The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Sacred Mountains of China
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The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into several groups. The Five Great Mountains (simplified Chinese: 五岳; traditional Chinese: 五嶽; pinyin: Wǔyuè) refers to five of the most renowned mountains in Chinese history, and they were the subjects of imperial pilgrimage by emperors throughout ages. Although not traditionally categorized as either Taoist or Buddhist mountains, these five mountains have a strong presence of both, especially that of Taoism. The group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism (Chinese: 四大佛教名山), and the group associated with Taoism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism (Chinese: 四大道教名山).
The sacred mountains have all been important destinations for pilgrimage, the Chinese expression for pilgrimage (simplified Chinese: 朝圣; traditional Chinese: 朝聖; pinyin: cháoshèng) is a shortened version of an expression which means "paying respect to a holy mountain" (simplified Chinese: 朝拜圣山; traditional Chinese: 朝拜聖山; pinyin: cháobài shèng shān).
The Five Great Mountains or Wu Yue are arranged according to the five cardinal directions of Chinese geomancy, which includes the center as a direction. The grouping of the five mountains appeared during the Warring States Period, and the term of Wu Yue (Five Summit) was made famous during the reign of Emperor Wudi of the Western Han Dynasty 140-87 BC. During the next two thousand years the worship of the five mountains became ingrained in Chinese culture. The five mountains are among the best-known natural landmarks in Chinese history, and since the early periods in Chinese history, they have been the ritual sites of imperial worship and sacrifice by various emperors. Although these five mountains are not traditionally canonized as having any exclusive religious affiliations, many of them have a strong Taoist presence, thus the five mountains are also grouped by some as part of "Sacred Taoist Mountains". There are also various Buddhist temples and Confucian academies built on these mountains.
South Great Mountain (Nányuè): Héng Shān (Hunan)
Chinese: 衡山; ; "Balancing Mountain", Húnán Province, 1,290 m, 27.254798°N 112.655743°E
North Great Mountain (Běiyuè): Héng Shān (Shanxi)
Chinese: 嵩山; ; "Lofty Mountain", Hénán Province, 1,494 m, 34°29′5″N 112°57′37″E
Alternatively, these mountains are sometimes referred to by the respective directions, i.e., as the "Northern Great Mountain" (北嶽/北岳 Běi Yuè), "Southern Great Mountain" (南嶽/南岳 Nán Yuè), "Eastern Great Mountain" (東嶽/东岳 Dōng Yuè), "Western Great Mountain" (西嶽/西岳 Xī Yuè), and "Central Great Mountain" (中嶽/中岳 Zhōng Yuè).
According to Chinese mythology, the Five Great Mountains originated from the body of Pangu (盤古/盘古 Pángǔ), the first being and the creator of the world. Because of its eastern location, Mount Tài is associated with the rising sun which signifies birth and renewal. Due to this interpretation, it is often regarded as the most sacred of the Five Great Mountains. In accordance with its special position, Mount Tài is believed to have been formed out of Pangu's head. Mount Heng in Hunan is believed to be a remainder of Pangu's right arm, Mount Heng in Shanxi of his left arm, Mount Song of his belly, and Mount Hua of his feet
The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism
Chinese: 五台山; "Five-Platform Mountain", Shānxī Province, 3,058 m, 39°04′45″N 113°33′53″E
Chinese: 峨嵋山; ; "High and Lofty Mountain", Sìchuān Province, 3,099 m, 29°31′11″N 103°19′57″E