Home of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva - Mount Wutai
The fact that one of the most important Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, Mañjuśrī, has his official residence somewhere in China is a bit weird – considering Buddhism originated in ancient India, and somehow while Buddha was alive, he had specifically mentioned that far in the east in the country now known as China, Mañjuśrī has his bodhimanda in the sacred Mount Wutai in Shan Xi province. Mañjuśrī is a bodhisattvas of wisdom and insight, as the teacher to seven Buddhas, he holds an extremely important position in Buddhism.
Latitude: 39.007713 | Longitude: 113.59623
The name Wutai 五台, literally means five platforms. This is due to the fact that this area has five peaks, all relative flat on the top. The average altitude of this region is 2500m above sea level, with the highest peak, North Peak, at 3058m.
There are four sacred Buddhism mountains in China; the rest being Mount Emei in Sichuan Province, Mount Jiuhua in Anhui Province and Mount Putuo in Zhejiang Province. Wutai is the north most sacred site – only a few hours' slow train ride west of Beijing.
As a sacred mountain and close to the capital, Wutai mountain has been graced by much imperial attention from Beijing in the past, and the mountains are littered with hundreds of temples of different sizes and styles. These days, the small town Huaitai nestled in the mountains is so over saturated with shops and restaurants for tourists, you could experience little "sacredness" in this over crowded space. Some of the grandest and most well-known temples in Mount Wutai also reside in this town, making it all the more appropriate tourism businesses to flourish in this tiny place.
Once you've paid an entry fee into the tourist region, you are good to stay as long as you like. From tiny B&B that is barely inhabitable to five star hotel, you have a lot of choices of accommodation. A shuttle bus running through the small Huaitai town all day long is free to all tourists, but venturing further into the mountains, for example, the five peaks, would require paid bus services. Once you leave the heart of this noisy town, calm and peace descend and you can start to feel the rather unique aura of this sacred mountain.
It is hard to put to words what is so special about this mountain. With my rather dull human senses I have not witnessed any miracles or supernatural events, having traveled there twice already. Though enough travel companions have told me strange and unusual experiences, dreams and physical reactions they have encountered during their stay, so I have little doubt that this mountain is special in ways I cannot detect. But even without these incredible anecdotes, my basic senses are enough to show me its incredible beauty. The air is so much sweeter compared to what you can get in a typical Chinese metropolis; the weather changes fast and you could easily experience all four seasons within one day; the endless mountains are covered with densely packed trees; and if you're a fan of Asian architecture, Wutai mountain has just about everything from stone carvings to wooden structures.
Here is a little secret about the mountain that you might want to jog down, in case you ever get a chance to travel there. I haven't personally verified this story, but since it came from a very reliable source, I'd take it for real. I found out about this after I traveled there, and I haven't since had a chance to go back.
If you ever travel to Mount Wutai, you should arrange a trip to the North Peak. On the top you would find a small temple: there's only one building so you couldn't possibly miss it. Go into the temple and find a hole covered by a red cloth. Yes... a hole, there is usually a monk there, but he would not object nor would he point out the cloth covered hole. It's kind of if you know you know and if not I'm not going to tell you sort of situation. You can go ahead and lift the red cloth and take a peak into the hole. I was told it's a bottomless dark pit, you should cover the opening around your face to make sure no light sips through the crack, and stare into the blackness. You will soon see interesting images. The friend who told me this secret visited the temple twice, the first time he saw a Bodhisattva stautue, the second time he saw a circling green dragon! So now you know it, I hope you get the chance to find out your very own secret "image".