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Climb,play and pray: Mount Wutai

Updated : 2014-10-22
By Sun Ye(China Daily)

What better way to recharge than to find a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the cities?

Sun Ye picks out five holiday destinations that offer religious respite as a panacea for modern maladies.

Editor's note: China is known for its mountainous religious retreats where the many major beliefs first came to life. The most famous are the abode of the Shaolin monks, and the home of the Wudang Taoists, but there are many more noteworthy hill retreats that attract the modern pilgrims - who go there not just for renewal of peace of mind, but the serene scenery.

Mount Wutai

Climb,play and pray: Mount Wutai

While in Wutai, you have to visit the temples. The mountain is home to many of China's most important monasteries and temples. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wutai boasts 53 sacred venues. It is also believed to be the ashram, or spiritual hermitage, of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri (or Wenshu in Chinese).

First on the list is Nanshan Temple. First built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the temple complex has seven terraces, which are then divided into three parts. The lower three terraces form the Jile Temple, the middle terrace is the Shande Hall and the top three terraces become the Youguo Temple. All are worthy of a climb, fuelled with a pious heart.

You should also visit Pusa Peak, where the Bodhisattva of wisdom once resided. This is where you can pray for good luck and a prosperous life for your family.

If what you are after is more physical splendor, then arrange for a visit to Xiantong Temple. This large showcase of Buddhist architecture from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is spread over 43,700 square meters and houses more than 400 rooms.

Mount Wutai, as its name suggests, consists of five peaks (North, South, East, West, Central), and all are accessible. There are enough monasteries and temples on each to make every ascent memorable.

If you go: Mount Wutai is in the northeastern part of Shanxi province. It is about half way between Taiyuan, the provincial capital, and Datong. You can fly in to either city and Mount Wutai can be reached by bus from there. The journey takes about four to five hours. Occasional trains also stop at Shahe Town (Mount Wutai Station), which is about an hour away from the mountain by taxi or minibus.

Lodging is concentrated in Taihuai Village in Mount Wutai. Budget guesthouses are available, with a mid-range room costing about 100 yuan ($15.80) per night for two persons.

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