The Mountain of Five Plateaus: Studies of the Wutai cult in Multidisciplinary and Transborder/Cultural Approaches

Fri., Aug. 22nd, 09:00-15:30

A Leitmotif of Buddhist Sacred Landscape: Mount Wutai and the Creation of Sacred Sites across the Japanese Archipelago

Andrews, Susan (Saint Joseph's University, San Francisco, USA)

In the seventh century Mount Wutai 五臺山emerged as the foremost sacred place in Tang China (618-907). Its holy status was rooted largely in scriptural claims that the mountain was home to the Buddhist deity Mañjuśrī 文殊. While the scholarship of Lin Yunrou 林韻柔 (2009) and Raoul Birnbaum (1983, 2004) among others has revealed much about the mountain’s history within China’s borders, it has had considerably less to say about the territory’s later and larger East Asian significance. Taking as my starting point Mount Wutai’s replication at Kōchi’s 高知Godaisan 五臺山, in this paper I endeavor to suggest what the mapping of Mount Wutai’s landscapes—real and imagined—onto Japanese soil accomplished in the Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333) periods.

As the statuary, inscriptions, temple gazetteers, and monastic biographies around which this paper is built establish, the practice of linking structures outside Tang and Song China to Wutai “originals” was not restricted to Godaisan. Quite the opposite, tradition recorded in Seiin’s 静胤 (c. 1197) twelfth-century Tōnomine ryakki 多武峰略記 (A Brief History of Mount Tōnomine) and documents discovered within the cavity of the famous Seiryōji shaka nyorai zō 淸涼寺釋迦如來像 (The Seiryō Temple Sculpture of Śākyamuni Tathāgata), for instance, holds that the mountain served as a template for the creation of structures atop Mount Atago 愛宕山 and Mount Tōnomine 多武峰.

With Mount Wutai’s replication at this triad of Japanese sites—Godaisan, Atago, and Tōnomine— at the center of my inquiry, in this paper I will examine relationships between the past and the present; reception and re-presentation; the local and the translocal contexts of religious practice and belief. The types of broader questions that will orient my exploration of Mount Wutai’s replication across the Japanese archipelago between the seventh and fourteenth centuries will include: How do local religious communities differently interpret and strategically apply received traditions? What relationship obtains between the creation of local holy place and the fashioning of religious identities that are not territorially bound? What does the writing and rewriting of the past accomplish for successive generations of practitioners? Highlighting the role that replication played in the growth in scale and geographic reach of the Wutai world, this investigation should call attention to the value of examining local traditions in their larger East Asian context.


The Literary Wutaishan

Cartelli, Mary Anne (Hunter College, New York, USA)

Mount Wutai is a destination to be ascended and worshipped in word and image. In the Mount Wutai literature, the mountain is a synthesis of geography and iconography and of matter and spirit, simultaneously representing both the mundane and transcendental worlds. The literary motifs of the Mount Wutai literature are based on the numinous traces (lingji 靈跡) of the mountain as described in the early travel records, such as the Gu Qingliang zhuan 古清涼傳 and the Guang Qingliang zhuan 廣清涼傳. These traces reflect the religious themes of Chinese Buddhism and articulate the extraordinary characteristics associated with the mountain as the pure land of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. They are also associated with the sutra literature and the wall-painting of the mountain in Cave 61 at Dunhuang. My talk will focus on the imagery and themes of the steles, gazetteers, poems, tales, and other Chinese literature associated with the mountain from the Tang through Qing dynasties.


Sacred Geography: New Perspectives on the Study of Mount Wutai

Chen, Jinhua (The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, CAN)

This article proposes to study a marchmount of exceptional importance for East Asian Buddhism. It is Mount Wutai (Lit. Mountain of Five Terraces), located in central China and widely venerated by Buddhist believers from all over East Asia. It will not treat sacred space as a dead and immobile entity; nor will it isolate it from sacred time or religious, intellectual and socio-political backgrounds. But rather, it will treat Mount Wutai as a sacred site in specific historical and intellectual contexts. It will be carried out around three foci: (1) the ways legends and local histories represent the perceived sacrality of this sacred site, and the role that (2) relics and (3) images (including paintings, statues, and maps) played in creating, recreating and sustaining this mountain's status as a key Buddhist sacred site.


Visions in Translation: Zhangkya Rölpé Dorjé’s Guidebook and the Reinvention of Qing-dynasty Wutai Shan

Chou, Wen-shing (Hunter College, New York, NY, USA)

The late 18th and early 19th century witnessed an unprecedented increase in the production of Tibetan and Mongolian language guidebooks to Wutai Shan, attesting to the mountain’s growing popularity among Mongol and Tibetan pilgrims in this period. This paper considers one particularly instrumental Tibetan guidebook to Wutai Shan initiated by Zhangkya Rölpé Dorjé (1717–1786), the resident Tibetan Buddhist master in the Qing Court and one of the most prodigious Buddhist scholars of the 18th century. That Chan and Huayan Buddhist tales of encounter with the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, along with pre-Buddhist legends of immortals, are carefully preserved and re-interpreted in this work calls into question how Tibetan Buddhists, and in particular Gelukpa hierarchs and scholars from Mongolia and Amdo Tibet, re-imagined Chinese Buddhist history and the place of the Gelukpa tradition therein. As this text became one of the primary sources for pilgrims from Tibet and Mongolia, it also served as an important agent in mediating and dictating pilgrims’ experience of Wutai Shan. Rölpé Dorjé’s guidebook therefore invites a reevaluation of Gelukpa scholasticism and the formation of Wutai Shan’s religious identity for the Pan-Tibetan Buddhist world from the 18th century onward.


The Role of Wutaishan in the Religious Practice of Huayan Buddhism

Hamar, Imre (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, HUN)

The Huayan Buddhism has a close relationship wit­­h Wutaishan. As it is widely known one of the canonical sources for Mañjuśrī’s presence on Wutaishan is the Avataṃsaka-sūtra. Kojima Taizan claims that Wutaishan was the centre of Huayan Buddhism, as several outstanding Huayan scholars lived on Wutaishan, and their teachings had special features in contrast with the scholars in the other centre at Zhongnanshan. One of them was Chengguan 澄觀 (738-839), the fourth patriarch of the Huayan school who lived there for ten years and authored his commentary on the Huayan jing on the request of monks residing in the Da huayan si. He emphasised that the sacred land of Wutaishan had a great impact on him. His work was associated with dreams and auspicious signs. Huayan Buddhism is regarded as a philosophical school of Chinese Buddhism which advocates the interrelatedness of all phenomena. However, in this paper we are going to show that Huayan Buddhism is also connected with popular beliefs and practices. Several collections of miraculous stories about the Avataṃsaka-sūtra were written, and some stories are connected with Wutaishan. The earliest extant collection is the Account of Stimuli and Responses Related to Buddhāvataṃsaka-sūtra (Dafangguang fo huayan ganying zhuan 大方廣佛華嚴經感應傳, hereafter Ganying zhuan), compiled shortly after 783 by Hu Youzhen 胡幽貞 (?-783+). This collection must have been based on The Collection of Avataṃsaka-related Numinous Tales (Huayan zuanling ji 華嚴纂靈記), which has been lost since the 14th century, though citations by Chengguan, Purui 普瑞 (1254-1329), Zongmi 宗密 (780-841), Yongming Yanshou 永明延壽 (904-975) and Tan’ei 湛叡 (1271-1346) have survived. The other early source of the miraculous stories is The Record of the Transmission of the Avataṃsaka-sūtra (Huayan jing zhuanji 華嚴經傳記) compiled by Fazang 法藏 (643-712). Although Huayan Buddhism declined after the Tang dynasty three further collections are extant: the first is the Short Record of Account of Stimuli and Responses Related to Avataṃsaka (Huayanjing ganying lüeji 華嚴經感應略記) by Zhuhong 祩宏 (1535-1615), the second is Hongbi’s 弘璧 (1598-1669) Causes of Stimuli and Responses Related to the Avataṃsaka-sūtra (Huayanjing ganying yuanqi zhuan 華嚴經感應緣起傳), and the third is the Chronological Account of the Efficacies of Huayanjing (Lichao huayan chiyan ji 歷朝華嚴持驗記) written by Zhou Kefu 周可復 under the Qing dynasty.


Development of the Wutai Cult during the Silla Dynasty

Lee, Sangyop (Stanford University, CA, USA)

The depiction of the initiation and development of the Silla Wutai (Kr. Odae) cult as given in the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms can be summarized as follows: Chajang (fl. ca. 650), who made a pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai during his study in China, first identified a group of five mountain peaks in the present day Kangwŏn province as the Korean counterpart of the Mañjuśrī abode. A few decades later, two princes of the Silla Dynasty, Poch’ŏn and Hyomyŏng, retreated to the Mt. Odae and experienced visions of myriad buddhas and bodhisattvas in each mountain peak. Poch‘ŏn stayed in the mountain and later developed his vision into a complex system of religious practice that incorporated sūtra reading, divination, repentance ritual, and devotional belief in Mañjuśrī, Guanyin, Kṣitigarbha, Maitreya, Śākyamuni, and Amitābha.

This paper will attempt to reconstruct the development of the Silla Wutai cult through a critical reading of these accounts. First, it will introduce some of the major controversies regarding the historical reading of these records. Second, it will challenge the understanding that Chajang was the actual initiator of the Korean Wutai cult who solely introduced the tradition into the country. This will be argued from some contextual discrepancies and a particular narrative idiosyncrasy found in most of his stories related to Mt. Odae that seems to help bolster only the authorities of the mountain’s local Buddhists. Third, a comparison between Poch‘ŏn’s practice system and contemporary Chinese Wutai cult will be made, and it will be argued that Poch‘ŏn’s Odae cult can be better understood within the context of indigenous developments of Silla Buddhism than in connection to the Chinese Wutai cult. These discussions will lead to the conclusion that the advent of the Silla Wutai cult serves as another interesting example of “idea diffusion” in cultural transmission.


A Transposable Sacred Mountain: Flying Mañjuśrī and Moving Mount Wutai

Lin, Wei-Cheng (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, USA)

Unlike an icon or relics, both portable objects of sacred power, a sacred site fixed in place resists relocation. Indeed, as Jonathan Z. Smith once argued, “there is one mode of transposition [of the sacrality] that is most difficult for ritual praxis and thought: the transposition of space marked as sacred.” A sacred site thus entails a physical journey of the pilgrim that overcomes the distance between the sacred and the profane. Mount Wutai, as its sacred mountain cult spread in medieval East Asia from central China to its neighboring regions and countries, however, defied the concept of an unmovable sacred site.

This paper investigates the dissemination of the sacred mountain cult in the western border around Dunhuang, as well as the Western Region to its west, from the tenth century (of the Guiyijun period) into the Xi Xia period (1038-1227). In particular, it explores the critical role of “sacral image” in developing and shaping the cult once it was transmitted outside the sacred field of Mount Wutai. A primary example of this investigation is a silk painting that has been titled “Mañjuśrī of Wutaishan on his lion” (ca. late 10th c.), from the Library Cave in Mogao near Dunhuang and currently in the collection of the Musée Guimet (EO3588). With its style showing influences from the Uigurs and Tanguts, the painting provides evidence for the reception of the sacred mountain cult in the bordering region as to how cultic belief was appropriated in the regional visual culture and tradition. Drawing from other available visual and textual sources, I argue that rather than a simple depiction of the bodhisattva, the image of Mañjuśrī riding his lion in this regional visual language and convention was meant to re-envision the sacred presence of the bodhisattva. In this revisioned presence, the flying Mañjuśrī straddling his holy beast was regarded as capable of transposing in vision the sacred mountain to the border region, thus reversing the usual relations between the unmovable mountain and peripatetic pilgrims. Eventually, this paper demonstrates that it is the vision of the bodhisattva’s true presence that takes primacy in the religious imagination of Mount Wutai that made possible “the transposition of the space marked as sacred.”


First Mongols at Wutai: The Peregrinations of Sumpa Khenpo Yeshé Peljor

Sullivan, Brenton (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, CAN)

In the year 1743, the illustrious Mongol lama known as Sumpa Khenpo (1704-1788) was suffering from a terrible, long-term illness. He thought to himself, “were I to die, it would be meritorious to do so at Five-Peaked Mountain.” Such a wish resembles the well-known practice among Mongols of interring the remains of their deceased at Mount Wutai with the hope of securing a better rebirth for their loved ones (Charleux 310). Sumpa was denied permission to go there and was told instead that he had better return to his home monastery to convalesce. It was not until 1750 that he finally made the trek from his base in northeastern Tibet (Amdo), through Inner Mongolia, to Mount Wutai.

Sumpa Khenpo’s pilgrimage to Wutai is important for a number of reasons. To begin, he was one of the earliest Mongols to have made pilgrimage to Wutai for which we have record (Charleux 276). In fact, his three distinct journeys to the mountain—in 1750, 1767, and 1774—marked the beginning of the historic wave of Mongol patronage to Wutai that reached its zenith in the nineteenth century (Elverskog 250; Charleux 282). Other scholars of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism have suggested that pilgrimage to major sites such as Wutai facilitated the strengthening of cultural unity and the development of ethnonationalist identities among Tibetans and Mongols (Kapstein 1998; Elverskog 2011). Sumpa’s detailed account of his pilgrimage to Wutai thus gives us concrete examples of the communal activities in which Mongols and Tibetans engaged while at Wutai.

Second, Sumpa’s detailed descriptions of his multiple visions of Mañjuśrī as well as the specific sites he visited along his pilgrimage circuit both complement and alter the vision of pilgrimage to Wutai derived from Chinese sources. For instance, Sumpa’s pilgrimage circuit shows a definite bias toward the Tibetan Buddhist institutions on the mountain, while his encounters with Mañjuśrī were imbued with Chinese culture insofar as the clothes the bodhisattva wore and the gifts he offered derived from a Chinese context.

Finally, during Sumpa’s two later trips to Wutai he visited with the Dynastic Preceptor, the famous Changkya Rölpé Dorjé (1717-1786). The meetings between these two eminent lamas were not inconsequential or merely ceremonious. On the contrary, they discussed important “political” or “administrative” affairs, such as the appointment of abbots at major monasteries and the selection of the rebirths of important lamas. Thus, Sumpa’s account illustrates the cosmopolitan, political networks that formed at Wutai beginning in the eighteenth century.


Beyond Seeking for Sacredness: Carving the Jiaxing Canon嘉興藏 at Mount Wutai

Zhang, Dewei (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, CAN)

It has attracted much scholarly attention in recent years to explore how the mobilization of resources has affected the development of Chinese Buddhism. By examining the result of a particular mobilizing project, we can detect the interplay of various elements involved and thus are able to well appreciate the vitality of Buddhism. As a huge project that required tremendous human and material resources to carry through, the making of the Buddhist canon in pre-modern East Asia provides us with a rare opportunity in this regard. Among more than twenty printed versions of the canon, the Jiaxing canon deserves particular attention for two reasons: it was the biggest one, consisting of about 12,000 fascicles of Buddhist texts; its creation was most time-consuming, requiring more than 200 years to finish. Scholars have tended to view the creation of this canon as a story of courage and commitment, but they fail to explain a significant and meaningful fact: the project was originally planned to complete within ten years. So, why were the organizers of the project so ambitious to produce the canon in such a short time period in the first place? What caused the procrastination of about 200 years? Was it accidental? How could the project still be finished after experiencing such a delay? What changes happened over the course of time?

This paper examines the early stage of making the Jiaxing canon at Mount Wutai in hope of discovering the elements that were at work and how their interaction affected the project. That phase lasted only four years, from Wanli 17 to 20 (1589-1592), but the result has proved most fruitful. This paper reveals that Mount Wutai was deliberately chosen as the site for the project for both sacred and secular reasons. Religiously, as scholars have recognized, this arrangement was to enhance the attractiveness of the project by borrowing sacredness from Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. A more important but oft-ignored fact, however, is that the mountain was actually seen by the organizers of the project as an ideal location to draw resources from Beijing, especially from the inner and outer court. Such a strategy resulted in the failure to get the local people of Shanxi, in which Mount Wutai was located, involved in the project, even though they had already shown strength and enthusiasm enough for supporting this kind of project. That the coordinators of the Jiaxing project mostly came from South China might be a contributing factor to this strange ignorance. This heavy dependence on the court proved disastrous: when the supporting force at the Wanli court collapsed as consequence of intense court strife, the project was forced to move from Mount Wutai to south China, thereby marking the gloomy end of the early stage of producing the canon. Afterwards, the Jiaxing project continued slowly, and only with local support it obtained from Jiangnan societies was it finally brought to a completion more than one hundred years later than planned.



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