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Buddhism Origins of Mount Wutai

Time:2016-02-01     Click:Loading   【Print】  【Close


Mount Wutai is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China, along with Mount Putuo in Zhejiang province, Mount Emei in Sichuan province and Mount Jiuhua in Anhui province.

Manjusri is one of the four Bodhisattva in China and is allegedly the teacher of seven Buddha and all Bodhisattva. Manjusri has rich, profound and pithy ideas and the power to eliminate demons and save people from trouble.

The Buddhavatamsaka-Mahavaipulya-Sutra (one of the most influential Mahayana sutras of East Asian Buddhism) from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317–420) recorded that many Buddha stopped at Qingliang Mountain, where Manjusri gave lectures to them. Buddhists in China never doubt Sakyamuni's words and believe that Manjusri lives at Qingliang Mountain. They believe that Mount Wutai is the modern incarnation of Qingliang Mountain due to its cold climate and early temple relics.

Ancient Indians called China "Zhenna" which was interpreted as Zhendan in Buddhist classics. Buddhists believed that Mount Wutai was situated in Northeast China, proving that Wutai was Manjusri's ashram (a spiritual monastery). With the spread of the sutra, all Buddhists in China grew to respect Manjusri in Mount Wutai.

Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) approved Amoghavajra, an Indian Buddhist, to present ideas to him. He also gave the seat of honor to Manjusri at temples nationwide. Li also appointed Samantabhadra and Avalokitesvara as Manjusri's servants, elevating Manjusri above all Bodhisattva. At the same time, Amoghavajra asked the royal court to build Jin'ge Temple at Mount Wutai, sending disciples to supervise the construction. Amoghavajra also asked to establish Manjusri halls and statues at famous temples nationwide as braches of Mount Wutai Manjusri ashram, creating a network of temples centered on where Mount Wutai was formed to promote the Manjusri belief system to the rest of the country and establish Wutai as the birthplace of Manjusri belief.  

Mount Wutai was officially named Manjusri ashram in 787.

The Manjusri belief system developed after the Tang and Song dynasties. Wutai's Manjusri ashram became a national Buddhist temple for lamas in China. Emperors, royal officials, scholars, pilgrims, and devout men and women all developed their belief in Manjusri. Mount Wutai thus has become a popular holy place for Buddhists. People come here to seek protection and blessings.

People have built many temples and palaces in honor of Manjusri at Mount Wutai, such as the Bodhisattva Palace at the top of the mountain and Shuxiang and Manjusri temples. Most of the temples have Manjusri palaces, their size even exceeding that of the great Buddha’s hall.

Manjusri belief is a folk form of Buddhism, just like Maitreya and the Goddess of Mercy. It consists of many myths and legends. There are dozens of relics at Mount Wutai that bear many beautiful stories about Manjusri. Overall, Buddhists believe that everything in Manjusri's golden holy world was created by Manjusri.

With increasing numbers of foreign Buddhists coming to Mount Wutai to pay their respects and conduct cultural exchange, the Manjusri belief system also spread to Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, the ROK, Japan, Hong Kong, the US and Thailand. The Japanese Buddhist Ennin established a Manjusri building and statue at Mount Hiei in the fashion of the Manjusri hall at Mount Wutai's Huayan Temple after he returned from China in the Tang Dynasty. Another Japanese Buddhist named Mount Atago changed the name of Sakya hall into Qingliang Temple after visiting Mount Wutai, hanging a tablet inscribed with the new name on the gate. Even today, the temple still preserves the statue of Manjusri riding an animal during the 10th and 11th century. In addition, many Manjusri statues have been preserved at different temples across Japan. According to recent statistics, there are a total of 19 Manjusri cultural relics that are perfectly preserved in Japan.


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