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 4 of 9 (pp. 7-9)

Tibetan Identification with Wutai shan

The earliest Chinese texts that refer to Mañjuśrī’s residence at Wutai shan are late seventh- to early eighth-century translations of the Flower Garland Sūtra (Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Huayan jing, 華嚴經) and the Mañjuśrī Precious Treasury of the Law Dhāraṇī Sūtra (Mañjuśrī-​dharma-​ratnagarbha-​dhāraṇī Sūtra, [Wenshu shili fa] Baozang tuoluoni jing, [文殊師利法]寶藏陀羅尼經), both of which are quoted in the opening passage of the trilingual dedicatory inscription on the bottom of the panoramic map of Wutai shan (Cat. 1, texts 1-3).9 The presence of this text serves as a kind of scriptural authentication of the mountain as Mañjuśrī’s realm and the image as an accurate reflection of the site. However, the Tibetan version of the Ratnagarbha-​dhāraṇī Sūtra (Rinchen Nyingpo ZungRin chen snying po gzungs) does not mention Mañjuśrī or Clear and Cool Mountain, and the original Sanskrit version is no longer extant. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the Chinese translation of the Flower Garland Sūtra was falsified to assign Mañjuśrī a dwelling place in China.10 [page 8] Interestingly, where the Tibetan inscription on the Wutai shan map “quotes” the Ratnagarbha-​dhāraṇī [Sūtra] (Rinchen Nyingpo ZungRin chen snying po gzungs) it does not give the Tibetan for a common deity such as Vajrapāṇi but instead gives a cumbersome transcription from the Chinese, strongly suggesting that this passage of the text was a Chinese interpolation unknown in Tibetan.11

Figure 7. Great White Stūpa on Wutai shan. Photograph by Gray Tuttle.
Figure 7a. Great White Stūpa (Tayuan si) on Wutai shan.

One important source of the later common Tibetan identification of Wutai shan in China with the earthly abode of Mañjuśrī comes from far west in Nepal, in the famous legend of the creation of the Kathmandu Valley.12 This legend tells that [page 9] Mañjuśrī, seated on the tallest peak of his mountain dwelling in China, saw the light of a relic far to the west, but when he flew there found that a lake prevented beings from reaching it, so he cut a gorge with his sword, forming the Kathmandu Valley. Atop this relic a reliquary (stūpa, mchod rten) was built, which was originally called Mañjuśrī Stūpa (mañju-caitya; Cat. 16) and later renamed Svāyambhū, one of the greatest Buddhist sacred sites in Nepal. Mañjuśrī (Cat. 17) is also central to the geography and culture of Nepal and appears throughout Nepalese ritual life. The centrality of the stūpa (an architectural symbol of wisdom) in this tale is parallel to the Great White Stūpa (Baita si, 白塔寺) on Wutai shan (Fig. 7; Fig. 4, no. 40), which has become an icon for the mountain itself. This is part of a larger concept of the sacred geography of Mañjuśrī, connecting sites like Kathmandu in Nepal and Wutai shan in China. The Mañjuśrī system, which became one of the main Tibetan systems of astrology and divination (Cat. 50), also came to be seen as having been taught by Mañjuśrī specifically at Wutai shan.13

[9] Taisho 279.10.1b-444c; and Taisho 1185 (Takakusu Junjirō and Watanabe Kaigyoku, eds., Taishō shinshū daizōkyō (Tokyo: Taisho issaikyo kankokai, 1924-32). The trilingual dedication texts are translated at the end of the entry for catalog number 1 (Cat. 1).
[10] Étienne Lamotte, “Mañjuśrī,” T'oung Pao 158 (1960): 61; Mary Anne Cartelli, “On a Five-colored Cloud: The Songs of Mount Wutai,” Journal of the American Oriental Society (Oct 2004): 738. The Flower Garland Sūtra (Avataṃsaka Sūtra) with references to “Clear and Cool Mountain” as Mañjuśrī’s abode in China was translated in 699 for the infamous empress Wu zetian, China’s only female emperor. The political application of Buddhism at the Chinese court reached new heights in the late seventh to early eighth centuries under the empress Wu, who was the first to openly promote herself as a bodhisattva and officially adopt titles and symbols of Buddhist absolute sacral power. Empress Wu zetian went so far as to liken her rule to the millenarian prophesy of the coming of the Future Buddha Maitreya. Wu zetian enjoyed power for almost half a century, and from 690-705 ruled as China’s sole female emperor. Confucian strictures against women’s involvement in politics, let alone female rulership, likely forced her to seek a new ideology to legitimate her power. Subtly interpolated translations of Buddhist texts, such as the Flower Garland Sūtra, with cryptic passages inserted to bolster her claims of divinity, were part of a well coordinated Buddhist campaign of legitimation, reinforcing Wu zetian as a cakravartin ruler and a bodhisattva. For instance an interpolated translation of the Baoyu jing (寶雨經), or Sutra of Precious Rain, was presented at court in 693 with such references. Wu zetian adopted the title “Golden Wheel Cakravartin August Divine Emperor” (Jinlun shengshen huangdi, 金輪生身皇帝) less than two weeks later, and even had the seven jewels of the monarch (baoqi, 寶七) – the symbols of the divinely anointed cakravartin ruler – displayed at court during audiences. This was the first time in Chinese history that a sovereign officially adopted a title and symbols of Buddhist absolute sacral power (Antonio Forte, Political Propaganda and Ideology in China at the End of the Seventh Century [Naples, 1977], 143, fn. 75). On her activity on Wutai shan, see: Tansen Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003), 79-81.
[11] Gyelwo Kyinkang MekyiRgyal bo kyin kang me kyi is transliterated from the Chinese, Jingang Miji Wang (金剛密跡王; William E. Soothill, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms: With Sanskrit and English Equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali Index [London : K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1937], 281; a form of Vajrapāṇi). Other such differences between the Chinese and Tibetan inscriptions can be found on this map, see translations of the trilingual inscriptions in entry for Cat. 1.
[12] The earliest source is probably the History of the Svāyambhū Stūpa (Svāyambhūpurāṇa, Belyül Rangjung Chörten Chenpö LogyüBal yul rang byung mchod rten chen po’i lo rgyus), the date of which is unknown. The earliest dated extant copy appears to be as late as 1522. On the difficulty of dating this text see: Theodore Riccardi, “Some Preliminary Remarks on a Newari Painting of Svayambhūnāth,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 93, no. 3 (Jul.-Sept. 1973): 336, fn. 7. For a summary of this legend, see: Keith Dowman, Power Places of Kathmandu: Hindu and Buddhist Sites in the Sacred Valley of Nepal (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International; London, UK: Thames & Hudson, 1995). Situ PenchenSi tu paṇ chen also made an annotated/critical translation of the Svāyambhūpurāṇa, the History of the Svāyambhū Stūpa (Belyül Rangjung Chörten Chenpö LogyüBal yul rang byung mchod rten chen po’i lo rgyus). See: Hubert Decleer, “Si tu Paṇ chen’s Translation of the Svayaṃbhū Purāṇa and His Role in the Development of the Kathmandu Valley Pilgrimage Guide (gnas yig) Literature,” in Si-tu Paṇ-chen: His Contribution and Legacy, edited by Tashi Tsering et al. (Dharamshala, India: Amnye Machen Institute, 2000), 33-64. For an annotated translation of the Descriptive Catalog of Svāyambhū (Pakpa Shingküngyi Karchak’Phags pa shing kun gyi dkar chag) by Nelungpa Ngawang DorjéNas lung pa ngag dbang rdo rje (b. seventeenth century), see: Keith Dowman, “A Buddhist Guide to the Power Places of the Kathmandu Valley,” Kailash: A Journal of Inter-disciplinary Studies (1981): 183-291.
[13] It is unclear when this association first started, though it is mentioned by the fourteenth century. See Cat. 50.

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 ).