Holy mountains in China

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Location of the nine sacred mountains

Sacred mountains ( Chinese 聖山  /  圣山 , Pinyin Shèngshān ) have played a role in Chinese culture for thousands of years .  

Mountain chronicles and mountain lists

The mountain ( , shān ) or the mountain range ( , shān or 山脈  /  山脉 , shānmài ) has been a basic cosmological element since Chinese antiquity . In the Book of Changes , the Yijing , his trigram ( , Guà ) denotes ☶the bond between heaven and earth and stands for fundamental character traits such as sincerity, patience and perseverance.

The character “  /  , shèng ” is translated as “holy”, but also “wise”. In artistic representations, a mountain surrounded by secondary peaks stands for the ideal type of personality of responsibility and social status, a single mountain for the hermit as a monk or philosopher.

Mountain chronicles, the Shanzhi ( 山 志 , Shānzhì ), have been compiled and published since around the Tang period . There are numerous traditional groups of sacred or memorable mountains, of which nine sacred mountains are the most important: the five sacred mountains of Daoism and the four sacred mountains of Buddhism . The number nine is of great importance as a sacred number in the universal Chinese religion.

As centers of these traditions, these sacred mountains also played a role in the old state cults. They have been pilgrimage destinations for centuries and still attract large numbers of visitors today. The Chinese term for pilgrimage ( 朝聖  /  朝圣 , cháoshèng ) is an abbreviation of the expression " 朝拜 聖山  /  朝拜 圣山 , cháobài shèngshān ", which means something like " pay homage to a holy mountain".

The Huang Shan

Shitao , 黄山 图, ink on paper, around 1670, Beijing Palace Museum

The Huang Shan ( 黃山  /  黄山  - "Yellow Mountain", originally 黟 山 , Yī Shān  - "Black Mountain, due to the dark peaks") in Anhui is considered a symbol and embodiment of Chinese culture. Ming Dynasty geographer Xu Xiake said of the Huang Shan:

“After visiting the five mountains, one is no longer interested in visiting other mountains. But after visiting the Yellow Mountain, interest in the five mountains is also lost. "

The mountain group comprises a total of 72 memorable peaks, 36 “majestic and threatening” and 36 “graceful and graceful” peaks.

Five sacred mountains of Taoism

The five sacred mountains of Daoism, Wuyue ( 五岳 , Wǔyuè  - "five high mountains", synonymous or in classic spelling also: 五嶽 ) are:

image mountain character province Compass direction
TaiShan.jpg Tai Shan 泰山 China-Shandong.png
Great Eastern Summit
東岳  /  东岳 , classic: 東嶽
Dōng Yuè
HengshanMountains.JPG Heng Shan 衡山 China-Hunan.png
Great southern summit
南岳 , classic: 南嶽
Nán Yuè
Songshan.JPG Song Shan 嵩山 China-Henan.png
Large middle peak
中岳 , classic: 中嶽
Zhōng Yuè
Mt-hua-from-west-summit.jpg Hua Shan 華山
Great Western Summit
西岳 , classic: 西嶽
Xī Yuè
Heng Shan Hanging Monastery Close view.jpg Heng Shan 恆山
Great Northern Summit
北岳 , classic: 北嶽
Běi Yuè

According to Chinese mythology , the five peaks were the head and the limbs Pangus ( 盤古  /  盘古 , Pángǔ ), the first living being according to Chinese mythology . The five sacred mountains of Taoism are also assigned to the cardinal points, which has been supplemented by another, "the middle", since ancient China saw itself as the "Middle Kingdom". In the five-element theory , too , the mountains are assigned to one element according to the cardinal points.

Mountains as namesake for Taoist schools

Schools ( , pai ) of Daoism, which are named after the seat of their schools in the mountains or mountains or similar:

Four sacred mountains of Buddhism

The four sacred mountains of Buddhism, Sida Fojiao Mingshan ( 四大 佛教 名山 , Sìdà Fójiào Míngshān  - "Four great famous Buddhist mountains") are:

image mountain character province metal Deity
WutaiShanTaihuai.jpg Wutai Shan 五臺山
gold Wenshu
Putuoshan mountaintop.JPG Putuo Shan 普陀山 China-Zhejiang.png
silver Guanyin
觀音  /  观音
EmeiShanTop.jpg Emei Shan 峨嵋山 China-Sichuan.png
bronze Puxian
普賢  /  普贤
Jiuhuashan lower Daxiong Baodian.jpg Jiuhua Shan 九 華山
九 华山
iron Dizang
地 藏

These four mountains are equated with four metals: "Jin Wǔtái, gold Wutai " ( 金五臺  /  金五台 ), "Yin Pǔtuó, silver Putuo " ( 銀普陀  /  银普陀 ), "Tong Emei, copper Emei ”( 銅 峨嵋  /  铜 峨嵋 ), and“ Tiě Jiǔhuá, iron Jiuhua ”( 鐵 九華  /  铁 九华 ).

Each of the four mountains is also assigned a Buddhist deity: on the Wutai Shan the bodhisattva Manjushri / Wenshu ( 文殊 , Wénshū ) is worshiped, on the Putuo Shan the feminine form of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara / Guanyin ( 觀音  /  观音 , Guānyīn ), on the Emei Shan is there the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra / Puxian ( 普賢  /  普贤 , Pǔxián ) and on the Jiuhua Shan the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha / Dizang ( 地 藏 , Dìzàng ).

The Putuo Shan also refers to the Buddhist Avalokiteśvara myth of the mythical mountain Potala as does the Mar ‑ po ‑ ri (“Red Mountain”) of Lhasa , location of the Potala Palace .

Other religious centers

Religious centers are also the Wutai Mountains ( 五臺山  /  五台山 , Wǔtái Shān ) near Wutai in Shanxi Province and the Lu Shan ( 廬山  /  庐山 , Lú Shān  - "mountain of the hermit's hut") near Jiujiang in Jiangxi , which is considered to be particularly awe-inspiring , as well as the mountains of Guilin ( 桂林 , Guìlín ) on the Li River , the most visited tourist destination in China after Beijing.


  • Josef Guter: Lexicon of the gods and symbols of the ancient Chinese . Marix, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-937715-04-5 .
  • Karl Johaentges , Uli Franz : China's sacred mountains . Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-89405-648-7 .
  • Thomas H. Hahn: Formalized wild space - Chinese mountains and their descriptions (shanzhi) . Dissertation, Institute for Sinology, Heidelberg University. Heidelberg 1996, doi : 10.11588 / heidok.00007287 ( Online (PDF)).
  • Zhang Yushu: The naming of the mountains in China . In: Institute for Research and Promotion of Regional and Transnational Cultural Processes (Ed.): The names of the mountains . ( Online ( Memento from January 14, 2013 in the web archive archive.today )).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b quot. after Lit. Yushu: chap. Huangshan and Lushan
  2. see 崂山 - Chinese Wikipedia
  3. see 随 山 - Chinese Wikipedia