Mount Wutai sacred mountain of Buddhism

Mount Wutai Xinzhou Shanxi
Mount Wutai, the first of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism, is a remarkable site with its many sights and the richness of its temples and monasteries. This World Heritage cultural landscape offers unparalleled serenity with its monasteries spread over the mountain to five flat peaks.

First of the Four Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism 

Before the Buddhism was introduced to China, two Indian Buddhist masters who were invited by the first Han emperor to promote dharma in China discovered this place that would be identical to the Vulture Peak on which Sakyamuni had taught the lotus sutra in India. Then, the first emperor of Han heard this information and the first temple was built on Mont Wutai in 68 A.D. Mount Wutai soon became a place of pilgrimage where some 200 temples and monasteries were built. Mount Wutai is also called Mount Qingliang (Clear Cool Mountain), this name contributes to Mount Wutai to become one of the four sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. Indeed, in a former story, it is said that Mount Qingliang was the residence of Manjusri Bodhisattva. The story said Mont Qingliang was the main place for Manjushri Bodhisattva to teach Buddhism and living. Today Mount Wutai is the first sacred mountain of Chinese Buddhism, which leaves the Putuo Mountain in Zhejiang, Mount Emei in Sichuan and Mount Jiuhua in Anhui behind.

A Mountain with Five Flat Peaks

The name Mount Wutai literally means "Five Terrace Mountain" but a more realistic translation would be Five Flat Peaks. Indeed, the site consists of steep slopes and bare five peaks whose top is pretty flat. With its northern Yedou peak, which reaches upward of 3,058 meters high, Mount Wutai is the highest point in northern China.

Village Taihuai

Amidst the valleys of the Mount Wutai Area, there is the village of Taihuai. Being particularly difficult to access (5 hours minimum driving from Datong), this small monastic village is mainly inhabited by monks, llamas and pilgrims. The population of the area may be around 2,000 which are consist of four ethnic groups, Han, Mongolian, Tibetan and Tujia. A multitude of old temples are also built inside the village and the surrounding slopes.

The Most Popular Temples

At the height of Buddhism, Mount Wutai housed about 300 temples and monasteries. Today, UNESCO recognized 41 in the list of World Heritage. The main temple is the symbol of the Mount is Tayuan Temple. It is above the skyline of the Taihuai village with its Great White Pagoda wearing about 250 bells. This pagoda is actually a 50-meter high Sarira Stupa and is one of 84,000 sariras left by Sakyamuni.

Other temples of Mount Wutai are also important. Many visitors are particularly fond of Xiantong Temple. This temple is the largest temple of the Mount as well as the earliest Buddhist temples in China. Among the 400 pieces of this huge temple, the bronze hall is outstanding; it consists of an entire area of bronze treasures; whereas one can admire a bronze statue of Manjusri 10,000 bronze figures.

The Pusading Temple is the most complete temple of Mount Wutai. Former home of the Tibetan Yellow Hats and then popularize the temple among the imperial family. It soon became the worship place of the Bodhisattva of Manjushri.

It is also interesting to discover the Buddhist legends over 500 statues of Shuxiang Temple. The Foguang Temple contains numerous sculptures quantities made of nature clay. Nicknamed 1st treasure of China by archaeologist Liang Sicheng, this site is one of three places where the Tang architecture is still visible in China, whereas all the other buildings of the time having gone. The Luohou Temple has a large lotus flower on wooden petals, which is a Buddhist sculpture.

Each temple has its particularity and, of course, all are worth a look. Cited here are some of the most interesting temples. A visit to Mount Wutai is, therefore, does not necessarily need to include all these temples, considering that you have a choice of the ones that you prefer.

  • Best time to visit

    Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. 
  • Altitude

    3 058M Altitude Mount Wutai
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