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Sacred Mountains of China

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Title: Sacred Mountains of China  
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Subject: Sacred Mountains of China, Mount Heng (Shanxi), Mount Song, Mount Tai, Mount Longhu
Collection: Buddhism in China, Places of Worship in China, Sacred Mountains of China, Taoism
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Sacred Mountains of China

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,[1] 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.[2] 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) being 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: cháobàishèngshān).


  • Map 1
  • The Five Great Mountains 2
    • East Great Mountain (Dōngyuè): Tài Shān 2.1
    • West Great Mountain (Xīyuè): Huà Shān 2.2
    • South Great Mountain (Nányuè): Héng Shān (Hunan) 2.3
    • North Great Mountain (Běiyuè): Héng Shān (Shanxi) 2.4
    • Center Great Mountain (Zhōngyuè): Sōng Shān 2.5
  • The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism 3
    • Wǔtái Shān 3.1
    • Éméi Shān 3.2
    • Jiǔhuá Shān 3.3
    • Pǔtuó Shān 3.4
  • The Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism 4
    • Wǔdāng Shān 4.1
    • Lónghŭ Shān 4.2
    • Qíyūn Shān 4.3
    • Qīngchéng Shān 4.4
  • See also 5
    • Other mountains with spiritual/religious significance in China 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Map of the great mountains of China

The Five Great Mountains

A Han Dynasty tile emblematically representing the five cardinal directions

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 (475 BC - 221 BC),[3] 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.[1] During the next two thousand years the worship of the five mountains became ingrained in Chinese culture.[1][3] 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.[2] Although these five mountains are not traditionally canonized as having any exclusive religious affiliations, many of them have a strong Taoist presence,[2] thus the five mountains are also grouped by some as part of "Sacred Taoist Mountains".[4] There are also various Buddhist temples and Confucian academies built on these mountains.

East Great Mountain (Dōngyuè): Tài Shān

Chinese: 泰山; "Tranquil Mountain", Shāndōng Province, 1,545 m,

West Great Mountain (Xīyuè): Huà Shān

simplified Chinese: 华山; traditional Chinese: 華山; "Splendid Mountain", Shănxī Province, 1,997 m

South Great Mountain (Nányuè): Héng Shān (Hunan)

Chinese: 衡山; "Balancing Mountain", Húnán Province, 1,290 m,

North Great Mountain (Běiyuè): Héng Shān (Shanxi)

simplified Chinese: 恒山; traditional Chinese: 恆山; "Permanent Mountain", Shānxī Province, 2,017 m,

Center Great Mountain (Zhōngyuè): Sōng Shān

Chinese: 嵩山; "Lofty Mountain", Hénán Province, 1,494 m,

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.[5]

The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism

The Roushen Temple at Jiuhua Shan

The Buddhist "Four Sacred Mountains" in China are:[6][7][8]

Wǔtái Shān

Chinese: 五台山; "Five-Platform Mountain", Shānxī Province, 3,058 m,

Wutai is the home of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri or Wenshu (Traditional: 文殊) in Chinese.

Éméi Shān

Chinese: 峨嵋山; "High and Lofty Mountain", Sìchuān Province, 3,099 m,

The patron bodhisattva of Emei is Samantabhadra, known in Chinese as Puxian (普贤菩萨).

Jiǔhuá Shān

simplified Chinese: 九华山; traditional Chinese: 九華山; "Nine Glories Mountain", Ānhuī Province, 1,341 m,

Many of the mountain's shrines and temples are dedicated to Ksitigarbha (known in Chinese as Dìzàng, Chinese: 地藏, in Japanese as Jizō), who is a bodhisattva and protector of beings in hell realms

Pǔtuó Shān

Chinese: 普陀山; "Mount Potalaka", Zhèjiāng Province, 284 m

This mountain is considered the bodhimanda of Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin), bodhisattva of compassion.

The Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism

The Wudang Mountains

The "Four Sacred Mountains" of Taoism are:[6][9][10]

Wǔdāng Shān

simplified Chinese: 武当山; traditional Chinese: 武當山; northwestern part of Hubei. Main peak: 1612m. .

Lónghŭ Shān

Simplified Chinese: 龙虎山; Traditional Chinese: 龍虎山; literally "Dragon Tiger Mountain", Jiangxi. Main peak: 247.4m.

Qíyūn Shān

simplified Chinese: 齐云山; traditional Chinese: 齊雲山; literally "As High as the Clouds", Anhui. Main peak: 585m.

Qīngchéng Shān

Chinese: 青城山; Dujiangyan, Sichuan. Main peak: 1260m (surveyed in 2007). famous for "The most secluded place in China". .

See also

  • Grotto-heavens, Sacred grottoes, sometimes associated with sacred mountains

Other mountains with spiritual/religious significance in China


  1. ^ a b c Robert Hixson Julyan (1984). Mountain names.  
  2. ^ a b c Eberhard, Wolfram (1986). A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought.  
  3. ^ a b Little, Stephen and Shawn Eichman (2000). Taoism and the Arts of China.  
  4. ^ Pregadio, Fabrizio (2008). The Encyclopedia of Taoism, Volume 1.  
  5. ^ Joan Qionglin Tan (2009): Han Shan, Chan Buddhism and Gary Snyder's Ecopoetic Way, Sussex Academic Press
  6. ^ a b Raj, Razaq and Nigel D. Morpeth (2007). Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Festivals Management: An International Perspective. CABI. p. 108.  
  7. ^ "Sacred Buddhist Mountains in China". Alliance of Religions and Conversation. The four sacred Buddhist mountains of China are believed to be the homes of Boddhisattvas (enlightened beings who have delayed their Nirvana to remain on earth and help others find enlightenment). The mountains are Wu Tai Shan to the north, Emei Shan to the west, the eastern mountain Pu Tuo Shan and Jiu Hua Shan to the south. 
  8. ^ Xi Wen. "A Visit to the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism". China Today. 
  9. ^ """The "Four Sacred Taoist Mountains. Chinese Geographical Culture. 
  10. ^ "Life preserving and refreshing in Wudang". China Daily. 2011-12-02. 

External links

  • Google Maps Pro of 15 Sacred Mountains in China
  • Google Earth Map of both Five and Four Sacred Mountains KMZ File
  • Religion and the environment in China, 中国的宗教与环境 - chinadialogue article, why the five sacred mountains survive in a good ecological state
  • A Report on the Nine Sacred Mountains
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