Taoism is a native religion of China dating back to the second century AD. Lao-tzu, who founded the early Qin Taoist school, is worshiped as the father of Taoism, and his main work, The Book of the Way of Power forms the basis of the religion. Taoism also has many other literary works and a set of comprehensive and profound doctrines.
Over the years, many magnificent Taoist temples have been built on China's famous hills and mountains. Among these is Baopu Taoist Temple on the 166-meter-high Geling Hill in western Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province. The temple is dedicated to the worship of Ge Hong (281-341), a famous Taoist, chemist, and medical expert, and it is known as one of the Three Major Taoist Temples on the Shores of West Lake, along with Fuxing Temple on Yuhuang Hill and Yellow Dragon Cave.
Geling Hill is so named because it is here that the ancestors of Ge Hong engaged in the Taoist practice of making pills of immortality. Located on the northern shore of the picturesque West Lake in Hangzhou, it has Baoshi (Precious Stone) Mountain in the east, Ziyun (Purple Cloud) Cave in the west, and Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) Cave in the north.
Ge Hong was born in Jurong County, Jiangsu Province, during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). He called himself Zhi Chuan and had the Taoist name Bao Puzi. He was a famous maker of immortality pills, and he devoted the greater part of his life to the study of medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, and Taoist teachings. He was one of the earliest researchers in Chinese chemistry, and he wrote many books, including Bao Pu Zi, well known both inside and outside China. This work consists of 70 volumes recording the results of a systematic study of medical science.
Ge Hong also refined the 100-volume work Synopsis of the Golden Chamber written by Zhang Zhongjing of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.) into a four-volume Taoist medical book entitled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, one of the early great works in medical history. Due to his invention of many mineral dyestuffs during his making pills of immortality, he is considered the ancestor of the brewing and printing-and-dyeing industries of China.
Baopu Taoist Temple was built during the Eastern Jin Dynasty and was extended during the period from the Song (420-479) through the Tang (618-907) Dynasties. It was rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Gexian Hall, the main hall of Baopu Temple, is made of wood and contains a stat of the hill is a platform where Ge Hong observed the sun, moon, and stars, and the platform is the best place on the hill for watching the sunrise.
Today, Baopu Temple is one of China's major Taoist temples. Encouraged by the Chinese government's policy of freedom of religious belief, local people and government officials have renovated the temple and its subsidiary buildings and put the relics on the hill under protection. Every day, the priests of the temple study Taoist classics and medical treatises and practice martial arts.
Visitors and Taoist believers can also see Taoist rituals and enjoy ancient Taoist music.
(China Pictorial February 9, 2003)