Cloud Peak Temple Scenic Spot at Mianshan Moountain

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The Cloud Peak Temple, initially known as Baofu Temple, is located inside the cliff face of Baofu Rock. The spot was named Baofu, which means "holding belly" in Chinese, because of the unique shape of the rock formation above a cave in the cliff’s side. The temple there was first constructed in the Three Kingdoms period (A.D. 220-280) and thus has a history of over 1,700 years. Baofu Cave, which is situated in the east and faces west, is 60 meters high, 180 meters long and 50 meters deep, with two levels. It contains more than 200 rooms and Buddhist shrines, some of which have historical and cultural roots that go back over 2,000 years. It is the only site of its kind in the world.

The many smaller natural caves and crevices inside the larger cave were formerly used as meditation and worship sites for generations of monks. Relics marked with inscriptions and carvings made by these monks are still there to this day. The buildings inside the cave are arrayed in two levels, an arrangement often described as "rocks inside rocks and caves inside caves." The scene inside the cave is very much like a Brahma Palace beyond the world, with zigzagging balustrades, a plethora of shrines and a majestic atmosphere. Wooden plank walkways connect the sites for worship carved into the upper level of the cliff. "Staying in the clouds at Baofu Cave" was one of the so-called "Top 10 scenic spots" in ancient times because of the white clouds that float into the cave in summer.

If one makes a pilgrimage to Cloud Peak Temple, one should walk up the flight of 120 steps leading to the temple’s main gate. Buddhist teaching maintains that a man has 108 worries in his life, and climbing one stone step will help him get rid of one worry. Therefore, after climbing 108 steps, all a man’s worries will be gone and he will enter a carefree spiritual state. The remaining 12 steps represent the 12 months in a year. Once you have finished climbing those 12 steps, you will be safe and sound for the next 12 months of your life. At the foot of the steps are two stone lions. They are said to be originally the sons of a dragon that eventually transformed into a Chinese lion to guard the temple’s gate.

The front gate of the Hall of the King of Immateriality Buddha is an arched façade with three doors, four pillars and five levels. The inscribed plaque hanging on it reads "Staying in the Clouds at Baofu Cave," which refers to both the natural scenes of clouds here and the relationship between the temple and the cave.

During Cloud Peak Temple’s 1,700 years of history, countless well-known monks practiced Buddhism here, including Monk Di of the Three Kingdoms period, Monk Tan Luan of the Northern Wei dynasty and monk Zhichao of the Tang dynasty. Monk Di was one of the first generation of Buddhists to introduce Buddhism to China. He was grandly greeted by Emperor Weiwu Cao Cao, who tasked him with building the temple at Mianshan. Scholars and historians have widely debated whether Monk Di was Chinese or Indian, but regardless of his ethnicity, he played a very important role in spreading Buddhism in China. Tan Luan is the founding master of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism in China, the biggest sect of Chinese Buddhism. He traveled to many places when he was young and settled at Mianshan Mountain in his later years. After he received sudden enlightenment, he founded the Pure Land Sect, and Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei dynasty named him "Divine Luan."

The monk Zhichao was the first Han Chinese to become a Buddha. He suffered and overcame tribulations when he was young and only began practicing Buddhism later in his life. He eventually went to Mianshan to further his religious studies and devotion, where he helped many people with his abilities. According to legend, Zhichao once tamed five dragons and converted them to Buddhism. In 640 A.D., he helped summon a heavy rain for Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty to end a drought that was plaguing the Tang capital of Chang'an (modern-day Xi'an, Shaanxi Province). This was the capstone of his charitable and pious deeds, which earned him the title of King of Immateriality Buddha. Zhichao was the first monk at Mianshan to be honored with a "baogu zhenshen" statue, which is a statue constructed around the real body of a deceased monk. Since then, several more baogu zhenshen statues have been made at Mianshan. Today, 15 such statues remain, 12 of which are enshrined and venerated in the visiting and display area at Zhengguo Temple.

The real name of the King of Immateriality Buddha is Tian Zhichao. He was born in Fengyi, Shaanxi Province and later moved to the village of Yuanwo in Yuci County, Shanxi Province. He left home at 15 years old to fight against the exploitation of the people by the government and gangsters, and he traveled a long and winding road before finally settling down to practice Buddhism at Huayan Temple in the city of Jiexiu near Mianshan. In 622 A.D., he moved to Mianshan Mountain to do further missionary work. In the spring of 640 A.D., Chang'an suffered a severe drought, and the Taizong Emperor begged Zhi Chao to bring rain to the city. Zhichao asked his disciple Mosi to sprinkle water used to wash rice in a southwesterly direction, and a good deal of rain subsequently fell on Chang'an. The next year, the Taizong Emperor revisited Mianshan to thank the living Buddha for the rain, but when he arrived at Cloud Peak Temple, another of Zhichao's disciples told him the master had already gone. Taizong was unable to fulfill his wish to thank Zhichao, so he looked up at the sky and sighed, "This time we just saw nothing with Buddha gone!" Suddenly, legend says, the Chinese characters of "King of Immateriality Buddha" appeared in the sky. So the emperor issued an edict granting Zhichao the title of "King of Immateriality Buddha" and asked that the Hall of the King of Immateriality Buddha be built to enshrine the clay-covered statue of the real body of Zhichao.

The Hall of the King of Immateriality Buddha hangs from the mountainside. It is primitive and simple but also dignified and grand. It enshrines the King of Immateriality, who is flanked by Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattvas. The carved wooden altar and brocade pennants hung throughout the hall bring a sense of solemnity that commands respect.

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