Wutai during the Zhenyuan period under the reign of Tang Dezong. However, the prosperity and development of Buddhist temples also had a significant negative impact on social politics and economy. Therefore, Tang Wenzong released an order to abrogate Buddhism and demolish temples, and ordered monks and nuns to resume secular life in 854, the fifth year of Huichang under the reign of Tang Wenzong. A total of more than 44,600 various temples were demolished nationwide and more than 260,000 monks and nuns returned to secular life, and tens of millions hectares of land were taken back by the government.

Mount Wutai also did not escape from misfortune. Monks in Mount Wutai would run away and temples on the Mount Wutai were all damaged. However, Buddhism became popular again after Tang Xuanzong took the throne. The government formulated the number of monks in Mount Wutai at 5,000 people. In fact, the actual number of monks including privately tonsured monks and traveling monks was much more than 5,000 people. The number of monks in Mount Wutai during Tang Dynasty was the most in all of history. The great number of temples and monks is also a mark on the formation of the Buddhist Holy Land Mount Wutai.

Another mark on the Buddhist Holy Land Mount Wutai during Tang Dynasty is that foreign Buddhists highly respected Mount Wutai and emulated worshipped towards it. As the Tang Dynasty had a prosperous economy and a puissant national power, it enjoyed a high international reputation and was the center of economic and cultural exchanges between various Asian countries. Mount Wutai was also respected and admired by Buddhists from many countries such as India, Japan, Korea and Sri Lanka as the expansion of its international exchanges. A large number of foreign monks also made pilgrimage to Mount Wutai to learn and study Buddhism.

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