No. 122: Bishan Temple, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 2, 2015.)

Vairocana Buddha (毗卢遮那佛) and attendants in the main hall
at Bishan Temple (碧山寺), Wutai Shan, Shanxi (山西, 五台山)

August 25, 2012 - Boarding the bus near Mt. Wutai's Guanyin Cave--the most southerly point I visited on the main road through Taihuai--I rode all the way to Bishan Temple, the northernmost temple on my itinerary.

The bi character in Bishan can be translated "jade" or "green," making the name perhaps "Jade Mountain" or "Green Mountain" Temple. But it may be a play on an older name, Beishan (North Mountain), recognizing the temple's location at the northern end of the valley where Taihuai is located.

The first temple built on the site dates to the late fifth century, in the Northern Wei dynasty. But its current layout comes from the era of the Qing Emperor Kangxi, who sponsored its reconstruction.

The layout is fairly standard, but with some nice variations. A stunning pailou (a kind of gate) stands at the front of the central axis. After the usual Heavenly Kings' Hall, the main hall is dedicated to Vairocana, the Great Sun Buddha, and my favorite.

The third hall contains an ordination platform, where monks are created. Rare enough in China, this is the only ordination hall on Wutai Mountain. The huge platform is hidden under modern statuary, and a thousand small Buddhas line the rafters. Finally, at the top of the compound is a sutra repository. Private halls for sleeping and meditation lie outside the compound.

Of interest to Shenzheners is that Master Benhuan, the late abbot of Hongfa Temple who died there in 2012 at age 106, was abbot at Bishan from 1939 and throughout the Second World War.

GPS Info:
  • 39.02358, 113.60755


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


More pictures can be found here.

A stunning pailou stands in front of Bishan Temple.

This ordination hall is the only one on Mt. Wutai.

A jade "Sleeping Buddha" on the ordination platform

The Vairocana Buddha in the main hall of Bishan

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