Mount Wutai

Mount Wutai
Mount Wutai

Mount Wutai from the air
Elevation 3,058 m (10,033 ft)
Translation Five Plateau Mountain (Chinese)
Mount Wutai is located in China
Mount Wutai
Wutai County, Xinzhou city, Shanxi, China
Coordinates 39°04′45″N 113°33′53″E / 39.07917°N 113.56472°E / 39.07917; 113.56472Coordinates: 39°04′45″N 113°33′53″E / 39.07917°N 113.56472°E / 39.07917; 113.56472
Easiest route Hike

Mount Wutai (Chinese: 五台山; pinyin: Wǔtái Shān; literally "Five Plateau Mountain"), also known as Wutai Mountain or Qingliang Shan, is located in Shanxi, China. The mountain is home to many of China's most important monasteries and temples. Mount Wutai is home to 53 sacred monasteries, and they were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.[1]

It takes its name from its unusual topography, consisting of five rounded peaks (North, South, East, West, Central), of which the North peak, called Beitai Ding or Yedou Feng, is the highest, and indeed the highest point in northern China.



Mount Wǔtái is one of the Four Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism. Each of the four mountains are viewed as the abode or place of practice (dàocháng; 道場) of one of the four great bodhisattvas. Wǔtái is the home of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri or Wénshū (文殊) in Chinese.

Wǔtái was the first of the four mountains to be identified and is often referred to as "first among the four great mountains." It was identified on the basis of a passage in the Avatamsaka Sutra (Ch: Húayán jīng; 華嚴經), which describes the abodes of many bodhisattvas. In this chapter, Manjusri is said to reside on a "clear cold mountain" in the northeast. This served as charter for the mountain's identity and its alternate name "Clear Cool Mountain" (Ch: Qīngliáng Shān; 清涼山).

The bodhisattva is believed to frequently appear on the mountain, taking the form of ordinary pilgrims, monks, or most often unusual five-colored clouds.

Mount Wǔtái has an enduring relationship with Tibetan Buddhism.[2]

Mount Wǔtái is home to some of the oldest existent wooden buildings in China that have survived since the era of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). This includes the main hall of Nanchan Temple and the East Hall of Foguang Temple, built in 782 and 857, respectively. They were discovered in 1937 and 1938 by a team of architectural historians including the prominent early 20th century historian Liang Sicheng. The architectural designs of these buildings have since been studied by leading sinologists and experts in traditional Chinese architecture, such as Nancy Steinhardt. Steinhardt classified these buildings according to the hall types featured in the Yingzao Fashi Chinese building manual written in the 12th century.

In 2008, there were complaints from local residents that in preparation for Mount Wutai's bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they were forced from their homes and relocated away from their livelihoods.[3]

Major Temples

Mount Wutai *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Temples in Mount Wutai
Country Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
Type Cultural/natural
Criteria ii, iii, iv, vi
Reference 1279
Region ** Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2009 (33rd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO

Nanshan Temple (Chinese: 南山寺) is a large temple in Mount Wǔtái, first built in the Yuan Dynasty. The whole temple comprises seven terraces, divided into three parts. The lower three terraces are named Jile Temple (极乐寺); the middle terrace is called Shande Hall (善德堂); the upper three terraces are named Youguo Temple (佑国寺). Other major temples include Xiantong Temple, Tayuan Temple and Pusading Temple.

Other important temples inside Mount Wutai include: Shouning Temple, Bishan Temple, Puhua Temple, Dailuo Ding, Qixian Temple, Shifang Tang, Shuxiang Temple, Guangzong Temple, Yuanzhao Temple, Guanyin Dong, Longquan Temple, Luomuhou Temple, Jinge Temple, Zhenhai Temple, Wanfo Ge, Guanhai Temple, Zhulin Temple, Jifu Temple, Gufo Temple, etc.

Outer Mount Wutai temples include: Yanqing Temple, Nanchan Temple, Mimi Temple, Foguang Temple, Yanshan Temple, Zunsheng Temple, Guangji Temple, etc.


The Wutaishan Airport is currently under construction in nearby Dingxiang County, and is expected to open in 2012.

Further Reading

China's Holy Mountain: An Illustrated Journey into the Heart of Buddhism by Christoph Baumer. I.B.Tauris, London 2011. ISBN 9781848857001


  1. ^ China’s sacred Buddhist Mount Wutai inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  2. ^ Tuttle, Gray (2006). 'Tibetan Buddhism at Ri bo rtse lnga/Wutai shan in Modern Times.' Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 2 (August 2006): 1-35. Source: [1] (accessed: Saturday, April 11, 2009)
  3. ^ [2][3]


The Xiantong Temple, a major temple at Mount Wutai
A palace hall at Mount Wutai

External links

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