Making pilgrimages to Wudang Mountain remains popular.
Wudang Mountain, located in Shiyan in western Hubei province, is both a famous scenic spot and a holy site of Taoism, China's indigenous religion.
The mountain is a famous Taoist center in China with a long history of Taoist practices and profound Taoist culture.
Taoists believe that the legendary Emperor Zhenwu, one of the most influential gods in Taoism, practiced austerities and ascended to heaven as an immortal in the mountain.
Every year, Taoist communities in the mountain hold grand ceremonies to celebrate Emperor Zhenwu's birthday on March 3 of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and his ascension to heaven on September 9 of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
Visiting the temples of Wudang to burn incense for Emperor Zhenwu became popular in the Song Dynasty (920-1279), with tens of thousands of pilgrims journeying to the mountain each year.
As the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) highly esteemed Wudang, the government granted the mountain the titles of "Taiyue" and "Xuanyue," meaning "the country's most sacred mountain".
Most groups of Taoist pilgrims have names related to Wudang or the gods they believe in.
Before Taoist pilgrims started their journey to Wudang Mountain, they would first hold ceremonies to tell gods of their pilgrimage.
They would then visit their ancestors' graves to honor the dead. After that, they would take a bath and wear clean clothes and set out with the other members of a pilgrimage.
Among Chinese, burning incense in a temple has always been a solemn and grave activity.
It is especially the case for pilgrims of Wudang Mountain. They have a set of strict customs and rituals to follow during the ceremonies.
They must show serious facial expressions and be cautious in making speeches.
The tradition of making pilgrimages to Wudang Mountain goes back more than 1,000 years and is still popular among people.
(China Daily 08/22/2008 page9)