No. 120: Jinge Temple, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on February 9, 2015.)

500 Arhats (五百罗汉) sit in the rafters over the main hall at
Jinge Temple (金阁寺), Wutai Shan, Shanxi (山西, 五台山).

August 25, 2012 - It has long been my practice first to try to reach the most remote temples in any area I visit. Jinge ("Golden Pavilion") Temple fit the bill perfectly.

As mentioned in previous articles, Mount Wutai has five peaks. A small temple marks the summit of each. Aside from these, Jinge at 1900 meters is the highest temple on the mountain. It's also 15 kilometers from the town of Taihuai, making it quite a challenge to reach.

I went down to the town center, a place bustling with summer visitors, and began asking around for transportation. A kindly policeman called a friend who had a car. When he showed up, he asked an exorbitant price. Showing him my beads and book of prayers, I explained that I was a pilgrim, not a tourist. BOOM! The price dropped into my range immediately!

The temple would have justified almost any expense. A huge establishment in a lonely location, it was said to have been founded in 767 by Amoghavajra (Chinese "Bu Kong"), an Indian monk and translator who had come to China during the Tang Dynasty. He was promoting the veneration of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, to whom the mountain is dedicated.

Aside from a dog and one old monk, I seemed to have the place to myself. Despite the mountain's harsh winters, the halls of Jinge were resplendent. One contains a 17-meter tall statue of Guanyin made of bronze, the tallest statue on the mountain. The top hall houses a typical Buddha triad--Shakyamuni, the Medicine Buddha, and Amitabha--with unusual, cartoonish arhats around them.

But above these common figures was something most uncommon: the rafters were decorated with small figures of the 500 arhats, hovering as though ready to pounce. Delightful!

When I was ready to leave, the driver brought me back down the hill and dropped me at my next destination, Guanyin Cave.

GPS Info:
  • 38.96745, 113.51357


(Regarding problems with this map, please see the CHINA section on this page.)


More pictures can be found here.

A bird on a roof provides a musical welcome at Jinge Temple.

The resplendent first hall

This giant bronze statue of Guanyin is the highest on Wutai Mountain.

Small arhats hover over large ones in the top hall

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