Pilgrimage to Mount Wutai
Mount Wutai, better known as Wutaishan or Five Peaked Mountain, is a sacred Buddhist mountain located in Shanxi Province, China. Mount Wutai is identified by its five flat-topped peaks which are strongly believed to be the earthly abodes of Lord Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom. Each peak is inhabited by a different form of Manjushri.
On the south peak resides the white form of Manjushri called Jvanasattva（智慧文殊菩萨）. On the peak itself, there is a temple called Puji Temple (普济寺) where they house the Jvanasattva statue. On the West Peak there is Falei Temple (法雷寺) where Vādisiṁha（狮子吼文殊菩萨), Manjushri seated on a lion, resides. On the Central peak resides a form of Manjushri wielding a sword called Manjushri Natha（孺童文殊菩萨）, and Yanjiao Temple（演教寺）is located on this peak. Then, on the North peak resides a form of Manjushri called Vimala（无垢文殊菩萨）. The North peak is the highest peak among all five peaks, towering at a height of 3,058 metres above sea level. Ling Ying temple（灵应寺）is located on this peak and houses a statue depicting Manjushri in this form. Finally, on the East peak resides Four-Armed Manjushri called Manjughosa Tiksna（聪明文殊菩萨）, and the East peak is where Wanghai temple is located.
On Mount Wutai, there are over 53 sacred Buddhist monasteries and among them, the Chinese temples outnumber the Tibetan and Mongolian temples. Throughout history, there has been much recorded Tibetan involvement with the mountain. The famous Tibetan scholar Buton Rinchen Drub in his writings Bde gshegs bstan pa’i gsal byed chos kyi ’byung gnas, stated that the first Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo went to Mount Wutai and built 108 temples there while another Tibet king, Trisong Detsen, himself came to be considered as an emanation of Manjushri. In depictions of Trisong Detsen, we can clearly see the inclusion of Manjushri’s implements, the book and the sword, above his shoulders. Trisong Detsen’s most significant work was to build the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, as a great contribution to the flourishing of Buddhism in his country.
The Tibetans believe that Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen was another Manjushri emanation on earth who also visited Mount Wutai during his time. According to Tibetan history, a miniature Mount Wutai was recreated in Phari. The site, complete with five peaks, was located just south of Liangzhou, Gansu Province where Sakya Pandita passed away. Sakya Pandita built and founded the monastery Drakgön Chokga Ling in 1246 on this site, praising the location as being as beautiful as Mount Wutai. He even described the site as being a branch of Wutai.
Mount Wutai is also closely connected with one of China’s most benevolent rulers, Emperor Kangxi himself. Kangxi, who sponsored the Mongolian translation of the Kangyur (1718 – 1720), is referred to as an emanation of Manjushri in the preface of the translation:
“Then Mañjuśrī, the savior of all living forms, [with the] intellect of all the Buddhas, was transformed into human form, and ascended the Fearless Lion Throne of gold; and this was none other than the sublime Emperor Kangxi-Mañjuśrī who assisted and brought joy to the entire vast world…”
Emperor Kangxi personally visited Mount Wutai at least five times, an extraordinary number for an emperor. His frequent visits to Mount Wutai reflected the close relationship that existed between the new Manchu sovereigns and Manjushri. In pictorial records of Kangxi’s trips to Mount Wutai, depictions of Kangxi and Manjushri are subtly conflated. In the image below for example, the act of the Emperor slaying a tiger is equated with Manjushri’s subjugation of poisonous dragons in subduing the land.
The above are just a few examples of how important Tibetan figures have had a connection with Mount Wutai over the centuries.
Recently Julia Tan and I had the great opportunity to visit Mount Wutai. Although it was a short one-day visit, we were grateful to have the opportunity. Due to time restrictions, we were only able to visit a few Gelug monasteries such as Luohou Temple, Guang Ren Monastery (Lamasery), Pusa Ding (Pusa Temple) and Puji Temple. We recount some of them below for you and hope you will enjoy reading about them, and perhaps even be inspired to visit them. With so many holy sites dedicated to Manjushri, Mount Wutai is a definitely must-visit holy site for all Buddhists who wish to plant the seeds to develop wisdom.
Built during Tang Dynasty, Luohou Temple was initially a Chinese temple. It was not until the Qing Dynasty when it was converted into a Gelug monastery, making Luohou Temple one of the 10 famous Gelug monasteries on Mount Wutai. Since ancient times, Luohou Temple has been known for being one of the more well-kept monasteries and is a must-visit temple for pilgrims travelling to Mount Wutai.
Guang Ren Monastery
Guang Ren Monastery is just right next to Luohou Temple. Although this monastery is smaller in scale compared to many other monasteries, they have quite complete facilities. For example, Guang Ren Monastery has an art department and a department dedicated to Tibetan medicine, as well as a hostel for tourists or practitioners who wish to stay over in Mount Wutai.
In Guang Ren Monastery, the precious Kangyur (the spoken words of the Buddha) can be found taking pride of place in their Manjushri Chapel.
During the time of Emperor Kangxi, it was said that Kangxi visited Mount Wutai at least five times. This monastery existed during his time, having first been built in 1705 and later rebuilt and restored in 1952.
According to a resident Buddhist teacher, there are two summer palaces specially built for His Holiness the Panchen Lama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama located on the left and right side of the building. Many of the sangha in Guang Ren Monastery come from Labrang Monastery, one of the largest and most influential monasteries in Amdo, Tibet.
Pusa Ding Monastery
Pusa Ding, which is the largest and most complete Gelug monastery on Mount Wutai, sits at the highest point of Central Peak, better known as Vulture Peak. The most glorious period of the monastery was during the Qing dynasty when it was converted into a Tibetan monastery (lamasery) by Emperor Shunzi in 1656. In order to gain the faith of Tibetan and Mongolian sangha and practitioners, Emperor Kangxi bestowed the title of “Provincial Commander-in-chief” to the monastery’s senior lama and ordered the whole state of Shanxi to allocate contributions to the monastery. All lama temples then came under the influence of Pusa Ding, because the Imperial authority had given them the highest leading position of the region.
Over the centuries, the monastery has provided accommodation for Qing Emperors, Mongolian warlords and Tibetan lamas whenever they have travelled to Mount Wutai for pilgrimage. Whenever His Holiness the Panchen Lama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Mount Wutai, they would stop by here to give Buddhist discourses. One such example was in 1980, when the 10th Panchen Lama gave a teaching here.
South Peak – Puji Temple
Puji Temple is the main temple on this plateau. It houses the white form of Manjushri Jvanasattva. The temple is made of stone, surrounded by prayer flags and wild flowers in the meadows.
- Wutai shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain by Karl Debreczeny
For more interesting information:
- Emperor Kangxi / 康熙皇帝
- Excellent Travelogue of holy places in Tibet
- Nepal Pilgrimage full videos
- Why Visit Holy Pilgrimages?
- David’s Pilgrimage to India
- Making Offerings to Shar Gaden Monastery
Please support us so that we can continue to bring you more Dharma:
If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team