Thousand Buddha Mountain - History


Buddhism became popular in the Jinan area during the reign of Emperor Wen, the founder of the Sui Dynasty. With Buddhism, monks came to area and chiseled Buddha statues out of the flanks of the hill, which was originally called Miji Hill or Li Hill. A temple, called the Thousand Buddha Temple (Qianfosi) was founded at the foot of the hill. Eventually, the hill was renamed after the temple into "Thousand Buddha Mountain". One of the old names, Li Hill (Li Shan), survives in the name of Lishan Road, the major avenue which runs through Jinan towards the Thousand Buddha Mountain in north-south direction.

The Thousand-Buddha Cliff is located on the northern flank of the hill behind the Xingguochan Temple (s. below). The foot of the cliff is pierced by five caves, which are named (from west to east): Longquan (Dragon Spring) Cave, Jile (Extremely Happy) Cave, Qianlou (probably a person's name) Cave, and Luzhu (probably a person's name) Cave. The caves' height ranges from 3 meters down to only 20 centimeters. About 130 Buddha statues which were carved into Thousand-Buddha Cliff during the Sui period remain today. The Jile Cave houses 16 Buddha statues, the tallest of which is 3 m high.

Along with the Buddha statues, temples and other buildings were erected on the hill. The most renown of these structures is the Xingguochan Temple (Chinese: 兴国禅寺; pinyin: Xing Guo Chan Si, literally: "Development of the Country Buddhist Temple") which was originally built during the reign of Emperor Taizhong of Tang as an expansion of the Sui-Dynasty Qianfo Temple. Further enlargements were undertaken during the Song Dynasty, but the temple was destroyed by war afterwards. Rebuilding was undertaken in 1468, during the Ming Dynasty. The Guanying Hall, the Foye Hall, and the Thousand-Hands Buddha statue were added during the Qing Dynasty.

The temple is located about halfway up the hill and can be reached via 300 stone steps. A large inscription (total area about 15 square meters) cut into the cliff face to the southwest of the identifies it as the "Number One Temple" (Di Yi Mi Hua). The temple's courtyards feature several stone tablets bearing inscriptions from renown calligraphers. In one of the temple's courtyards stands a sculpture of the legendary Emperor Shun, who is—according to the local tradition—credited with first ploughing the soil in Jinan as well as with inventing the writing brush. Because of its mythological association with Emperor Shun, the Thousand Buddha hill is also known as Shungeng Hill. The main structure of the temple are: Grand Prayer Hall, Guanying Hall, Dharma Hall, Maitreya Hall, and the Buddhist Scripture building. Lishanyuan courtyard, to the east of the temple, is surrounded by sites of worship belonging to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The names of these buildings are: the Shun and the Luban Ancestral Temples, the Wenchang ("Develop the Culture") Cabinet, and the Yilan Kiosk. The temple has been the site of two annual temple fairs held on the 3rd day of the third month and 9th day of the 9th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar since the times of the Yuan Dynasty. It was burned down in wars and rebuild during the Ming Dynasty. Other notable buildings on the hill are: the Pagoda Tree Pavilion (Tang Dynasty), Cloud Passing Zen Temple, and the Tanghuai Kiosk.

Many of the statues on the Thousand Buddha Mountain were damaged or lost during the Cultural Revolution, but restoration started in 1979 already. Since then, many new statues have been added. The largest largest new statues are a 20 meter-tall sitting Maitreya Buddha completed in 2000 and lying Buddha with a swastika on his chest. The latter statue was carved out of granite in 1996, has a length of 10 meters and weighs approximately 50 tonnes.

The Thousand Buddha Mountain Public Park has been developed extensively for—mostly local tourism—by the creation of access roads and walking paths as well the addition of amusement park features such as a 600 meter-long chairlift, a summer slide (the "Qineng Slide") down the hill, a kart racing track, and numerous souvenir stalls (one of which was placed right at the summit as of 2006). A major tourist attraction is the Myriad Buddha Cave (Wanfo Dong) at the foot of the hill's northern slope. Inside the more than 500 meter-long artificial cave, late-20th-century recreations of Buddhist statues from four famous Chinese grottoes (Dunhuang and Maiji Shan in Gansu Province, Longmen in Henan Province, Yun Gang in Shanxi Province) are on display. The original artworks were created during the Northern Wei, Tang, and Song dynasties. According to the operators (information provided on the backside of the entrance ticket as of 2006), around 28 000 Buddhist images are on display inside the cave, the biggest statue—a lying Buddha—is 28 meters long.

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