Category: Wudangshan.

Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains :: About

Why it was nominated in the world heritage list?

The ancient buildings in the Wudang Mountains are scattered, but the location of the Golden Shrine on the main peak in the centre of the range suggests a hierarchy. Topographical features and landscape were used so as to achieve harmony between the buildings and the environment. The complex is a masterpiece of ingenious planning, design, and architecture.

Various styles, methods of construction, and materials were used in the buildings. They show the high achievement of the Chinese people in technology and art.

The involvement of the emperors of the Ming Dynasty in the planning and design of the buildings contributed to their high quality. The exquisite nature of the structures, the lavishness of the decoration, and the large number of statues of deities combine to make this an outstanding example of ancient Chinese architecture.

The Golden Shrine and the statues within i t were made from large cast components. The lost wax casting and the gilding techniques used represent the pinnacle of science and technology of the period. The complex testifies to the fact that Zhu Di achieved the throne by force of arms. He made use of Taoism to propagate the idea that the Imperial power was granted by God in order to counteract the popular view of the rime that he had secured i t illegally. By so doing he assisted the Taoist religion to secure a place in the minds of the masses. For this reason the complex is of great historical, ideological, and historical significance.


Work began on the buildings in the Wudang Mountains in the early Tang Dynasty, in AD 627-49. To commemorate the success of Yiao Jian, Govemor of the Wudang Administrative Region, in bringing rain by prayer, the Emperor Taizong ordered the Five Dragon Hall to be built. This was quickly followed by the Taiyi and Yanchang Temples, and in 869 the Weiwu Gong Temple (Temple of the Powerful Duke) was built. In 1018 the Song Emperor Zhenzong converted the Pive Dragon Hall into a temple, and his successor Huizong had the Purple Heaven Hall built beneath the Zhanqi Peak. Then came the Laojun Monastery and the Xianguan Terrace.

The Yuan Emperors relied on Taoism for support, and so the Emperor Shizu extended the Five Dragon Temple and made i t into a palace. The Emperor Renzong, whose birthday was that of the god Zhenwu, gave a commemorative plaque to the building designed to give the impression that he was the god in disguise. In 1304 the mountains became known as “The Blessed Land”, at which rime the Gate to the Blessed Land was constructed. The Tianyi-Zhenqing Palace, the Yuxu Cliff Temple, the Thunder God’s Cave, and the Yinxian Cliff Temple were also built around this time.

After his enthronement the Ming Emperor Zhu Di declared that his imperial power was granted by God, and announced that he was under the protection of the Taoist god Zhenwu. To repay the god’s favour, he put his son-in-law Mu Xin, the head of the Ministry ofWorks Guo Jin, and the head of the Ministry of Rites Jin Chun at the head of four hundred officiais charged with construction work in the Wudang Mountains. It took twenty thousand men twelve years to complete the work, which included nine palaces, nine temples, 36 monasteries, 72 cliff temples, and over a hundred stone bridges, divided into 33 groups. In 1416 he sent over three thousand prisoners to the area to work on the land to provision the Taoist monks. The local inhabitants were exempted from corvee labour, a large military force was stationed in the area, and workers were assigned to keep the temples and palaces clean. Renowned Taoists were summoned from ali parts of the country to serve as eiders at important palaces and temples. The ride of “Great Mountain” was conferred on the Wudang range.

All the subsequent Ming Emperors sent their favourite eunuchs to the mountain to worship and allocated funds for the upkeep of the buildings. In 1552 the Ming Emperor Shizong put Lu Jie, head of the Ministry of Works, in charge of repair work; under his leadership, a hundred officiais and workmen from more than sixty counties worked for nearly two years. The Zhishi-Xuanyue Gate was set up to commemorate this work.

During the Ming Dynasty over 4000 ha of land belonged to the temples, thousand of Taoists lived in the area, and 369 Imperial edicts concerning the mountain were issued. The fame of Taoist monks from Wudang such as Zhang Shouqing, Lu Dayou, and Wang Zhen spread widely across China.


The Wudang (Taihe) Mountain is located in Danjiangkou City, Hubei Province. It is in fact a series of mountain ranges sorne 400 km in circumference. Sky Pillar Peak, the highest at 1612 m, is surrounded by 72 lesser peaks and 24 ravines. The famous Ming Dynasty geographer Xu Xiake placed it higher than the Five Mountains for its beautiful peaks and unique scenery of caves and precipices.

The palaces and temples, which acted as nuclei for other structures, were built in valleys or on terraces, with monasteries and cliff temples clustered around them. They were distributed regularly across the landscape and linked by a network of sacred roads. Of the vast complex that was created during the Ming Dynasty, four Taoist palaces (and three in ruins) survive, along with two temples and many monasteries and cliff temples.

The Golden Shrine is situated in the middle of a stone terrace on the top of Sky Pillar Peak. It was built in bronze, imitating wooden construction; the parts were prefabricated in Beijing and shipped via the Grand Canal to Nanjing, and thence to Wudang by the Y angtze and Han jiang ri vers for assembly. The shrine, in the form of a palace, is 4.4 rn long, 3.15 m wide, and 5.54 m high, and is surrounded by columns that support the five-ridged roof with double eaves (a form only permitted on Imperial buildings). The whole structure is richly decorated and painted. Inside is a seated statue of the supreme god Zhenwu, flanked by representations of the Golden Page and the Jade Maiden.

The Ancient Bronze Shrine, on top of the Lotus Flower Peak, was made in 1307 in the same way as the Golden Shrine. The metal work of the shrine, cast in Wuchang, is the earliest anywhere in China.

The Forbidden City round the Sky Pillar Peak dates from 1419. It is surrounded by a 345 rn long wall 1. 8 rn thick and in places 10 rn high, built of dressed stone. Four wooden gates represent the Gates of Heaven.

The Purple Heaven Palace, built in 1119-26, rebuilt in 1413, and extended in 1803-20, is the largest and best preserved building complex in the Wudang Mountains. Twenty-nine buildings survive, covering 6854 square meter. There are five ascending terraces on the central axis, each with its hall (Dragon and Tiger Hall, Tablet Pavilion, Shifang Hall, Purple Heaven Hall, and Parental Hall); on the sides of the halls there are pavilions and annexes used by the Taoist monks as living quarters. The main structure is the Purple Heaven Hall, 18.3 m high, 29.5 m long, and 22 m wide, built of gigantic wooden pillars and beams. The decoration is sumptuous, especially the roof, which is covered with peacock blue tiles and ornamented ridge tiles.

The Nanyang Palace, built in 1285-1310 and extended in 1312, includes 21 buildings and covers 90,000 square meter. The major buildings include the Tianyi-Zhenqing Stone Hall, Liangyi Hall, Bagua Pavillon, Tiger and Dragon Hall, Grand Pavilion, and South Heavenly Gate. The Tianyi-Zhenqing Hall, the main structure, is 11 m long, 6.6 m wide, and 6 m high, built entirely in elaborately carved stone.

The Dragon Head lncense Burner, which is 3 rn long but only 0.33 rn wide, is a stone structure that projects over a deep valley. The farther end is carved in the form of a dragon’s head in which an incense burner was placed. lt is of special artistic and technological importance for its design and construction.

The Fuzhen Temple, below the Lion Peak, was built in 1412 and extended in 1683. Twenty buildings survive in the 60,000 m2 enclosure. A screen wall, an incense burner, the Dragon and Tiger Hall, and the Prince’s Hall are on the main axis of the complex. Associated structures are the Huanjing Hall, where Taoist holy scriptures were read aloud, a pavilion and dining hall for the monks, and the Pive Clouds Building, which rises to five storeys. The layout of the compound includes open spaces of the type characteristic of southern China.

The Zhishi-Xuanyue Gateway is located at the intersection of the former Sacred Road and the main highway, 4 km east of modem Laoying, and marks the entrance to the Wudang Mountains. lt is built in stone imitating wood and dates from 1522. The gate is 11.9 rn high, 14.5 rn wide, and divided into three sections by columns. It is ornately decorated with carved patterns of tortoises, dragons, cranes, plants, clouds, waves, and celestial beings.

Category: Wudangshan