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 7 of 9 (pp. 46-48)

Mongol Interests in Wutai shan

Figure 37. Making prostrations. 1846 Wutai shan map detail.

Based on literary evidence explored in detail by Charleux and Elverskog, Mongol interests in Wutai shan peaked in the nineteenth century, when the woodblock map in this exhibition was made (Cat. 1). Mongol pilgrimage to Wutai shan was also promoted by Mongol nobility stopping there en route to Beijing during their obligatory annual trips to the Qing court. Many major Mongol lamabla mas studied for years at Wutai shan as part of their monastic tenure as well.119 They [page 47] visited from the fourth to the tenth lunar months (roughly May to November), especially during the festivals of the sixth lunar month (which typically falls in July), such as the Maitreya Festival, which is depicted as the ritual center of the woodblock map (Fig. 36).120 The culmination of this festival was a dramatic and colorful masked dance (Cat. 10-12) that were performed at a series of stations in Tibetan and Mongolian monasteries down the central peak from Pusa ding.121 Charleux describes Mongol pilgrimage practice on the mountain, where a circuit would take about ten days, and the more fervent pilgrims spent as many as five years completing the journey, making prostrations along the way (Fig. 37). Sites on Wutai shan such as Taming the Ocean Monastery (Zhenhai si, 鎮海寺, Gyatso Dülwé Lingrgya mtsho ’dul ba’i gling; Fig. 4, no. 37), Rāhula Temple (Luohou si, 羅睺寺, Drachendzingyi Lhakhangsgra gcan ’dzin gyi lha khang; Fig. 4, no. 41), the Cave of Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin dong, 观音洞, Chenrezikkyi Pukspyan ras gzigs kyi phug; Fig. 4, no. 43), and the Mother of the Buddha Cave (Fomu dong, 佛母洞, Gyelyum Druppukrgyal yum sgrub phug; Fig. 4, no. 34) were important pilgrimage destinations with special significance for the Mongols.122 Charleux importantly notes that while such imperial Tibetan Buddhist sites were comparable to the imperial temples of Beijing, those of Wutai shan were open to the public. She further asserts that pilgrimage to Wutai shan was even more important to the Mongolian laypeople than to the monks, and in Inner Mongolia, the Mongols even constructed a “Little Wutai shan,” which included versions of many of these sites, such as the Mother’s Womb Cave.123 Wutai shan was so important as a sacral land among Mongols that it became especially desirable for the burial of one’s loved ones’ remains, so much so that the Qing government felt the need to try to regulate or even curtail this practice. Elverskog provocatively suggests that pilgrimage to Wutai shan even had a profound effect on the very self-identity of Mongols and their sense of community.

[page 48]


[119] Elverskog, “Wutai Shan in the Mongol Literary Imaginaire\.”
[120] First identified by Chou, “Ineffable Paths,” 119. However, Charleux (“Mongol Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan in the Late Qing Dynasty”), identifies this as Mañjuśrī’s birthday and an image of Mañjuśrī in the palanquin. For a Tibetan account of festivals on Wutai shan written in 1799, less then fifty years before the panoramic woodblock map (Cat. 1) was printed, see: Yangchen Gawé LodröDbyangs can dga’ ba’i blo gros (1740-1827), Riwo Tsenga Jelkapkyi Netö GurRi bo rtse lngar mjal skabs kyi gnas bstod mgur [A Praise of Riwo Tsenga: Songs Made on the Occasion of Visiting There; Origins of Great Buddhist Festivals Observed There], in the Collected Works of A kyA yongs ’dzin dbyangs can dga’ ba’i blo gros, volume 2 (kha) (Gansu Province: Sku ’bum par khang, 1799), 51-58.
[121] See Zhao Peicheng, “Shi tan Wutai shan Zangchuan Fojiao,” 39-40; and Wang Bin, and Guo Chengwen, “Wutai shan jingang wu ji lamam miao daochang,” Wutai shan yanjiu, no. 2 (1989): 33.
[122] Isabelle Charleux, “Trade, Art and Architecture on the Mongols’ Sacred Mountain,” paper given at the “Wutai Shan and Qing Culture” Conference at the Rubin Museum of Art, May 12-13, 2007; Shi Beiyue, “Fomu Dong” [Buddha Mother Cave], Wutai Shan (2007): 44-48.
[123] At Gilubar juu (Houzhao si, 后召寺; Shanfu si, 善福寺). Isabelle Charleux, Temples et monastères de Mongolie-intérieure (Paris: Éditions du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques: Institut national d’histoire de l’art, 2006), 96, 156, fig. 54, and CD no. 136; Charleux, “Trade, Art and Architecture on the Mongols’ Sacred Mountain”; Setri Ngawang TendarSe kri ngag dbang bstan dar, Dwangs bsil ri bo rtse lnga, 114-15.

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 ).