Wutai shan was a unique site of cultural confluence of the Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese religious and artistic traditions (Cat. 28), a localized breeding ground for what Elverskog calls a “Qing cosmopolitan culture.” Early (pre-Yuan) Tibetan associations with Wutai shan may not always accurately reflect actual circumstances, as they were often the result of contemporary interests projected back to an earlier time. Nonetheless they serve as important “memories” that made Tibetan and Mongolian connections to the site so tangible during later periods. Indeed these stories had a power that came to dominate later imagination subsuming historical fact, as expressed on the 1846 map. To the faithful, Wutai shan is first and foremost the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom Mañjuśrī, which continues to be a focus of devotion, attested to by new pilgrimage guides written in both Chinese and Tibetan languages down to this very day.124
While Wutai shan was a focus of religious pilgrimage for many groups, the establishment and empowering of a Tibetan and Mongolian presence on the mountain had a strong political dimension. By cutting through these many accrued layers of perception, as well as challenging cultural assumptions that have often colored Qing studies, the following papers provide a more nuanced prospective on the social, ethnic, and political dynamics of the Qing dynasty. More specifically they document that while the Manchus were following a well established imperial practice of patronage at Wutai shan as part of establishing their own legitimacy, this new privileging of Tibetan Buddhism, which involved a much broader constituency than previously assumed, was a unique feature of the Qing dynasty. The Mongolian production of the panoramic map of Wutai shan (Cat. 1), which served as the lynchpin of the RMA exhibition, can be seen as a mark of just how successful this Manchu propaganda campaign was by the nineteenth century. Wutai shan’s political significance has not been lost on modern China’s leaders either, as Mao himself stopped at Wutai shan on his way to Beijing in 1949, it would seem in acknowledgement of the mountain’s historic role in the coronation of rulers and the founding of empires.
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 ).
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 ).
- The Mountain
- Early Political Significance
- Tibetan Identification with Wutai shan
- Tibetan Involvement with Wutai shan
- Tibetan and Mongolian Monasteries on Wutai shan
- Mongol Interests in Wutai shan
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