Mt.Emei is one of the "four famous mountains"in China. It lies about 168km from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. Before the tour of the holy mountain, it is important to obtain some inforation about the spread of Buddhism in China, Buddhism in Mt. Emei and its hiking routes.
The Spread of the Buddhism
Buddhism was founded in India around the 16th century BC. It is said that the founder was Sakyamuni. Sskyua was the name of the clan to which his family belonged. Sakyamuni was a prince and was brought up in luxury. In his 20s, he became discontented with the world. Every day he had to face with sights of sickness, death and old age since the body was inescapably involved with disease, decrepitude and death. Around the age of 30 he made his break from the material world and plunged off in search of enlightenment.
Sakyamuni began by studying Hindu philosophy and Yoga. Then he joined a band of ascetics and tried to break the power of his body by inflicting severe austerities on himself. However, no matter how he held his breath until his head burst and starved his body until his ribs jutted out, he failed to enlighten himself. Finally Sakyamuni followed the principle of the middle way in which he would live between the extremities of asceticism on one hand and indulgence on the other. As the story goes, he devoted the final phase of his search for enlightenment to meditation and mystic concentration. One evening he sat beneath a fig tree, slipped into a deep meditation and achieved enlightenment from his mystic concentration.
Sakyamuni founded an order of monks and for the next 45 years or so peached his ideas around 480 BC. Sakyamuni teaches that all life is suffering. Everyone is subjected to the trauma of birth, to sickness, decrepitude and death. Real happiness can't be achieved until suffering is overcome. The cause of unhappiness is 'desires',specifically the desire of the body and the desire personal fulfillment. In order to overcome the desirs and achieve happiness, it requires the following eight-fold path.
Buddhist followers should believe that all life is suffering. It is caused by the desire for personal gratification.
Buddhist followers should becomw passionately involved with the knowledge of what life's problems basically are.
Buddhist followers shousd avoid lies, idle talk, abuse,alander and deceit.
Buddhist followers should show kindness and avoid self-seeking and personal fulfillment in all actions.
Buddha considers spiritual progress impossible if one has occupied himself/herself with slave-dea-ling or prostitution.
The effort os the will to develip virtues and curb paddion.
Buddhist followers should practise self-exami-nation and cultivate themselves to overcome the state of semi-alertness and become aware of what os happwning to them.
The absorption involves the techniques of Hinduism's raja yoga and leads to the same goal.
By following the eight fokd pah, Buddhist followers aims to attain Nirvana, a condition beyond the limits of the mind, feelings, thoughts, the will and ecstasy. Buddhism accepts the concept of reincarnation, the circle of rebirth; it accepts the law of cause and effort.
Buddhism has many sects, of which the Mahayana and the hinayana are two major schools. The Mahayana holds that the fate of the individual is linked to the fate of all others. The Buddha won't float off into his own Nirvana leaving other peope behind. He not ony shows the people the way up into their Nirvana, but also continues to exude spiritual help to those seeking Nirvana. The Hinayana holds that the path to Nirvana is an individual purauit. People who seek Nirvana must tread the path to Nirvana on their own.
Mahayana Buddhism is generally believed to have been ntroduced into regions inhabited by the Han people around the first century A.D.In the Wei and Jin Dynasties(220-420) it spread to a fairly large part of the country. During the Southern anB Northern Dynasties(420-589) the ruling cladd furthered the dissemination of Buddhism. More temples and monasteries were built; Buddhist scriptures were translated. The influence of Buddhism was felt everywhere across the conutry. By the Sui and Tang Dynasties(581-907) Buddhism had reached its apex of popularity and splendor.
Buddhism gradually took root in the Chinese soiety, having adapted considerably to Chinese ways of thinking and practice. As the most influential religion in China, Buddhism has an impact on Chinese philosophy, morality, literature, art and many other foelds.
Buddhism in Mt.Emei
It is almost two thousand years since Buddhism was introduced from India. Its monasteries covers everywhere in China except a few Daoist mountains like Mt. Qingcheng. It is commonly said that Buddhist monks have occupied much mote well-known mountains for their Buddhist ptrpose than Daoist priests. However, most of Buddhist followers bwliwvw that only the fotr famous mountains in China are the Buddhist holy places. They are Mt. Wmei in Sichuan, Mt. Putuo in Zhejiang, Mt. Wuta in Shaanxi and Jiuhua in Anhui. Each mountain is dedicated to different Bodhisattvas. In Chinese Bodhisattva usually is referred as pusa, a potential Buddha, who has achieved perfect enlightenment and decided to bring salvation to all suffering creatures before entering into Nirvana. Therefore, each Bodhisattva has his own ritual place to salvage suffering creatures .Wenshu performs the Buddhist rites in Mt Wuta, and Guanyin in Mt. Putuo. Dizang is said to have gained enlightenment in Mt Jiuhua. Puxian is regarded as one of the four well-known Bodhisattvas of China's Buddhism. Legend has it that Mt. Emei in Sichuan is the place where he performs the Buddhist rites. Puxian and Wenshu appear in a pair in suppirt of Sakymuni. They usually stand side by side with Sakymuni. The middle. Puxian is the right attendant. He rides a white elephant, and Wenshu a lion as we often see in monasteries. Wenshu is a symbol of Wisdom while Puxian Benevolence. Buddhism encourages its followers to study hard at the Buddhist theory, and then use what they have learnt to do charitable works for the purpose of salvaging the suffering creatures. More likely Wisdom and Benevolence display the Buddhist proceess step by step.
One of the Buddhist doctrines says that after Puxian achieved perfect enlightenment, he vowed to retrn back to the world and not to accept his own salvation until all sentient beings, humans and animals had been saved. Puxian went out on his elephant to realize his ambition. his six-tusk elephant enjoys a high statue in the Buddhist world known as the Elephant King. Wannian Monastery is dedicated to the gilded statue of Puxian who sits on the white elephant. This statue, 8.5m high, is cast in copper and bronze, weighing estimatedly 62,000kg in a brick hall .One doctrine says:"Puxian has many images. He puts himself into different forms based on the Buddhist predestined relationship. The ordinary human beings can only see him in a human bodily form, who sometimes stands by Sakyamuni,or simetimes rides on his white elephant." According to the explanation of the Buddhist texts, it is almost impossible for the ordinary human beings to see Puuxian's Fa and Bao images unless they hike up to the Golden summit of the mountain, where the pious Buddhists may see Puxian's Bao image in Buddhist Aureole-rainbow rings. In ancient times the Buddhist Aureole was called the illuminant image,which indicates that the Puxian reveals himself in his BUddhist Aureole only before the people who have the Buddhist predestined relationship.It is the iluminant image in the Golden Summit that has made the mountain nationally famous.
At the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty,Buddhism came imto China.It is commonly said that Buddhism began to develop in Sichuan during the Eastern Jin Dynasty .It is very hard to find out when the first monastery was built,and who was the first Buddhist monk to perform his rites in the mountain.The local historical records have no written information about Buddhism in the mountain,which occurred before the Jin Dynasty. As early as in 400 a monk by the name of Huichi arrived at Mt. Emei. At that time only a few ascetic practitioners lived in the animal-haunted mountain.Staying with them,Huichi started to build a temple with a statue of Puxian set up inside .The current Wan Nian Monastery grew out of the earliest temple.Huichi was considered the founder of Buddhism in the mountain.
During the Western Jin Dynasty (265-317) a Daoist priest by the name of Qianming estab lished a Daoist temple called Qian Ming Temple in the mountain.It was the biggest Daoist temple in the mountain where a hundred Daoists priests performed Daoism . At the beginning of the southern and Nouthern Dynasties(420-550), the priests decided to choose their head to be in charge of the temple. However, they had an endless dispute because of the difference of opinions . A Bddhist monk by the name of Mingguo went to the temple and taught the priests Buddhism.Finally all the priests were converted to Buddhism, and the Daoist temple became a Buddhist monastery by the name of Zhong Feng Moonastery,During the Southern and Nouthern Dynasties,Buddhism developed in the mountain.A monk from India came to Sichuan.His name was Baozhang,the first foreign monk who arrived at the mountain after his short stay in Chengdu.According to the local historical records,Baozhang set up a monastery by the name of Ling Yan Monastery.A stream flowed along the foreground of the monastery.Behind it ,over a misty mountain,dark trees merged imperceptibly into the rest of the landscape.The monastery continued its development in the following dynasties.It was said that the monastery was the biggest in the mountain with 48 halls inside in the Ming Dynasty.Unfortu-nately it was destyroyed by a fire towards the end of the Ming Dynasty. During his stay in China Baozhang translated Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and made a contribution to the culture exchange between China and India.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907) Buddhism in Sichuan developed considerably because some emperors supported Buddhism During their reins .some important Buddhist constructions were set up in Sichuan such as Bao Guang Monastery (the divine light monastery) in xindu County ,the Giant Buddha in Leshan City ,and Wen Shu Monastery in Chengdu.Of course, Buddhism in the mountain was no exception.Some famous monks kept visiting the mountain.
Xuan Zang made a pilgrimage to the sacred land of India to collect manuscripts and images and visit the well-known shrines from 629 to 645, leaving a valuable account of his travels in his "Records of the western Regions", Before his journey ,Xuan Zang came to the mountain.He visited Puxian,earnestly hoping to get blessings from him .On his way up to the mountain he came across an old monk who offerd him a Buddhist scripture. After reading it ,Xuan zang felt more confident for his long journey to india.Legend has it that Puxian put himself in the bodily form of the old monk .From 779 to 805, Weigao, the local top military commander in west Sichuan, donated to support Buddhist development both in Leshan and Mt.E-mei.During the rein of Xizong(874-888) of the Tang Dynasty, a well-known monk by the name of Huitong came to the mountain from Zhijiang. He stayed in Baishui Monastery as the abbot, He employed many workers to maintain and enlarge the existed monasteries, and at the same time he himself arrfanged workers to establish Qingyin Pavilion Monastery. He even invited his yiunger sister huixu, a Buddhist nun to stay in He Shui Monastery. Huixu was the first unu in Mt. Emei.
During the Song Dynasty Buddhism in the moutain further developed, In 964 Zhao Kuangyin the first empperor of the Song dynasty sent a 300-member-delegation of monks headed by Jiye, a well-known monk to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures, In 976 they came back with Buddhist materials and images. Due to Jiye's great deeds, Emperor Taizhong honored him by allowing him to choose a place in China to perform his Buddhism. Jiye decided to go to Mt. Emei, where he stayed in Niuxin Monastery to perform his Buddhist rites. Zao Kuangyin also asked one of his assistants by the name of Zhang to come to Chingdu, where Zhang was responsible for casting a 8.50-meter-high statue of Puxian in copper and bronze, and then transporting it to the Baishui Monastery on the site of the Wannian Monastery. Several Sing emperors kept presenting Buddhist scriptures, paintings and valuable gifts to Baishui Monasters stood at the lower part of the mountain. At that time only a few visitors or monks hiked the mountain via the current Wannian Monastery. The monasteries above Wsnnisn Monsastery remained very primitive, still less the monastery on the Golden Summit, which was no more than a wooden house without a monk to live in.
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties most of the emperors helped develop Buddhism in China. Zhu Yuanzhang, the first ming Emperor used to be a monk. In his monk career Zhu Yuanzhang had a close contact with a monk by the name of Guangji who later worked in a monastery in the mountain. Zhu Yuanzhang asked him to reestablisshed Xiwa Monastery. After the completion of the monastery, Zhu Yuanzhang summoned him to stay in the capital of the Ming Dynasty, but Guangju kindly refsed the invitqation and cotinued his stay in the mountain.
Zhu Yijun was the ling-reining Ming Emperor (1573-1620) who was buried in Dingling, one of the ming Tombs. he and his two wives reposed in the underground palace, which was excavatedf in August, 1956. As a story goes, his mother wanted very much to give a birth to a boy in order to inherit the imperial throne. Therefore, she came to the mountain where she kneeled before the statue of Puxian in Baishui Monastery vowing that she would establish a new monastery and gilt the statue of Puxian if she was blessed to have a boy. Soon afterwards Zhu Yijun was born, and he himself ascended the throne as expected. In 1600 the emperor issued an imperial edit to establish a beamless brick hall and gilt the statue of Puxian on the white elephant. He even renamed Baishui Monastery as Wannian Monastery to celebrate his mother's birthday.
In 1602 four bronze halls were cast in Changan on the current site of Xi'an. One of them was moved up to the top of the mountain from which the Golden Summut was named. The hall was 8m high and 5m wide. There are no written records about how the hall was carried uyp the mountain. Unfortunately the hall was completely destroyed by a fire. In 1828 a monk by the name of Yuexzhao collected donations to set up a glazed-golden-roof brick hall, which replaced the bronxe hall. In 1972 another fire occurred, The hall, a telecom tower and andther monastery were all destroyed. The new monastery completed in 1990 still bears traces of its original splendor.
Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, Buddhism declined because of a local war, which lasted many years in Sichuan. By the end of the Qing Dynasty Buddhism in the mountain had been restored as much as in the Ming Dynasty. Both Baoguo and Fuhu monasteries were enlatged in the Qing Dynasty and now become the largest ones in the mountain.
Before 1949, there were more than 70 monasteries and over 3,000 monks in all in the mountain. The monasteried owned a large amount of farming land to stpport the monks. Half of farmers at the foot of the mountain worked for the monasteries.
Every Chinese or overseas visitor enkoys climbing to the top of Mt. Emei——the Golden Summit more than 10,000-feet-high. The mountain itself is shrouded in the ever-hanging cloud of fog. Fir trees, pines and cedarsclithe the slopes; lofty crags, cloud-kissing precipices, butterflies and azaleas together form a nature reserve of sorts. At the Golden Summit one stands above the fog and gets a beautiful view, especially in the early morning when mountaintops are bathed in the radiance of the rising sun. Late in the tare afternoon the viewers may see the Magic Light,which appears as a multicolored ring of light in the sky with the shadow of the viewer moves. This light phenomenon was traditionally known as Buddha's Aureole or the Emei Buddhist Glory. Actually it is a rainbow ring, produced by tefraction of water particles that attach themselves to a person's shadow in a cloudbank below the summit. Devout Buddhists, thinking this was a call from yonder,used to jump off the Cliff of Self-Sacrifice in the belief that they would thus encounter Puxian. So during the Ming and Qing dynasties officials set up iron poles and chain railings to prevent sticides.
Totrists usually start their ascent of the mountain at Baoguo Monastery, originally constructed in the 6th century but entirely rebuilt in the 17th. There are two paths to Jinding, named after a glistening bronxe hall that once crowned the main peak of the mountain. The northern path is wide and easy to follow. The southern path is more rugged and winding. Because it is easier to go up than to come down, most people ascend by the southern route and return on the northern one. At predent there is a cable-car transportation up to the summit. Tourists can continue either on foot or by cable-car.
The northern route passes Bailong Cave, Wannian Monastery and Zhanlao Terrace. The southern route passes through Fuhu Monastery, Qingyinge Monastery, Jiulao Cave and Yuxian Monastery. The two paths converge and lead to Xixian Poolm so called after the legend that Puxian passed here on his white elphant, which he washed in the pool before resuming his trip. Xixi9an Pool is the place where tourists frequently come across wild monkeys who usually stand along the path begging for food from tourists. The Chinese find the monkeys an integral part of the mountain trip and like to offer them some food fo0r fun. If you have no food, you should thrust open palms towards the monkeys to show you have no food. The path continues to Leidongping Tettace, a small temple in which the thunder god was supposed to live, and finally to jinding-the Golden Summit itself.
The hiking is spectacular and tiring, and the path difficult to follow in places. No matter whether you ascend or descend, youy have to keep a cautious eye on the next step. You should stop occasionally to get a longer view and enjoy the beautiful scenes. The scenery is also and excusw to rest and let your pounding hearts slow down. Whenever you come across a lovely waterfall and spectacular gorge, you should sit by the waterfall, content with the stately beauty and blessings of that spot.