Songshan 嵩山

 

Location: Henan Province

Latitude/Longitude: 34° 30.5’N/112° 56’E

Elevation: 2928 ft MSL

Song Mountain: part of the “Grand Mountain” range that surrounds the original home of the Shaolin Buddhist Temple near DengFeng, China, between Zhenzhou and Luoyang.

Around 464 A.D., an Indian Buddhist monk, called Ba Tuo by the Chinese, traveled to central China . Ba Tuo received a land grant from Emperor Hsiao Wen Di to build the original Shaolin Temple,  and became the first Shaolin Temple abbot in 495 A.D. The original Xiao Xing sect or Lesser Vehicle Buddhism initially introduced at the Shaolin Temple by Ba Tuo had many complex theological rules and rituals --  there were hundreds of rules for men, plus different rules for women. 

Around 527 A.D. another Buddhist monk arrived in China. He was known in India as Bodhidharma, and to the Chinese as PuTi DaMo. DaMo preached the Greater Vehicle form of Buddhism, which was called Dhyana in India, and Ch’an Buddhism by the Chinese. It became known as Zen Buddhism in Japan where DaMo is called by the name, Daruma. DaMo’s Buddhist theology focused on deep mediation for its practitioners. To dramatize his tenacity to teach the Shaolin monks the methods and effectiveness of his religious beliefs, it is said that DaMo meditated in a cave at the top of the hill above the Shaolin Temple monastery for 9 years – so long that his shadow was burned onto the rock of the cave wall. DaMo is revered as the initial influence that started centuries of martial training that produced the legendary skills and fighting prowess of the monks at the Shaolin Temple.

Over the centuries, Shaolin martial arts, meditation, and herbal medicine expanded to other provinces in China, including Fujien, Shandong, Hubei, Shaanxi, Szechuan, and Guangdong. The Fujien temple, built around 650 AD, was larger than the Henan temple and considered to be the southern headquarters of the Shaolin monasteries. It served as the primary refuge for monks during times when the Henan temple came under attack.

The original Henan Shaolin Temple at Songhan has been the setting for many motion pictures and television shows, including The Shaolin Temple (1982), starring Jet Li, and the Kung Fu TV series (1972-75), starring David Carradine.

Omeishan 峨嵋山

(pinyin – Emei shan)

Location: Sichaun Province

Latitude/Longitude: 29° 31.4’N/103° 20.2’E

Elevation: 10,150 ft MSL

Omei Mountain (Mt. Emei) – is located near Chengdu in Sichuan province. Omeishan is considered one of China’s most sacred mountains, with a religious history that began centuries before Songshan. The spiritual essence of Mt. Omei is inspired by its mystical atmosphere, characterized by the blanket of clouds and fog that frequently shrouds the mountain’s lush environment of fern, bamboo, palm, and pine forests. It is said that when the clouds reveal the top of the mountain, it is like a beautiful maiden slowly revealing her face. That is why Omei is called, by some people, “Beautiful Eyebrow Mountain”, and others refer to it as the “Great White Mountain”.  The summit is 10,150 ft above sea level. The morning sun occasionally casts the shadow of mountain peak pilgrims onto the cloud deck surrounding the peak. Their shadow can be ringed in a rainbow halo, locally called “Buddha Light”. It is an atmospheric phenomenon known scientifically as an anticorona or glory, which is commonly observed by aircraft pilots.

BaiMei Daosin, the White Eye-browed Monk, is a legendary character in Chinese martial arts. It is said his skills made him virtually indestructible. BaiMei is a legendary abbot of Omeishan.

On Mt. Omei, diverse species of plants, animals and insects coexist. Chinese physicians found long ago that the lush environment of Omeishan was home to a host of plants that could be used for healing and nutritional purposes. 

Currently, the monasteries on Mt. Omei focus mainly on the practice of Buddhism and restoration of the rich heritage of this majestic mountain. At Omeishan, monastic life today is in a period of spiritual growth for the Buddhist monks, and a period of reconstruction for mountain temples and historic treasures. 

Huashan 華山

Location: Shaanxi Province

Latitude/Longitude: 34° 28.7’N/110° 04.7’E

Elevation: 7086 ft MSL

The formidable white granite Hua Mountain is located in Shaanxi Province, east of Xian, north of the ChinLing mountain range and south of the Yellow River. Hua means “magnificent” and “flower” in ancient Chinese. Huashan is commonly called “Lotus Mountain” as its peaks are arranged like the petals of a flower. 

In the Taoist religion, this mountain has been a citadel for believers. Its five sacred peaks represent the 5 spiritual elements of the Taoist universe: Central Peak/Earth, North Peak/Water, South Peak/Fire, East Peak/Wood, West Peak/Metal.

The legendary Taoist monk, Lao Tzu (580-500 BC) was challenged to write down the philosophical treatise, “Tao Te Ching” at Hangu Pass, near Huashan.  There is a place between West Peak and South Peak called “Lao Tzu’s furnace”, where legend says Lao Tzu made his pills of immortality. 

Pilgrims have been compelled to climb the rugged, perilous terrain of Mt. Hua for over two millennia. Whether it is the remote seclusion, or the search for some mystical elixir, people who climb this mountain discover its grandeur. Hua is one of China’s most deadly mountains. Careless stumbles cause many people to fall to their death every year. The steps carved into the living granite are hand hewn, and were made during the last several hundred years. Previously, recluse monks climbed this pinnacle of enlightenment for centuries without such convenience, using only handholds and foot notches.

Hua Mountain is rich with folklore, legend and historical characters.

The chess pavilion is located in a rugged area near Hua’s East Peak, called the Botai Terrace. This is where Chen Tuan challenged Emperor Zhao to play the Chinese board game, called Wei Qi (a.k.a. "Go"), making a wager-- Chen Tuan’s servitude bet against the entire mountain range of Hua.  The emperor lost.  Thus the Taoist monks were given title to the mountain. 

Another renowned figure in Chinese history is connected with the mountain – Dr. Hua Tuo, who is as famous a physician in China as is Hippocrates to the western world. He was also famous as the originator of some Hua martial arts health and fitness training.

The monks of Huashan had to be nimble and strong because of the difficult terrain. This gave rise to some unique martial arts styles. Of the martial folk stories, perhaps the most significant related to Hua Mountain has to do with the historical characters, collectively called -- The Eight Immortals.

Wudangshan 武當山

Location: Hubei Province

Latitude/Longitude: 32° 24.1’N/111° 00.3’E

Elevation: 5333 ft MSL

Taoism is the indigenous religion of China. The Taoist abbot of Wudangshan says the spiritual origin of this sacred site was 3000 B.C.

Zhen Wu is honored as the god whose search for enlightenment was a foundation of Taoist beliefs at Wudang. Zhen Wu is the god of the north, which is represented by the Taoist element, water.  The spirit animal of Wudang is symbolized by the image of “Xuan Wu” -- a turtle and snake.

The oldest Taoist temple of Wudang is current submerged under the Dangjiangkou Reservoir. The oldest remaining temple on Wudangshan is the 5 Dragon Palace. The summit of Wudang is called Tianzhu Peak, where the Jin Ding (Golden Hall) Temple was built during the Ming Dynasty.

The most significant martial arts story from Wudang is that of Zhang Sanfeng, who was the creator of Tai Chi Chuan, (the Grand Ultimate Fist).