The Wutai Mountain
In China there are four famous Buddhist shrines: the Emei Mountain in Sichuan(Szechuan)Province; Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui Province, Putuo Mountain in Zhejiang(Chekiang)Province and Wutai Mountain in Shanxi(Shansi)Province. Wutai, as its name indicates, consists of five platform-shaped peaks. Called the East, West, South, North and Central platforms, they stand at altitudes of over2,500 meters above sea Level. North Platform, the tallest of the five, is three thousand meters above sea level, making the Wutai Mountain the tallest in northern China Finger like, projecting skyward, the peaks stand in a ring separating the mountains into outer and Inner Wutai. At the center of Inner Wutai is a small basin the bosom of the mountain.
The mountain climate is cool and pleasant; spring arriving in April and snowfall beginning in August. The“Ten-Thousand- Year Ice Bound Slope”between the North and South Platforms is snow-covered all year round. In the summer the valleys dazzle with wild flowers; brooks babble along in a meandering conversation with the cool breezes. In one of the major forests of Shanxi, there are more than 13 thousand hectares of trees. Wild plants flourish with some l50 medicinal herb species, 130 oil bearing species and“fifty fibre species. The mountains themselves are richly endowed with iron, copper, sulphur and mica. Manganese, lead, phosphorous and gold are also found here. But by far the most abundant natural resource is coal. Indeed, Wutai is one of the eight centers of coal mining in Shanxi.
During the revolutionary war the Wutai Mountain was a base area for the revolutionary army and, during the anti-Japanese war it was the scat of the local people’s government and a sub military command post. However Wutai is also known for its long history.
As a Buddhist shrine Wutai Mountain is a trove of treasured historic relics. Historical records indicate that there were once over two hundred temples here. The first, the Tafu Temple of Divine Vulture, was built here more than l,900 years ago during the Han dynasty. Ravages of war weather and neglect over the years brought many of the temples to a state of ruins with only a few dozen remaining by l949. The People’s Government, greatly concerned about the protection of the nation’s cultural past,set up a special office at Wutai and appropriated funds to restore the temples. Buddhist sculptures, the windows, doors and walls were repaired and repainted bringing these ancient structures to their former grandeur.
In the bosom of Wutai, among a cluster of temples stands an enormous white dagoba. Erected off a magnificent base, the circular dagoba is seventy meters high and topped by a round copper plate on which stands a 5-meter high copper vase Bells. 1arge and small, hang from the edge of the plate and jingle and ring pleasantly in the breeze. In the 15th century during the Ming dynasty when the dagoba was under renovation, the Dagoba Temple was built to stand with it. Behind the Dagoba Temple is the l900—year old Dafu Temple of Divine Vulture. Throughout the long history of this temple it has undergone renovation and reconstruction so that today the structure is primarily of Ming and Qing architecture. In the Ming dynasty the name was changed to the Temple of Revelation. The buildings are placed in perfect symmetry; four hundred halls and rooms stand on a total of eight hectares. It ls the largest among the existing temples of the Wutai Mountain. The most stunning of the halls is the Bronze Hall. Over three meters high, the tiles, walls, doors, and windows, indeed the entire room, are cast in bronze. Bronze flowers and figures in relief decorate the doors and windows. Thousands of sculptures of small Buddhas line the walls. Standing in front of the hall are two l3-tiered bronze pagodas each six meters in height. The superb architecture and workmanship of this hall are a monument to the skill of the craftsmen and laborers of ancient China.
On a slope amidst a grove of trees, sits the Temple of Buddha’s Halo. There are buildings preserved here which are older than the Dagoba and the Temple of Revelation. Construction began during tile Northern Wei dynasty(386-534) and The most famous of its halls, the Hall of the Great Buddha, is in a style unique to the Tang dynasty. A magnificent wooden structure the hall is decorated with murals of faces and figures painted in the style of the earlier Han dynasty.