China has over 200 mountains which have associations with Buddhism. Among them are the famous Buddhism’s Four Mountain Sanctuaries,they are E'mei Mountain,Jiuhua Mountain,Wutai Mountain and Putuo Mountain. These mountains are the domains of Buddhism’s four most venerated Bodhisattvas. In the course of the spread of Buddhism in China, worships of the Bodhisattvas gradually emerged. Specifically, according to Buddhist legends, these four Bodhisattvas descended upon this mundane would with the task of delivering the multitude to another world. They established themselves in these mountains (their relative domains) to preach their doctrines, thus helping establish the position of the four mountains as the Buddhist sanctuaries in China.
No.1: Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province
Mt. Emei is towering, beautiful, old and mysterious. It is like a huge green screen standing in the southwest of the Chengdu Plain. Looking its winding and beautiful figure, you will find that it resembles very much an eyebrow of a girl. It is the highest one among all the famous sight-seeing mountains in China.
On the mountain there are four scenic regions: Baoguo Temple, Wannian Temple, Qingyin Pavilion and Golden Summit. Its main peak, the Golden Summit, is 3079.3 meters (10,103 feet) above the sea level, seemingly reaching the sky. Standing on the top of it, you can enjoy the snowy mountains in the west and the vast plain in the east. In addition in Golden Summit there are four spectacles: clouds sea, sunrise, Buddha rays and saint lamps. In 1996 Mt. Emei was enlisted in the world natural and cultural heritage by the UNESCO.
Mt. Emei is a wondrous world. The trees are verdant almost all the year round; the waterfalls are splendid; the whole scenery is beautiful and quiet. The landscape varies according to the seasons, the height and the climate. The poet Tan Zhongyue living in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) once concluded the beautiful landscape in Emei Mountain into ten scenic sights.
No.2: Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui Province
Jiuhua Mountain, covers an area of 100 square kilometers, is located in southwest of Qingyang County, Chizhou City Anhui Province. And it is 50 km away from the Yellow Mountain. There are 99 peaks and 18 scenic spots in its area. With its marvelous landscape and pleasant climate, Jiuhua Mountain is considered one of the best summer resorts in China. In addition to its popularity as a tourist destination, it is a holy site where Buddhists assemble- Jiuhua Mountain has been established as one of the four sacred Buddhist shrines, along with Mount Wutai in Shanxi, Mt. Emei in Sichuan, and Mount Putuo in Zhejiang.
Visitors to the temples on the Mount Jiuhua are always impressed with the exquisite architecture and grand structure. Now there are no more than 90 temples in existence in it, most of them restored in Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) Dynasties. Among the most well known are the Incarnation Hall, Huacheng Temple, Zhiyuan Temple, Longevity Hall, Zhantanlin Temple, Ganlu Temple and Tiantai Zhending Temple.
No.3: Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province
Located in Shanxi province, Mt.Wutai is believed to be the home of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, known as Wenshu (文殊 – wén shū) in Chinese. The name comes from the fact that there are five rounded peaks, of which the northern is the highest. It is home to 53 monasteries, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. Wutai is thought of as the first of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains, as it was identified before the others. The reason that Wutai was designated as a holy mountain was a description in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra (华严经 – huá yán jīng), a holy book that said Wenshu lived on a “clear, cold mountain in the northeast.” Actually, it’s believed that Wenshu often appears on the mountain, either in the form of a person such as a monk, or more often in the form of multi-colored clouds.
No.4: Putuo Mountain in Zhejiang Province
The fourth and final sacred Buddhist mountain actually takes us to an island. Mt. Putuo (普陀山 – pǔ tuó shān) is part of Zhoushan (舟山 – zhōu shān, a prefecture-level city composed solely of islands. It’s believed to be the bodhimaṇḍa (道場 – dào chǎng), or “position of awakening” for the bodhisattva of compassion, known as Guan Yin (观音菩萨 – guān yīn pú sà) in Chinese. Tons of people flock here on the 19th day of the 2nd, 6th, and 9th months of the lunar calendar for special ceremonies commemorating special events in the life of Guan Yin. There are three major temples here, with a bunch of other smaller temples and even a large Buddhist institute on the grounds.
These four Buddhist mountain sanctuaries are endowed with a venerated history of Buddhist cultural legacy, with treasures of Buddhist art and cultural relics. Here, one can always hear the Buddhist music and incantations and smell the burning incense. The noble images of the mountains, soaring over the mortal world and into the blue sky, act as symbols of the Buddhist belief in rebirth and introvert meditation. The clean and profound environment of the mountains is an expression of the Buddhist outlook of simple life, and the solitude of the mountain sanctuaries symbolizes theBuddhist philosophy.