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Mt. Emei 峨眉山 Travagnin, Stefania
Mt. Emei is well-known as one of the four Buddhist sacred mountains in China, devoted to the worship of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Ch: Puxian pusa 普賢菩薩), the bodhisattva associated with "practice", and represented, iconographically, on a white elephant with six tusks. Mt. Emei is made of four main peaks, called Big Emei (Ch: Da e 大峨), Second Emei (Ch: Er e 二峨), Third Emei (Ch: San e 三峨), and Fourth Emei (Ch: Si e 四峨), which all house Buddhist temples. However, in the early days of the Imperial era, Mt. Emei was considered mostly a Daoist sacred site and had housed several Daoist temples since the Eastern Han (25-220 CE); this is why Mt. Emei is also known, in the Daoist context, as “the seventh grotto” (Ch: diqi dongtian 第七洞天). Buddhists have been present on Mt. Emei since the Eastern Jin period (317-420 CE), with the monk Huichi 慧持 moving there from Lushan and building Puxian Temple (Ch: Puxiansi 普賢寺), which is now called Wannian Temple (Ch: Wanniansi 萬年寺). The temple was so named because of the Samantabhadra statue enshrined there, and this may be the origin of the cult of Samantabhadra on the mountain; certainly, by the Northern and Southern Song, Mt. Emei was enshrined as a Samantabhadra site. During the Eastern Jin, Daoists and Buddhists coexisted, although a series of Daoist temples started being converted into Buddhist sites. Buddhism developed and spread even further during the Tang and Song, also due to the Imperial support during the Tang. During the Ming, the amount of Daoists and Daoist sites starts declining, and by the Qing they were outnumbered by the Buddhist presence; it was during the Qing that Mt. Emei became mainly a Buddhist site, and many of the temples that we see today were, indeed, rebuilt during that period. The monastic population of Mt. Emei has changed continuously, with new Sangha members moving to the mountain and other traveling to other sites for study and practice; this factor, plus the lack of a clear system of management of the temples, makes the reconstruction of the history of the local Sangha and individual temples very difficult. Mt. Emei housed only male temples until the 1950s; it was in the 1950s that the local committee of the Buddhist Association of China discussed the relocation of nuns from nunneries in the neighboring counties to Mt. Emei. In 1956, Fuhu Temple (Ch: Fuhusi 伏虎寺) became a nunnery with 21 resident nuns, and the nun Qingchang 清常 acting as abbess. Right now there are five main nunneries on Mt. Emei: Fuhu Temple, that also hosts the female branch of the Mt. Emei Institute of Buddhist Studies; Leiyin Temple (Ch: Leiyinsi 雷音寺), Chunyang Hall (Ch: Chunyang dian 純陽殿), Shengshui Temple (Ch: Shengshuige 聖水閣), Shanjue Nunnery (Ch: Shanjuesi善覺寺). The Daoist nature of the site is still felt on the mountain, not only for the presence of important Daoist masters in the area even after the early Imperial time, but also with the belief that Lu Chunyang 呂純陽 became an immortal there.
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