JIU-HUA MOUNTAIN -
THE SACRED SITE OF
(Since Universe divided into Earth and Sky,
Gṛdhrkūṭa-parvata <![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> split off Jiu-Hua Mountain)
There are four great sacred Buddhist mountains in China (中國佛教四大名山), with each of them being attached to one great Bodhisattva, such as Pu-Duo Mountain (普陀山) located at Zhou-Shan archipelago, Zhé-Jiāng province (浙江省舟山群島) with Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva; Wu-Tai Mountain (五台山) in Wu-Tai district, Shan-Xi province (山西省五台縣), is the sacred site connected to Mañjusri Bodhisattva; Er-Mei Mountain (峨嵋山/E-Mei Mountain) is the place of Sāmantabhadra Bodhisattva, now at Er-Mei-Shan city, Si-Chuan province (四川省峨眉山市); And Jiu-Hua Mountain (九華山) at Qing-Yang district, An-Hui province (安徽省青陽縣), is the place of embodiment of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Here, we just mention Jiu-Hua Mountain, the mountain range that Chinese people considered as the sacred site of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in China.
Today, Jiu-Hua Mountain (九華山) lies twenty kilometers from Northeast of Qing-Yang district, Chi-Zhou town, An-Hui province (安徽省池州府青陽縣), Eastern China. Its original name was Jiu-Zi-Shan (九子山)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, the name is connected to the legend of Nine-Majors from a fish-breeding family in a tug of combat with the black Dragon nine-heads. Jiu-Hua Mountain’s circuit is about hundred miles, which included ninety-nine Alps (peaks). With the hundred miles square area, Jiu-Hua Mountain is full of ridges and peaks, exotic-shaped stones, gushing fountains, roaring waterfalls, and clear streams. Birds accompany the beating of bell and drum. Fog and pines set each other off beautifully. Jiu-Hua Mountain is well-known as "the most picturesque mountain in the Southeast China" (東南第一山).
During the T’ang dynasty, Li-Bai (李白), the famous swan, the great poet of his time, came there to contemplate; Li-Bai was intoxicated with the scene of nine peaks that look like lotus blooms from heaven. Out of admiration, he wrote the following lines in praise of Jiu-Hua Mountain,
"It lies above the Jiu-Jiang River,
Peaks seem enneapetalous lotus, afar,
It looks like green trees hang from Galaxy,
Fair enneapetalous flower was rise bounce on the earth."
Since then the mountain has attracted men of letters through several dynasties, and thus obtained its fame. Jiu-Zi-Shan (九子山) was renamed to became Jiu-Hua-Shan (九華山), means "the Mountain of the Nine Lotuses." Many others also called Jiu-Hua Mountain with another name “Buddha-land of Lotuses” (蓮華佛國).
According to “Jiu-Hua Mountain Guide Book” (九華山導游) by Dong-Ya-Kun (董亚坤), the history of Buddhism at Jiu-Hua Mountain has a recorded history of about 1400 years, which started since Southern Dynasties (420-589 A.D).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The book recorded that, in the year 503 A.D, there was a monk, name Fu-Hu (伏虎), who came to the mountain building a temple called Fu-Hu-Cell (伏虎庵) to practice Meditation. Later, other Buddhist monks also came there for living, however the historical sources show us that, Buddhism was not widespread and profoundly influence at Jiu-Hua. The date of Jīn-Qiao-Jué’s (金喬覺) arrival at Jiu-Hua Mountain is around 650 A.D. During his lifetime, monasteries grew and prospered, monks and nuns thrived. Jiu-Hua Mountain propered to become a Buddhist studies centre, after the death of Jīn-Qiao-Jué. From then on, Jiu-Hua Mountain was considered as the sacred site of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (地藏菩薩道場/Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Bodhimanḍa) by the Chinese people.
The data-point that in the later part of the T’ang dynasty, the Hui-Ch’ang persecution (会昌法難) in 845 by Emperor Wu-Tsung (武宗); in China for one year, virtually the temples were destroyed, monks and nuns were returned to lay life, Holy-texts were burnt, metal objects were confiscated and melted down, etc, Buddhism from then never regained its previous status in Chinese history. Jiu-Hua Mountain was also “in the same boat” to come under decline. The insecurity of Buddhism at Jiu-Hua Mountain continued even during the following dynasties, such as, Five Dynasties period (五代, 907-960), Sung (宋代, 960-1279) and Yuan (元代, 1279-1367), when Buddhism was developed languidness and slowness.
Under the Ming (明代) and Ching Dynasty (清朝), Buddhism was restored, grew and developed supported by many Emperors in succession. Chinese historical sources show that, Chu-Yuan-Chang (朱元璋/Zhu-Yen-Zhang) finally succeeded in overthrowing the Mongol dynasty in 1368, and in its place he established the Ming Dynasty (明代, 1368-1661). Ming-T’ai-Tsu (明太祖/Chu-Yuan-Chang), the first Ming emperor had formerly been a monk in Huáng-Jué Temple (皇覺寺) in An-Hui (安徽),<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> his attitude toward Buddhism was, on the whole, favorable, and he often convened assemblies of monks before whom he lectured on various Buddhist sūtras, such as the Prajñāpāramitā and the Lankāvatāra. During long reign of Ming Emperors, They have three times issued edicts pledging financial support to rebuild Hua-Cheng Temple (化城寺), the oldest temples on the Jiu-Hua Mountain. All the Ming Emperors made their pilgrimage to Jiu-Hua Mountain to worship the sacred site of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, on the 30th of the Seventh lunar month each year. The bright and mettle status of Buddhism in Jiu-Hua Mountain was to continue through the next period of Chinese history, the Manchu/Man-Chou (滿洲) or Ching/Qing Dynasty (清朝-1662-1911). After their conquest of China, the Manchu emperors were also establishing contacts with Buddhism, especially Lamaism. To manifest their support of Lamaism, the early Manchu emperors, especially K’ang-Hsi/Kang-Xi (康熙), made numerous visits personally to four Buddhist great sacred mountains to pay their respects to the four great Bodhisattvas; however, the most frequent was Wu-Tai Mountain (五台山), the sacred site connected to Mañjusri Bodhisattva, the place was also the holy mountain of Lamaism. Historical sources recorded that two Ching emperors, K’ang-Hsi/Kang-Xi (康熙) and Qian-Lung (乾隆), made their pilgrimage to visit the place of embodiment of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, Jiu-Hua Mountain various times. Today, the four handwritten scripts “九華聖境” (Holy Land Jiu-Hua), wrote by Emperor K’ang-Hsi/Kang-Xi while visiting Hua-Cheng Temple (化城寺), are still at display in the Historical Relics Museum of the Jiu- Hua Mountain (九華山历史文物館). Jiu-Hua Mountain’s heyday was during the Ching dynasty (1662-1911), as many as 5000 monks and nuns were living in more than 300 monasteries.
The revolution of 1911 that toppled the Ching/Manchu dynasty and established the Republic of China also brought in its wake number of problems for the Buddhist Sangha in China. Following the political revolution, an intellectual climate was ushered in that was unfriendly to the interests of Buddhism. However, government attacked and criticized Buddhism, political game was played to impose special taxes and contributions being levied on temples, monasteries being appropriated for secular use such as barracks and police stations, tenants on temple land being encouraged not to pay rent, temples had been used as schools, Buddhist images being destroyed, etc,. Buddhism at Jiu-Hua Mountain also hanged by a thread, most of the monasteries and temples were closed and destroyed, monks and nuns were returned to lay life, metal objects were confiscated and melted down, etc,. The destruction, thralldom was abided through many decades.
Since 1980s, Chinese people restored and reconstructed many temples and monasteries on the Jiu-Hua Mountain. Buddhism on Jiu-Hua Mountain was gradually to be come functional again. Break in the clouds seem to be glint. Today, there are about hundred of temples and monasteries built on the hills around Jiu-Hua Mountain with each of them worshipping the statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, which are unique in style and magnificent in architecture, it is comprised of a special temples complex and monastic community. Besides, Jiu-Hua Mountain carrying in it the meaning of the place of embodiment of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva; is also endowed with myriad of springs, streams, waterfalls, grotesque rocks and ancient caves, Jiu-Hua mountain covered with luxuriantly green pines and bamboo groves, and gleaming with crystal-clear waters, it offers enchanting scenery. Therefore, this mountain range not only is the sacred site for heartfelt Buddhists but also for tourists coming there for contemplation. At present about a million travellers come to Jiu-Hua Mountain for pilgrimage every year, especially on the 30th of the Seventh month (Lunar calendar).
Hua-Cheng Temple (化城寺), today is the Historical Relics Museum of the Jiu-Hua Mountain (九華山历史文物館), the oldest and main temple on the mountain. The temple, consisting of four rows of houses, was built on the mountainside. Their door inlets, the window lattices the brackets as well as the beams are elaborately carved. It looks simple and solemn. Its lintels, brackets and roofs all have artistic engravings on them. The picture "nine dragons are playing with pearls" on a panel in the Main Shrine Hall (大雄寶殿) is a consummate piece of ancient Chinese artists. Precious sūtras and other cultural relics in Hua-Cheng and other temples are on display in the Historical Relics Museum of the Jiu-Hua Mountain. The most valuable of all are the Buddhist canonical literature left from the T’ang Dynasty, the Tripitaka left from the Ming Dynasty, and Emperor K’ang-His/Kang-Xi (康熙) and Emperor Qian-Lung's (乾隆) handwritings left from the Ching/Qing Dynasty.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
In the Corporeal Body Hall (應身殿) of Wan-Nian Temple (萬年禪寺) or Bai-Sui Temple (百歳宮) is the mummy of Monk Wu-Xia (无瑕), wearing a lotus-flower-shaped crown and a vermilion "kasaya," and is still well preserved after more than 350 years. Buddhist followers are keen to pay homage to the monk whenever they visit the Mountain. Other attractions include the “Lyke Great Stūpa” or the “Corporeal Body and Treasure Hall” (肉身寶殿) which houses the body of eminent monk Jīn-Qiao-Jué (金喬覺), and the splendid palatial architecture of Zhi-Yuan Temple (祇园禪寺). There are some other well-known monasteries and temples besides, such as, Gan-Lu Monastery (甘露寺), Tian-Tai Temple (天台寺), Tian-Dai Temple (天臺寺), Tian-Qiao Temple (天橋寺), Gu-Bai-Jing-Tai Temple (古拜經台寺), etc,. On 9th September 1999, Jiu-Hua-Shan Buddhist Society started the construction of “The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva 99 meters high copper statue project” (地藏菩薩99米大銅像) in the area of about 6000 square meters, Chinese people hope that this statue will be one of the highest copper Bodhisattva statues around the World.
Jiu-Hua Mountain is not only the Buddhist holy-place but also holds the figure as key of Buddhist studies centre in China. According to the book “A Record of Jiu-Hua mountain” (九華山志), by Liu-Hai-Piao (劉海票)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, downward of time Jiu-Hua Mountain was the place, where many Buddhist schools and Buddhist scholars were active and existed. It is said that, during Jīn-Qiao-Jué’s lifetime and after his death, Jiu-Hua Mountain was a Buddhist studies centre. Downward of time, in the year 1898, Hua-Yan College (華嚴大學) or Hua-Yan Buddhist Centre (華嚴道場) was established at Jiu-Hua Mountain, by Buddhist scholar Yue-Xia (月霞1858-1917); each course was of the duration of three years with the number of students around thirty. On the 30th of the Seventh month in the year 1919, Jiang-Nan Jiu-Hua Buddhist Institute (江南九華佛學院) was opened, the first course was conducted by the Jiu-Hua-Shan Buddhist Society and Department of Education of An-Hui province, this institute was closed in 1935 because of financial crunch. Jiu-Hua-Shan Sangha Prime Training School (九華山僧伽培訓班) came into existence on May of 1985, started by Jiu-Hua-Shan Buddhist Society. On 4th September 1990, Jiu-Hua-Shan Buddhist Studies Institute (九華山佛學院)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> was founded at Gan-Lu Monastery (甘露寺), the Principle was also the President of Jiu-Hua-Shan Buddhist Society, Ven. Shi-Ren-De (釋仁德). Etc.
With the above description mentioned about Jiu-Hua Mountain, it may be noted here that why Chinese saying goes, "Jiu-Hua Mountain is famous not only for its beautiful scenery but also for its holiness and holds the figure as key of Buddhist studies centre of China Buddhist Sangha", and "the most picturesque mountain in the Southeast China" (東南第一山). For me, Jiu-Hua Mountain is the indispensable place while studying about Buddhism in China.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> 胡峻, 九華山的傳說, 黃山書社, China, 1999, p.17.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Translated into English as "Eagle Mountain", "Vulture Peak" etc. The place Buddha preached many Mahāyāna sūtras. A narrow, high mountain located near Rājagraha in the ancient Indian state of Magadha. The name of this mountain was also can be found as 鷲峰 or 靈鷲山.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> 黃國波 & 胡可东, 中國名山旅游, 成都地图出版社, China, 1999.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> 胡峻, 九華山的傳說, 黃山書社, China, 1999, p.2.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> 董亚坤, 九華山導游, 黃山書社, China, 2002, p.2.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Kenneth K.S. Ch’en, Buddhism in China, Princeton University Press, U.S.A., 1964, p. 435.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> At present, Jiu-Hua mountain still preserves over 1500 Buddha statues and more than 1300 pieces of cultural relics like Buddhist scriptures, musical instruments etc.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> 劉海票, 九華山志, 黃山書社, China, 1990, p.148.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> 董亚坤, 九華山導游, 黃山書社, China, 2002, p.19.
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