The Central Sacred Site for Emperor Zhenwu, Mount Wudang, also known as Great Harmony Mountain, lies in Shiyan City, Hubei Province. With 72 peaks, 24 ravines, 11 caves, 9 springs, 9 wells and a 1612-meter crown peak, the mountain's mystical beauty has long inspired myth and legend. Long before religious Taoism was founded, Mt. Wudang had been populated with occult masters. After religious Taoism was formed, it entered the popular imagination of Taoists.
Initiated in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty, Taoist buildings on Mount Wudang have been destroyed and repaired repeatedly during past dynasties. In 1412, Emperor Zhudi of the Ming Dynasty hosted the largest scale construction on Mt. Wudang in order to repay the grace that the North God had obligated him. It took 8 years to complete the eight palaces, two temples, 36 shrines and 72 caves. Since then it has been the center of Emperor Zhenwu's worship. These buildings have been badly damaged by wars and fluctuations in the past 100 years, especially during the 1920s. In March 1931, troops of the Red Army under Marshal He Long quartered at Mt. Wudang, and received aid from local Taoists, many of which were cruelly suppressed and killed by the Guomindang Party after the Red Army departed.
The extant Taoist temples include Great Harmony Palace, Purple Heaven Palace, Golden Summit, Recover the Perfect Temple, and Southern Grotto Palace. Purple Heaven Palace at the foot of Unfolded Flag Cliff, which was initiated in 1413, is the largest temple on the mountain and the working place of the Mount Wudang Taoist Association. The buildings of the temple align in three rows of which the eastern one is the East Palace, the western one is the West Palace and the middle one contains the Halls of Dragon-Tiger, Ten-Direction Hall, Purple Heaven and Parents Hall. The Dragon-Tiger Hall inshrines the Dragon and Tiger Protector. Ten-Direction Hall enshrines the Divine General. Along with a 9 meter high, 90 ton stele inscribed with the tale of Emperor Zhu Di's rebuilding of Mt Wudang.
The Supreme Harmony Palace was established in 1416. The central hall enshrines a golden statue of the Emperor, along with the Eight Heavenly Masters of the Thunder Ministry on either side. Other buildings include Worship Hall, Bell-Drum Tower, Chanting Hall, Three-Element Gods Hall, and a theater. On the opposite peak, Little Lotus Peak, is a small house called Transferred Hall. It acquired its name because there was placed in it a miniature bronze temple-house on a stone altar which was donated by followers from Hubei, Henan and Zhejiang in 1307 (in the Yuan Dynasty); It was transferred from the Golden Summit according to the order of Emperor Zhudi, who thought it too small to be on the highest peak.
The Golden Summit is the top of Heaven's Pillar Peak, the mountain's tallest peak. On top of it is an all bronze hall built upon a granite terrace. It is 5.54 meters high, 4.4 meters long and 3.15 meters wide, and was constructed in 1416 using 21 tons of bronze and 30 kilograms of gold. The inner statues of the Emperor, Divine Generals of Water and Fire, and male and female escorts, as well as all the house wares also made of gilded bronze. The place shines golden indeed!
In 1413, Prince Zhudi of the Ming Dynasty raised a rebellion against his nephew, Emperor Jianwen, and usurped the throne. In order to justify his usurpation with what would appear as the will of higher powers, he had his subordinates fabricate a tale saying that the North God helped him defeat his nephew on the battlefield. After the coronation, he launched large-scale constructions on Mt. Wudang of many ceremonies dedicated to the God of War, which he ordered his people to worship. After this time the God of War became a prominent Taoist deity.
Mt. Wudang is located in Shiyan City, Hubei Province. The mountain lies at longitude 103 "14'15 '' — 110" 57'00 '' by latitude 32 "23'10 '' — 32" 33'06 '', and the highest peak is 1612 meters above Sea level.
Around Mt. Wudang 72 high peaks rise skyward and 24 streams flow merrily. The beautiful landscape of the place looks like a picture of magnificent scenery with a happy combination of natural beauty and human creation. Going into the Mountain, visitors can see perilous peaks, mystical caves and ancient palaces here and there. In 1982 Mt. Wudang was listed as one of the key scenic attractions in China and in 1994 it was placed by the UNESCO among the world's cultural legacies.
The ancient architectural complex of Mt. Wudang enterprises buildings erect in the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties respectively. Emperor Zhu Di of the Ming Dynasty issued an Imperial edict to go in for large-scale construction on Mt. Wudang. Geomancers were sent to conduct reconnoiter; Trustful officials were sent to supervise the construction work; Skilled artisans were called on to build the palaces and temples. The design and the layout of the architectural complex reveal the concept of feudal hierarchy. All the buildings were constructed in the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty, displaying the superb architectural art and the wisdom and the creativity of the laboring people in ancient China. During the regimes of the Ming Dynasty, the buildings were erected intact, but in the Qing Dynasty, quite a number of the constructions were destroyed in the flames of war. The present-day buildings are only part of the Ming Dynasty architectures.
The constructions on Mt. Wudang enjoy high reputation for their exquisite architectural art. The buildings, with rich cultural connotation, are physical evidences for the study of Chinese history of Taoism and the politics of the Ming Dynasty.
Characteristics of Mt. Wudang
1) The Unique Natural Scenery
Mt. Wudang is located at the geographical center of China with the Hanshui River running along its foot. To the south of the mountain is the vast Shennongjia primeval forest and to the north is the boundless expanse of the Danjiang Reservoir. Tianzhu Peak, the highest peak of Mt. Wudang, is 1612 meters above sea level with 72 steep peaks rise high around, anchhrouded by clouds and mists. The unique natural beauty was praised by visitors from ancient times to the present. The favorite local climate in the mountain, results in a variegated mass of plants and animals. According to a statistical data, there are 617 kinds of medicinal herbs which about 400 were recorded in the "Compendium of Materia medica" by Li Shizhen, the well-known pharmacologist in the Ming Dynasty. So Mt. Wudang enjoys the good name of "Natural Medical Storehouse".
2) The Unrivaled Imperial Palace
The construction of the ancient architectural complex of Mt. Wudang started in the Zhengguan Regime of Tang Dynasty. It was enlarged in the Song and Yuan Dynasties and in the Ming Dynasty a large-scale construction was transported out on the mountain. Emperor Zhu Di, in Yongle reign of the Ming Dynasty, decided to build the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Imperial Palace on Mt. Wudang. During the Yongle reign 200,000 builders, soldiers and artisans were mobilized and the entire project was completed after more than ten years' hard work. The magnificent complex comprated of nine palaces, eight temples, thirty-six halls, seventy-two monasteries and other buildings and bridges. The complex both has the imposing style of Imperial palace and the mood of a jeweled palace on the mountain of the immortals.
3) The Exquisite Cultural Relics
The Taoist Culture has left us rich and precious cultural relics which high grade, great varieties are seldom seen in the world. The number of the well-preserved cultural relics is over ten thousand. Since the Tang Dynasty, the Imperial courts of the feudal dynasties considered Mt. Wudang as "the place to seek the blessings of the gods". Every year the imperial kinsmen, the high officials and noble lords and the Taoist followers made Pilgrimages to the sacred mountain and held various religious ceremonies. To show their profound belief of in Taoism and hope to call down blessings of God Zhenwu, the Taoist believers offered all kinds of ritual implements and presents as tributes. Quite a number of the ritual implements were presented by the feudal courts of the past ages. Although some of the cultural relics were lost, the extant relics is a great wealth of historical cultural heritage. According to a statistical figure, the extant relics are twenty provinces and cities, reflecting unique local features. These objects provide invaluable and material material for the study of the history, metallurgy, casting, sculpture, drawing, dressing and social changes in the last four feudal dynasties.
4) The Long-standing Taoist Culture
Far away from the noisy cities, Mt. Wudang is endowed with quiet and secluded environment and beautiful natural scenery. In the long history, it was an ideal place for hermits to cultivate them through through meditation. In the Ming Dynasty, Mt. Wudang was the Taoist center in the country. So Mt. Wudang is rich in Taoist culture.
5) The Taoist Truth of Life
The whole layout of the architectural complex was based on the legendary (legend) of Zhenwu the God who had cultivated itself into immortal, which reveals the common ideology of Taoists, the Confucians and Buddhists. The Imperial Edict of Emperor Zhu Di inscribed on a stone tablet on the mountain says, "I, the sovereign has informed that the Taoist discriminates on Mt Wudang have devoted themselves to the sacred belief." They keep to vegetarian food, avoid this mortal life, And increase the numeral hindrances in the confinement. " The doctrine of Morality advocated by Lao-tzu is reflected in Taoism which could have been summed up as "Learning from practice and probing the mystery of the Universe and human's life".