Jiyuan -- Origin of Chinese Culture

Many may have heard of the Temple of Heaven, Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon in Beijing, but not know of the Heavenly Peak, Sun Peak and Moon Peak in Jiyuan. Similarly, there is Beihai Park and Fragrance Hill in Beijing, and there's little Beihai and the red leaves of Wangwu Mountain in Jiyuan.

It is said that Chinese emperors used to offer sacrifices to Heaven at the Heavenly Peak on Tiantan (meaning Heavenly Temple) Mountain in Jiyuan. By the reign of Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty, however, Emperor Zhu Di built the Temple of Heaven in Beijing to avoid the inconvenient transportation and long distance involved in traveling to Jiyuan. So, many historians insist the Heavenly Peak is the real sacred place for emperors to offer sacrifices to their ancestors.

Origin of the Nation

Jiyuan city is located in the northwest of Henan Province. To its north are Taihang and Wangwu mountains, which were removed by the Foolish Old Man of legend. Jiyuan covers a total area of 1,931 square km, of which mountainous and hilly areas account for 88 percent. This is now a new industrial and tourism city in central China.

The Heavenly Peak is the main one on Wangwu Mountain, which is 1,715 meters high. The legendary first Chinese ancestor, the Yellow Emperor, whose surname is Xuanyuan, was said to have unsuccessfully engaged in war nine times with Chi You, leader of the Jiuli tribes. Therefore, he set up a temple on the Heavenly Peak, offered sacrifices to the Heaven, and finally won. This pioneered the sacrifices to the Heaven by emperors of later dynasties.

After the Yellow Emperor united the country, he offered sacrifices to Heaven each Mid-Autumn Festival, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of China. Later generations followed him, so that the Heavenly Peak of Wangwu Mountains becomes an original place of the Chinese nation in legend.

Culture of Water

On the vast land of ancient China, there is a river as famous as the Yangtze, Yellow and Huaihe rivers. This is the Jishui River, the most unique of them all, and the only one with clear water.

It originates in Taiyi Pond of the Wangwu Mountain and goes eastward about 100 li through the Taihang Mountains. When it gets to Jiyuan, it has acquired two sources. One is the Dragon's Pool in the west and the other is the Jidu Pond in the east. Then the Jishui River winds its way southwards to join the Yellow River and finally joins the Bohai Sea.

In history, the Jishui River has never flooded or dried up. Its water has benefited people living along it through many generations. Bai Juyi, the great poet of the Tang Dynasty once praised its purity with magnificent lines. Since the time of the Yellow Emperor, all emperors have regarded it the most revered activity to offer sacrifices to the Jishui River. Many left stone tablets.

Jidu Temple in Jiyuan has become one of the historical and cultural relics most completely preserved among the four rivers. In 1948, Mao Zedong himself decided that Jidu Temple was a "Treasure of the State".

In the 1990s, the Xiaolangdi water conservancy pivotal project, one of the key projects of the country, was launched here. More surprisingly, a picturesque scene has been formed in Jiyuan city, which features intersecting ports and harbors, towering mountains, beautiful waters and great lakes on high land. People have named it the "Lesser Three Gorges," which can compare with the Three Gorges along the Yangtze River.

Birthplace of Taoism

Taoism is developed from the thoughts of the Yellow Emperor and Lao Tse, so it is mainly characterized by the ideology and beliefs of the Han ethnic group. In remote antiquity, the Taoists took nature and simplicity as their principal and immortality and fairy life as their goals. Naturally, the Wangwu Mountain, due to its magnificence, beauty, uniqueness and elegance, became an ideal place for Taoists. They collected medicinal plants and tried to make pills of immortality in this sacred mountain.

The prosperity of the Wangwu Mountain is closely related with the development of Taoism. It is said that the originator of Taoism, Lao Tse once disciplined himself in the mountain and left a pond for making pills of immortality. After the Sui and Tang dynasties, Taoism was revered as the State religion. Emperors ordered Taoism temples to be set all around the country, thus laying a foundation for Taoism to flourish in China.

During the Tang Dynasty, the Ziwei, Yangtai and Qingxu Palaces, as well as Shifang courtyard and Lingdu Taoist Temple, flourished, and enabled Wangwu Mountain to become a center of Taoism. A revered Taoist from the Tang Dynasty Sima Chengzhen, in one of his books, divided famous mountains of China into three categories: Top 10 dwellings of immortals; the next 36 dwellings of immortals and the remaining 72 places where immortals live. Among them, the Wangwu Mountain leads.

Today, if you travel in Wangwu Mountain, you will find the towering Heavenly Peak surrounded by countless lower peaks, on top of which is the imposing Heavenly Pavilion. People call it the "finest place for Taoists to cultivate themselves."

Hometown of Traditional Chinese Medicine

"Grasses in treasured place can all become medicines; people in famous mountains can all become immortals." Sun Simiao once described the Wangwu Mountain in Jiyuan as a "natural storehouse for Chinese medicinal herbs." There are more than 200 species of plants that can be used as medicines, and most are of superior quality. On this account, the pharmacist dwelled in seclusion in the Wangwu Mountain over a long period to gather medicinal herbs and help people relief their ailments. As a result, later generations have respectfully called him "the King of traditional Chinese medicine."

Sun left behind many tracks in Jiyuan. For instance, "Shengcaoping" was the place for him to grow herbs; "Yaoguishan" to gather medicines; "Anpingcun" to dry medicines; "Libazhuang" was where he cured people of their diseases. Today, these famous sites are frequently visited, especially the Sun Simiao Drugstore and Sun Simiao Museum.

Tea Culture

Jiuligou in Jiyuan was the birthplace of Lu Tong, a Tang Dynasty poet. Lu devoted his life to the study of Chinese tea culture and wrote the book of "Tea Genealogy" in his later years. The Chinese people respectfully addressed him as a "Tea Immortal". His book was also very popular in Japan, where it continues to have great influence on the Japanese tea ceremony. Today, Yuchuan Spring, the Longevity Stage for Sipping Tea, Lu Tong Teahouse and some other renowned sites can still be found in Jiuligou.

Long Corridor of Chinese Landscape Painting

The enchanting beauties of Wulongkou Mountain in Jiyuan created the master of Chinese landscape painting. People are intoxicated once they find themselves amid the mountains and waters here. Jing Hao, the painting master in the late Tang Dynasty, lived here in seclusion and his paintings of local scenes ultimately brought him mastery of Chinese landscape painting.

The Cottage and Painting Museum of Jing Hao, covered in green bamboos and queer rocks has just been renovated and become a good place for art lovers to study, exchange and promote their painting techniques. Looking to the northwest from the Cottage of Jing Hao, people can see a stone man on the peak with big eyes and nose overlooking the Long Corridor for landscape painting. The local people say it is Jing Hao himself.

The Foolish Old Man Spirit

"Both the Taihang and Wangwu mountains are 350 sq.km in area and 10,000 meters in height." The transportation of the Foolish Old Man, whose house sat just behind the two mountains, was heavily blocked. So he asked his family members to remove the mountains only by carrying earth with baskets. This is a story recorded in the book of Liezi written during the Warring State Period (BC475-BC221). The mountains are located in today's Jiyuan. Half a century ago, Chairman Mao Zedong wrote an article of "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains", in which he highly praised the old man and his firm and unswerving struggling spirit, and urged the entire nation to build up a new China in such spirit. Through thousands of years of experience, this has typified the great Chinese people's spirit.

Today, all the scenery resources of Jiyuan have developed rapidly, attracting people from home and abroad. Tourism has become the pillar industry that has helped promote the local economy.

(CIIC 02/14/2001)

In This Series

Digging for Clues of Nation's Origin

Neolithic Ruins Found in Central China

Chinese Culture Broadens Its World Influence

China to Become Leading Tourist Country



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