The world is packed with beautiful places, however, some just have the ability to steal your heart. For me, Wutaishan in China’s Shanxi region is one of these places. I was travelling from Beijing to Shanghai with my mother back in 2007. When I heard about Wutaishan I immediately got excited. Imagine a town, surrounded by mountains and packed with Buddhist monasteries. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
A brief history
Wutaishan means “5 terrasses”, after the 5 flat mountainpeaks in this area. They represent North, South, East, West and center. The Wutai mountain is one of the 4 holy mountains in Chinese Buddhism and the first temples in this area date back to the Eastern Han Dynasty, which would be between 25 and 220 AD. Taoism used to be the dominating religion in the area during this time. Legend has it that a Buddhist monk pursuaded the emperor to build a buddhist temple in Wutaishan, and to throw the Taoist and Buddhist books into a fire to see which religion was true. Well obviously the Buddhist book survived and the region is now a popular destination to pelgrims.
The view from one of the many temples
Temples, temples and more temples
Today, Taihuai is home to 47 Buddhist temples and the oldest one dates back to the year 68 AD (!) When they ring the temples huge bell, it can be heard throughout the whole area. It is home to ancient relics and “1000 glittering Buddha statues”. With so many temples and monasteries you probably guessed it: Where ever you roam in Taihuai, you will always hear the low chanting of monks.
Other than the pretty views on the mountains and the beautiful temples, Taihuai has little to offer. There is a small market that sells buddhist items like prayer wheels, flags, incense and beaded necklaces. Oh and delicious noodles! Although the place is packed with guesthouses and little restaurants, you will soon realize it wasn’t exactly designed for the western tourists. If you need a little luxury, don’t bother coming out here. Most accommodations are basic and clean, and that’s pretty much all you will need. To me, this is exactly what makes this place worth a visit.
Another gorgeous sight
We were greeted by curious smiles everytime we wandered around the town. I can’t count the number of times we had to pose for a photo, always followed by bows and smiles. Other than that, it was just blissfully peaceful. After spending over a week in big cities like Beijing and Datong, this was exactly what we needed! This place felt so unlike any other place I had ever visited and I instantly knew that Wutaishan would become one of my all-time favorites.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to enjoy the charm of this place. If you are looking for some peace and quiet combined with gorgeous mountain views, Wutaishan should be on your to-go list!