Shanxi Province, 327km SW of Beijing, 210km S of Datong, 238km N of Taiyuan
Wutai Shan is one of the Four Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism and, in Buddhist lore, the earthly residence of the great bodhisattva Manjusri (Wenshu in Chinese).
The mount Wutai or "Five Platforms or Abode" is actually a cluster of mountains, each of the rounded peaks has a temple and is viewed as the abode or place of practice of one of the four great bodhisattvas. The North peak is the highest and indeed the highest point in northern China.
Nuns, monks, and lamas from different orders and from all over China, Japan, Nepal, and Thailand come to Wutai Shan in the summer -- some to climb the five terraces, others to simply take part in the many temple activities.
Mount Wutai 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 Monastery and the East Hall of Fuguang Monastery, 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 Chinese authorities hope that the shrine at Mount Wutai will be considered for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
* Visit the so called the first among the Four Buddhist Mountains in China
* Escape the summer heat to the cluster of misty mountains with spectacular views.
* Appreciate the oldest existent wooden buildings and traditional architectural designs in China that have survived since the era of the Tang Dynasty.
Summer is the best time to visit -- when Wutai Shan offers an escape from the heat and humidity of lower climes. In July and August, the average temperature is only about 10°C, with warm days and cool nights. Even in June, snow is not unheard of.
Day 1. Beijing / Wutai Shan
We will drive 4-5 hours and arrive at Taihuai County, Shanxi for lunch. In the afternoon, we will take a walk in the village-like township and encounter a variety of people it attracts. The mountain also has a special religious significance for Tibetan Buddhists and so attracts Tibetan monks, nuns, and laypeople from all over China. Ask around and you will usually learn of some mass gathering in one or another of the temples. Alms meals (dazhai) for the nuns and monks (paid for by wealthy patrons to amass good karma) take place frequently all summer.
We head to the Xiantong Si Temple in Taihuai County, which is the largest and one of the oldest of the temples at Wutai Shan. It was first built in A.D. 68; the surviving halls date from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Climb the belfry for a commanding view of the town and mountains. Tong Dian (Bronze Hall) in the temple is lined with thousands of miniature statues said to symbolize the myriad bodhisattvas to whom Manjusri read the Buddhist scriptures while he lived on Wutai Shan. The bronze roof and outside structures are remarkable for their flawless imitation of timber construction and wood design.
Next to it is Tayuan Si, easily recognized by its tall white pagoda which dominates Taihuai's skyline and has become the symbol of Wutai Shan. A smaller pagoda is said to contain strands of Manjusri's hair. Equally famed is the two-story Sutra Library in Tayuan Si. Later we walk to Suxiang Si, which enshrines the largest Wenshu Boddhisattva statue.
We have a vegetarian dinner and stay overnight in the Flower & Plant Villa.
Day 2. Wutai Shan / Beijing
We start the day with visiting the highest peak (by cable car) and monastery on the summit - the "North Platform" (the north rounded peak), and view the whole Wutai Mountain area, and then visit the "East Platform" (east peak). After lunch, we drive back to Beijing (arrival around 19:00-20:00).
- Overnight tour to Datong (Grottoes, Hanging Monastery)
- Pingyao Town - Raise the Red Lantern
- Datong (Grottoes) & Pingyao (Fortress Town)
- Shanxi's Laoniuwan Village by Yellow River and Great Wall
- 3-day Tour to Datong (Grottoes) & Xi'an (Terracotta Warriors)
- Wutai Shan - The First Among the Four Great Mountains