Mount Jiuhua (‘Nine Glorious Mountains’) is an important Buddhist site and natural scenic spot. It is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains, one of the first batch of 5A level scenic spots and one of the first batch of natural and cultural heritage sites in China. Mount Jiuhua is dedicated to Ksitigarbha (Chinese Pinyin: Dizang), a bodhisattva and protector of beings in hell realms according to Mahayana Buddhist tradition. At Mount Jiuhua you will emerge in the breathtaking nature scenery and profound Buddhist culture.
Mount Jiuhua was originally known as Jiuzi (Nine-Peak) Mountain. A legend says that Li Bai, the celebrated poet in the Tang Dynasty wrote of the mountain: ”Sailing down the Jiujiang River the other day, I saw the Jiuhua Peaks in the distance. Looking like a heavenly river hanging in heaven, Its green water embroidering cotton rose hibiscuses.“ After that the name changed from Jiuzi to Jiuhua.
Mount Jiuhua has been a Buddhist Holy Land with over 1600 In 401 AD in Eastern Jin Dynasty, the monk “Beidu” from old India came to Mount Jiuhua to build temples and preach Buddhism. In 719 AD, Kim Qiaoque, a Silla (today’s South Korea) prince came to Jiuhua Mountain and cultivated himself for 75 years. He died at 99 years old and his corporeal body stayed intact. Because he was very similar in appearance to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, the monks here believed Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was reincarnated in him. Hence, Mount Jiuhua became the place to hold rites for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
Jiuhua Mountain is reputed as “the First Mountain in Southeast China” with magnificent peaks, murdering streams, bizarre rocks, beautiful waterfalls, seclude caves, etc. Here are some most popular attractions where you can have a better understanding of Buddhism or feast your eyes on the spectacular natural landscape.
The Incarnation Grand Hall (肉身宝殿)
With about 1300 years’ history, the Incarnation Grand Hall is the burying place for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva – Kim Qiaojue. Hence, the Incarnation Hall is also called Ksitigarbha Pagoda. The hall is built on a high terrace with stone pillars, red wall, iron tile, white marble and “The First Mountain in Southeast China” (东南第一山) inscribed on the front door. In the Hall, travelers can view the seven-story wooden Ksitigarbha Pagoda with white marble base. Inside the pagoda, you can worship the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva with over 100 statues which is magnificent and solemn.
Unlike other Buddhist temples, there is a Taoist guardian as a Dharma protector in Mount Jiuhua. Skanda Bodhisattva is the chief protector of Shakyamuni Buddha, because Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva made a great vow :”If the hell is not empty, I swear not to become a Buddha”, that inspired Skanda Bodhisattva to come to protect the Dharma. But now in this Incarnation Grand Hall the Dharma guardian is the Taoist Wang Lingguan. There is a legendary story to explain why.
In ancient times, there was a great scholar who visited Jiuhua Mountain. He heard that the body of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was enshrined there. Because he did not believe in Buddhism, he wanted to see if that was true, so he used a needle to pinch Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s corporeal body. As soon as the needle went down, the blood flowed out, he was extremely shocked, and hurriedly fled away…
When Skanda Bodhisattva saw someone disrespectful to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, he wanted to punish him. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva did not allow it, and said “Everything has cause and effect, so don’t harm him.” However Skanda Bodhisattva still used his vajra pestle to punish that scholar.
Ksitigarbha King Bodhisattva couldn’t bear it, so he drove Skanda Bodhisattva out of Jiuhua Mountain. Then the Taoist Wang Lingguan was called in as a Dharma protector temporarily.
Zhiyuan Temple (祗园禅寺)
Located at the entrance of Jiuhua Street, Zhiyuan Temple, first built in Ming Dynasty, is listed as one of the Four Buddhist Temples of Mount Jiuhua. This temple is composed of nine separate buildings – Linggong Palace, Maitreya Palace, the Great Buddha’s Hall, Bright Lecture Hall, etc. All the structures are exquisite. Inside the Great Buddha’s Hall, travelers can see the 12-meter-high Buddhas – Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, moreover, you can see Manjusri Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, the Eighteen Arhats’ sitting statues. In the Depository of Buddhist Sutras, there is the precious “Tripitaka” (Qianlong Version), the only tripitaka in Chinese engraved by the official in Qing Dynasty. Walking around the temple, you can view a huge bronze cooking pot which can be used as cook for 1000 monks. If time permits, you can get up early to Zhiyuan Temple to catch the beautiful and misty morning glow.
Heavenly Terrace Scenic Area (Tiantai Scenic Area, 天台景区)
Heavenly Terrace Scenic Area is another must-be-visited area of Mount Jiuhua. Both natural and cultural sights can be appreciated in this scenic area. Tiantai Temple (alt: 1306m ), located in the Tiantai Peak (also translated as Heavenly Terrace Temple), is the highest temple of Mount Jiuhua. It is believed that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva once accommodated in the temple. Besides, there are many other worth-visiting attractions scattered from the foot to the summit of Tiantai Peak, such as Ancient Lecture Temple, Huiju Temple and various kinds of Buddhist Nun Communities… Shiwang Peak, the highest peak of the whole mountain, is also located in Heavenly Terrace Scenic Area.
The best season is after the snow in winter, when the sky is blue and the light clouds surround the Tiantai Temple, like a flash of Buddha’s light.
Flower Terrace Scenic Area (Huatai Terrace Scenic Area, 花台景区)
Having typical features of granite terrain, Flower Terrace Scenic Area has the most magnificent and beautiful natural landscape and is regarded as the most beautiful place in Jiuhua Mountain. If you are a nature lover or shutterbug, don’t miss Flower Terrace Scenic Area. There is no temple in Flower Terrace, but it has peaks with different posture everywhere. Since the road is quite dangerous and it needs 5-6 hours to hike the mountain, taking caber way is a great choice to save your energy and time. Recommended sights of Flower Terrace Scenic Area are Tianzhu Peak, Luohan Peak, Ksitigarbha Well, ksitigarbha Boots, Manjusri Cave, etc.
Mt. Jiuhuashan owns the feature of subtropical monsoon climate and alpine climate. It is moist and rains a lot on the mountain with an average rainfall of 2400 mm and an average temperature of 13.4℃. The weather changes very distinctly at a high elevation – spring comes late, summer is short, autumn comes early and winter is long.
In spring season, it is cloudy and foggy and travelers who reach the top of the mountain can enjoy the spectacular sea of clouds. Moreover, it is windy in May which lasts for about 20 days. During April to June, travelers can enjoy azalea, peach, Chinese rose, camellia, peony, Chinese herbaceous peony, like beautiful painting unfolding before your eyes. Summer is the best time to escape heat from bustling city and enjoy the cool of Mount Jiuhua which has an average temperature of 23.8℃. The autumn season in Mount Jiuhua has about only two months at Jiuhua Street and only one month at Tiantai Peak. In the middle of September, the whole mountain is turning into golden and red which makes it the best time to appreciate colorful leaves and flowers. From the middle of November to late March is the winter season with 36 days snow-capped days which could be the crystal palace over the mountain. Each season has its own features and the most recommended seasons are from the middle March to Middle November.
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