Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Wutai shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain
Karl Debreczeny, Rubin Museum of Art
JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5714, pp. 1-133
Section 3 of 9 (pp. 6-7)

Early Political Significance

Figure 5. Chögyel PakpaChos rgyal ’phags pa (1235-1280). Tibet; late 17th century. Pigments on cloth; 26" h. Purchased from the Collection of Navin Kumar, New York. Rubin Museum of Art. C2002.3.2 (HAR 65046).
Figure 6. Shakya YeshéShākya ye shes. Embroidered tangkathang ka, Xuande period (circa 1434-35). (After precious deposits, Fig. 55).

Since the eighth century Mañjuśrī has been seen as the patron deity of China; therefore, Wutai shan was a focus of imperial attention. Rulers tied their own legitimacy to the deity and promoted his cult at Wutai shan, blurring and intertwining religious, state, and ethnic identities. Already in the eighth century a foreign monk from the Central Asian city of Samarkand, Amoghavajra (Bukong Jingang, 不空金剛, 705-774), who rose in the ranks of the official bureaucracy and became one of the most politically powerful monks in Chinese history, was instrumental in establishing Mañjuśrī as the protector of the nation and the emperor and in fostering the cult of pilgrimage at Wutai shan. Amoghavajra initiated the Chinese emperor as a divinely anointed Buddhist ruler (cakravartin) in 759, linking Mañjuśrī worship at Wutai shan and the imperial cult. A miraculous “true image” of Mañjuśrī on his lion, which was said to have been made with Mañjuśrī’s own assistance in the eighth century and is therefore seen as being a true likeness (or “true image”) of the deity, was installed at the Cloister of the True Contenance (Zhenrong yuan, 真容院; later renamed Pusa ding, 菩薩頂, Jangchup Sempé Porbyang chub sems dpa’i spor, Fig. 4, no. 14) and became an early focus of imperial patronage at Wutai shan. Rituals for the protection and preservation of the nation subsequently became a characteristic feature of state involvement at Wutai shan. In fact, mountain worship [page 7] had long been an integral part of the Chinese state cult, wherein the emperor communed with heaven and received its mandate to rule the earth.8 This was therefore a traditional application of Buddhist theology to statecraft within China, and it provided an important early Chinese model sanctioned by historical precedent for later Tibetan religious masters who served successively at the Mongol, Chinese, and Manchu imperial courts at Wutai shan, such as Pakpa’Phags pa (Fig. 5 and Cat. 25) in the thirteenth century, Shakya YeshéShākya ye shes (Shijia Yeshi, 釋迦也失, d. 1435; Fig. 6) in the fifteenth century, and Changja Rölpé DorjéLcang skya rol pa’i rdo rje (Cat. 2) in the eighteenth century. While Chinese temples vastly outnumbered Tibetan and Mongolian monasteries on Wutai shan, by the seventeenth century Tibetan Buddhism came to hold a disproportionately prominent place of religious and political authority there, and Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists were charged by the imperial throne to govern all religious affairs on the mountain.

[8] See Stephen Bokenkamp, “Record of the Feng and Shan Sacrifices,” in Religions of China in Practice (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 251-61.

Note Citation for Page

Karl Debreczeny, “Wutai Shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5714 (accessed ).

Note Citation for Whole Article

Karl Debreczeny, “Wutai Shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 1-133, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5714 (accessed ).

Bibliography Citation

Debreczeny, Karl. “Wutai Shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 1-133. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5714 (accessed ).