No. 129: Tayuan Temple, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on April 27, 2015.)

The Stupa at Tayuan Temple (塔院寺) is the symbol of Wutai Shan, Shanxi (山西, 五台山).

August 27, 2012 - For a small temple, Wutai Shan's Tayuan ("Pagoda Compound") really has a lot to see.

First, of course, is the titular pagoda itself. This "milk-bottle" style structure serves as a symbol for the entire mountain, standing as it does at the base of Bodhisattva Peak (Pusa Ding). Although I visited it last of the day, most pilgrims would start here before working their way up. Accounts vary, but it seems to have been built in the Ming Dynasty, and it stands about 75 meters high (including its base).

Elsewhere on the grounds are an ornate sutra cabinet in its own hall, which with several other buildings forms the compound around the pagoda.

A side-yard contains a couple of unusual features. One is a hall in which Mao Zedong is said to have slept when he passed this way on April 9, 1948. Inside is a statue of the Chairman, as well as a reconstruction of how the interior of the room may have looked at the time.

In this same side compound stands a second pagoda, smaller than the main one, with a fascinating legend attached. An old lady once appeared at the temple, with a child, a baby, and a dog. She and the child were fed, and more was given reluctantly for the baby and the dog. When she asked for still more, the monks refused her. She then manifested herself as Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. The child and baby were her companions, and the dog was a lion. She scolded the monks for discriminating against her, and left behind some gold strands of hair, now enshrined in the smaller pagoda.

I wonder what the kernel is that led to the creation of this story?

GPS Info:
  • 39.0084, 113.59613


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


More pictures can be found here.

The milk-bottle-shaped pagoda gives Tayuan (Pagoda Compound") its name.

The hall in which Mao Zedong is said to have slept

The Manjushri Hair Pagoda in a side-yard

The sutra cabinet in the back hall

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