Wutaishan Guide

Wutaishan Xiantong Temple image of Buddha
The golden Buddha in the Great Hall of the Xiantong Temple at Wutaishan


Wutaishan is one of the four sacred mountains
of Buddhist China and Wutaishan guide takes a visit to the important Buddhist monastery.


The term Wutaishan means five peaks and they consist of five flat-topped mountains surrounding a plateau, and from an early date, the plateau and its surrounding mountains have attracted numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Wutaishan history flourished during the Tang period, the seventh and eighth centuries A.D, though most of them were rebuilt and re-organised during the Ming and early Qing dynasties, in the 14th to 17th centuries AD.

Wutaishan view over town
Wutaishan town has an almost alpine feel to it as can be seen in this view on a misty morning from the car park of the Upper Temple.

At the centre is the rapidly growing town of Taihuai, which has almost an alpine air about. The air is crisp and there are many mountaineering and hill walking facilities, – though interestingly there is a strong influence of Tibetan Buddhism.







Pusading Temple and inscribed stele
One of the halls in the Pusading Temple. Note the yellow tiles forming the roof showing that it was an imperial foundation, for yellow is the imperial colour. Note too one of the many inscribed pillars in the foreground giving details of the visits of the Emperor of the imperial family.

We visited the two temples nearest the town, both linked situated one above the other. We began fortunately at the upper temple so we could walk down to the lower one.


Wutaishan history

The Pusading Temple was a favourite resort of the Kangxi Emperor, who ruled for 61 years from 1654 to 1722, the most long-lived of all the Chinese emperors. He was known as the Great Consolidator, who managed to enlarge the Empire to the greatest extent, and who by bringing peace and security raised China to its greatest prosperity. He and his entourage came to Pusading and stayed there and gave permission for the roofs to be made of yellow tiles which is the Imperial colour.






Wutaishang stairway from Pusading Temple to Xiantong Temple
View from the top of the stairway leading from the Pusading Temple to the Xiantong Temple below with the pagoda of the Tayuan Temple emerging from the mists

The Temple is separated from the lower Temple by a steep flight of stairs.

In the distance one could see peeping out through the mists, there is a third monastery, the Tayuan monastery, with its fine stupa.









Tayuan Temple stupa in Tibetan style
Long distance view of the stupa of the Tayuan Temple

The stupa (tower) is built in Tibetan style, that is, it is bell-shaped.  It lies at the centre of a large monastery with a famous library.












Xiantong Temple Great Hall
The Great Hall of the Xiantong Temple

At the foot of the stairs was the main monastery, the Xiantong Si. This was originally a rather larger establishment, but when in the late Ming (1573 – 1620) it was reorganised, the Tayuan temple and its stupa were separated off as a separate organisation. Here we see the Main Hall, as featured  in Nancy Steinhardt’s  book,  Chinese Architecture







Wutaxiang, Xiantong temple, Bronze Pavillion
The Bronze Pavillion was cast in the Ming as a miniature imitation of a temple hall. The lattice windows on the upper floor and the lower panels of the walls are all cast in perfect imitation of fine timber work. Note the two elaborate Ming bronze pagodas on either side.

Its most interesting aspect is just up a little hill where there is a separate hall with this superb model of a  monastery, built in bronze. The model temple, and its accompanying  model stupas are among the finest examples of the Ming Dynasty bronzework.









Xiangtong bronze Pagoda with bells
Model of a pagoda. Note the bronze bells at the corners

The finest of all is this model stupa, with bells at each of the corners (double click on the  picture to see the  details).



















We only visited the two nearest monasteries, though these were monasteries that have benefited from royal patronage as shown by the yellow room yellow tile roofs. But there are many other remote monasteries, some of which are very early, dating back to the Tang period in the eighth century, making them among the earliest timber surviving timber buildings in China: they survived because of their very remoteness.

But one suspects that not least attraction of Wutaishan is its mountain position  it has pure air –  rare in China – and I suspect that for many the attraction of a long hike through fine scenery, at the end of which is an interesting temple is a considerable attraction.

Certainly the town had an almost a Wild West feeling  about it, a town  that is growing fast in an almost uncontrolled way.

It was an interesting experience.

Source: mostly Blue Guide to China by Frances Wood

On to: Buddhas
7th January 2015