No. 130: Shuxiang Temple, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on May 4, 2015.)

Wutai Shan, Shanxi (山西, 五台山), is dedicated to Manjushri
Bodhisattva (Wenshu Pusa=文殊菩萨). This figure at Shuxiang
Temple (殊像寺) is Wutai Shan's most magnificent one.

August 28, 2012 - As it is my custom to visit the farthest-out temples first, so the last temple I saw on Wutai Shan was right across the street from my hotel.

Shuxiang ("Statue of Manjushri") Temple was extremely busy on the summer afternoon when I visited. Built and rebuilt more times than history could record, it is likely that some establishment has been on this site since before the Tang Dynasty.

The temple's name refers to a colossal statue, housed in its own hall, of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and patron of Wutai Mountain. The statue was made over 400 years ago, and 500 Arhats surround it in attendance. Overall, it is nearly 10 meters high, and shows him seated on a blue lion, which is about 40% of the total height.

But this is no ordinary lion. Since Buddhism's inception in India, the lion had been used as a symbol of wisdom, and was closely associated with Manjushri. The Buddha's clan, the Shakyas, was a "lion clan," and his teachings are sometimes called "The Lion's Roar." But in China, this lion came to be considered a suan ni, a dragon with a lion's appearance, who is the eighth of nine sons of a dragon. (This same figure shows up as a demon in the popular Ming novel Journey to the West.)

The next morning I made one more brief stop on my way to the bus station. Outside Shuxiang's gates, behind a hotel, is the Prajna ("Wisdom") Spring. Alas, the precious liquid gushing from its dragon spout is now used for cleaning the mops from the hotel and the floor mats of guests' cars.

GPS Info (Click the link to view the map):
  • Shuxiang Temple: 39.00333, 113.59362
  • Prajna Spring: 39.003057, 113.594502


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


More pictures can be found here (temple) and here (spring).

The hall containing the giant statue of Manjushri

Wutai Shan's largest statue of Manjushri

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