Emeishan, Sichuan: A Sanctuary for the Enlightened

Wannian Temple Courtyard, Emeishan, Sichuan

Wannian Temple Courtyard, Emeishan, Sichuan

Mount Emei (Emeishan; 峨嵋山) is one of the four holy mountains in China. It is named for the two peaks that face each other like a “delicate eyebrow,” an embodiment of traditional Chinese beauty. Initially a Taoist retreat, Mount Emei and the surrounding Sichuan province would become the center of the Chinese sect of Buddhism (Chen School) during 3rd century and mid-6th century A.D. Under Song Emperoror Zhao Kuangyin’s authorization, several Buddhist temples were built by Master Jiye and his followers. There are more than 100 temples nestled within the verdant forests of the mountain. The most famous of these temples is the Golden Summit located at the peak and dedicated to Puxian (Samantabhadra) Bodhisattva. During our two days here, we only visited two of the temples: Wannian Temple and Baoguo Temple.

August 6, 2012

Night Market Noodle Stand in Emeishan, Sichuan

Night Market Noodle Stand in Emeishan, Sichuan

Upon our arrival to Mount Emei, we refreshed ourselves at the hotel before heading to dinner at the open market. An open market is where one can order from any food stalls, pay for each, and the waiter will bring the food and drinks to your table.

We ordered mushroom noodles, beef and bamboo shoots; green vegetables, smoked duck, and sweet rice rolls.

Dinner at the Night Market in Emeishan, Sichuan

Dinner at the Night Market in Emeishan, Sichuan

After dinner, we had a hot Chinese-style milk tea and were casually strolling around the park that contained carved murals depicting Buddhist stories and a Chinese-style monument at the center. Just as we were walking back to the hotel, it began to rain, forcing us to run. We were soaked when we entered the hotel.

August 7, 2012

Attraction List:

  • Wannian Temple
  • Baoguo Temple
  • Sichuan Ebony Museum

The following day we visited the two temples along the mountainous roads. The first temple we visited was the Wannian Temple (formerly Puxian Temple). Accompanied by our tour guide, Cathy, we took a taxi to the tour bus station. From there, the bus took us to the Wannian Cable Car Station from which we finally made it to the walkway leading to the temple.

Wannian Temple, Emeishan, Sichuan. Copper and Iron Buddha Statue.

Wannian Temple, Emeishan, Sichuan. Copper and Iron Puxian Buddha Statue.

The temple was established during the 3rd century A.D. by the Chinese monk, Huichi, and dedicated to Puxian. Within the temple, there is the 7.35-meter tall copper statute of Puxian (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva) sitting on top of a lifelike white elephant, which stands on a 3-foot table of a lotus, in the art style from the Song Dynasty. Many visitors make the journey to pray and touch the elephant’s bottom for good luck.

Wannian Temple, Emeishan, Sichuan

Wannian Temple, Emeishan, Sichuan

Wannian Temple was burned down several times, according to history, but the statue remained unharmed. During the Ming Dynasty, the temple was rebuilt in the honor of Emperor Wanli. The yellow brick structure combined the architectural styles from India and Burma; the main hall uses neither beams nor posts and not a single wooden piece, giving its name—“Beamless Hall.” In this hall, there are also statutes of Buddha behind the glass cases along the walls of the main hall. Outside the steeples are decorated with animals, such as lions and deer. Undoubtedly, it was a fascinating sight!

We made our way down the slope and back to the tour bus station. Our driver met us there and took us back to the town at the foot of the mountain.

Baoguo Temple, Emeishan, Sichuan

Baoguo Temple, Emeishan, Sichuan

Afterwards, we walked to the nearby Baoguo Temple, a resting place for pilgrims who travel to Wannian Temple. Built during Emperor Wanli’s reign in the Ming Dynasty, the temple houses the Huayan Copper Pagoda that has carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas, figures, lions, and elephants. It is said that it resembles the pagoda found in Xiantong Temple on Mount Wutai.

Following our visit to the temples, we had the option of visiting the Sichuan Ebony Museum before leaving for Zigong. The small museum houses well-crafted, elaborate scenes from the four famous Chinese novels: Journey to the West, Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dream of the Red Chamber. There are several kinds of ebony in many parts of the world. The oldest is dated from the early century. In the room containing statutes of hundreds of Buddhist abbots, our museum guide played a little game and asked us to choose our lucky number. We would then go to the corresponding statute with our number and she would relay some history regarding them, such as their personality and philosophy. Another notable exhibit on the second floor was the Taoist figures of legend and history (below), contrasting the solemn figures of the Buddhist abbots and the symbolic differences (yin and yang versus the prayer beads) between the two schools of thought.

Sichuan Ebony Museum, Taoist Figures

Sichuan Ebony Museum, Taoist Figures

After our visit, we said our goodbyes to Mount Emei and left for Zigong, the third largest city in Sichuan province, located 3 hours away.

Additional Comments

There are still plenty of sights that we did not see, such as the Golden Summit and the other natural scenery of the mountain. The Golden Summit is where one can visit a monastery, admire the sunrise if staying overnight and the scenic sights of the Palaces in the Clouds, and possibly witness the Buddha’s Halo and Holy Lights. Of course, Mount Emei itself is known for its school of martial arts.

References

CCTV.com. (2013, March 25). World Heritage China Part 10- Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha. Retrieved from http://english.cntv.cn/program/documentary/20130326/100093.shtml

Chinadaily.com.cn. (2008, February 18). Copper and Iron Buddha Statue in Wannian Temple. Retrieved from http://www1.chinaculture.org/library/2008-02/15/content_36124.htm

China Internet Information Center. (2006, July 13). Huayan Copper Pagoda at Baoguo Temple in Emei of Sichuan Province. Retrieved from http://www.china.org.cn/english/TR-e/42722.htm

Cultural China. (2012, April 13). Philosophical Taoism: A Primer. Retrieved from http://history.cultural-china.com/en/166History5051.html

Cultural China. (2012, April 13). Taoism and Buddhism. Retrieved from http://history.cultural-china.com/en/166History5060.html

Travel China Guide. (2013, April 16). Leshan Mt. Emei, Sichuan. http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/sichuan/leshan/mt_emei.htm

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