, a branch range of Huangshan and within the boundaries of Qingyang County in the south of Anhui Province, stretches over an area of 120 square kilometers.
It has 99 peaks among which Tiantai (Heavenly Platform), Lianhua (Lotus Flower), Tianzhu (Heavenly Column) and Shiwang (Ten Kings) are included in the nine steepest ones. The main peak, Shiwang Peak, towers 1,342 meters (4,398 ft.) above sea level.
Mt. Jiuhua--Mount Jiuzi in ancient time, is one of the four most well known Buddhist mountains in China. With a reputed name of "Lotus Flower Buddhist Kingdom", Mt. Jiuhua is famed home and abroad for its rich Buddhist culture and gorgeous natural landscape.
According to ancient books, in the Emperor Tai Zu's seventh year in the Tang Dynasty (A. D 719), a royal kinsman of Sin Lo (present Kyongju, R.O.Korea) named Jim Chiau Jue who became a monastic under the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva (known as Ti Tsang or Di Zang) crossed the ocean to China.
According to Earth Store Sutra, Earth Store Bodhisattva was appointed by Shakyamuni to be the headmaster of Buddhism on Earth. He settled down in Mt. Jiuhua where he had a life of self-denial and self-cultivation. He passed away at the age of 99, and was called, respectfully, Earth Store Bodhisattva. Thus, the mountain became a place where religious rites were held to worship Earth Store Bodhisattva and for centuries temples and monasteries mushroomed there with incense smoke always filling the air.
Jiuhua Street lies at the hinterland of Mount Jiuhua, where some large-scale temples such as Corporal Grand Hill, Dragon Temple, and Huacheng Temple are situated here.
Mt. Jiuhua has more than 90 temples and monasteries, more than 6,000 sculptured Buddha's and a number of Corporal Buddha's. Among the 2,000 pieces of well-protected cultural relics, the most valued are the Buddhist scriptures on pattra from the Tang Dynasty, the edition of the Tripitaka from the Emperor Wan Li in the Ming Dynasty, and the Blood Suttra from the Ming Dynasty.History of Jiuhua Mountain
Jiuhua Mountain, known as a Buddhist wonderland and famous for its large number of temples and beautiful scenery, has been a resplendent pearl of Chinese cultural heritage.
Jiuhua Mountain was formed in the late Cenozoic Era, and Buddhism began in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589) at the mountain.
According to historical records, a monk named Fuhu built Fuhu Convent in 503. Then Monk Tanhao practised Buddhism here in 713. During 713-755, Jin Qiaojue, a Korean aristocrat, came to Jiuhua Mountain and lived in a stone cave at Dongya Peak. His hard practice moved the local people, and they contributed money to build a temple for him.
In 781 the local official Zhang Yan presented a memorial to the emperor for the horizontal inscribed board "Huacheng".
Upon Jin Qiaojue's nirvana, it was said that the mountain roared, birds and monkeys cried, and the earth gave out fire and light. His body kept lively three years later, so he was respected as the Earth Buddha, wrapped with earth and has been preserved to present. Roushen Pagoda was built to revere him, and thus Jiuhua Mountain has become the place where Earth Buddhist rites are performed.
The history of Buddhism at Jiuhua Mountain can be divided into five periods: founded in the middle of Tang Dynasty; decayed from the late Tang Dynasty to the Five Dynasties; slowly developed in the Song and Yuan Dynasties; and greatly developed in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
In the Ming Dynasty, the emperors granted money to rebuild Huacheng Temple for three times and two emperors bestowed inscriptions. The number of temples and nunneries exceeded one hundred, and many monks and nuns came.
It was listed as one of the four famous Buddhist mountains, besides Wutai Mountain, Emei Mountain, and Putuo Mountain.Structures of the Temples
The Grand Hall of Zhiyuan Temple is 43m high. A huge horizontal board inscribed with gilded "Grand Hall" by Yu Youren, a famous calligrapher, hangs over the entrance.
In the center of the hall there is a lotus throne, on which sit three giant images of Buddha, each about 20ft high and all gilded. Tathagata sits in the middle, Amitabha on the left, and "Medicine Master" on the right. They are the biggest of all images of Buddha in the Jiuhua temples.
On either side of the central throne stand nine 3m-high images of arhat. In front of the hall there is an inverted copper bell about 400 jin in weight.
Zhiyuan Temple, or Zhiyuan Buddhist Temple, known in the ancient times as Zhiyuan or Zhishu, is one of the four biggest Buddhist monasteries in the mountain.
According to legend, Sakyamuni preached Buddhism in the garden of Zhiyuan for over 20 years. Therefore Zhiyuan used to be the sacred place of the Indian Buddhism.
The temple was built afterwards and named after the place. Constructed in the years under Jiajing's reign (1522-1566) in the Ming Dynasty, it was renovated several times between 1644 and 1911 in the Qing Dynasty.
Huacheng Temple was the first temple in Jiuhua Mountain. With the longest history and as the site of Ksitigarbha Rite, it is the leading monastery of the mountain.
In the 5th year under Longan's reign (401) in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Monk Beidu built a simple temple here. It was reconstructed and named Huacheng Temple in the Zhide years (756 - 758) of the Tang Dynasty.
The word Huacheng is an allusion to a Buddhist story in the Fahua Scripture.
Huacheng Temple is located in Jiuhua Street. Right in front of the temple lies a round plaza. In the center of the plaza is a crescent shaped lotus pond named "Crescent Moon Pond", into which, it is believed, Monk Jin QiaoJue used to free captive fish.
The temple consists of four parts: the lobby, the grand hall, the back hall and the Scripture Tower.
The ground slopes up with each part and the whole layout is natural. The doors, windows, brackets, beams, columns, steps and the cornerstone are carved with exquisite designs.
In the hall are preserved horizontal boards inscribed by emperors: "Sacred Land of Jiuhua" by Kangxi, "Fentuopujiao" by Qianlong, and "Beneficence Most Enjoyable" by Chongzhen.Customs of Residents
The monks and nuns usually chant scriptures in the morning and evening. Their daily life varies with the size of the temple or nunnery. At a small one they lead their daily life and do Buddhist service in the same place. In a big one they live according to the beating of bell, drum and other Buddhism instruments.
They accommodate traveling monks or nuns. If any of them broke the rule, he would be driven out of the temple.
Their life is simple. They wear clothes with many patches on, eat vegetarian meals and sleep in bed simply made of a board and two supports. They also work in the fields in hot summer and sit in meditation at cold winter nights.
July 30 of lunar calendar is the birthday of Earth Buddha, and a Great Buddhist ceremony is held on this day. A large number of monks, nuns, pilgrims and visitors come to burn incense, chant, and sacrifice food. Colorful flags fill the mountain area.
The activities of each year are different. The celebration of Spring Festival by the residents at Jiuhua Mountain is very special. They celebrate it twice.
On December 28 of lunar calendar, they eat all kinds of meat dishes, including chicken, duck and fish. On December 30 of lunar calendar, they burn incense to worship their ancestors. On Spring Festival, January 1 of lunar calendar, every family goes to Roushen Palace to worship Buddha.
The vegetable dishes will be ended on January 3 of lunar calendar.