Buddhism Pilgrimage in China
by
Courtney Bruntz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0241

Introduction

The study of religion as it relates to physical environments highlights the manners in which religious activities are shaped by geographical spaces, as well as how practitioners adjust physical spaces to reflect religious views. Religious environments are concrete expressions of belief, and religious geography includes examining interplays of religion, humans, and geography. This inextricably includes pilgrimage. In Chinese settings, pilgrimage includes journeys to human-constructed sanctuaries, as well as auspicious natural environments. In Daoist contexts, buildings were historically designed for reciting prayers, donating offerings to deities, and contemplating. Further, natural caves were protected for their vital essence (qi), and mountains were viewed as homes of deities. Not only was the heart of a mountain associated with qi, but the mountain’s crest was viewed as auspicious. Such spatial significance influenced temple architecture. Human structures built upon mountains were done so with the intention to not take away from the site’s spiritual magnetism. Instead, spatial arrangements reflected natural settings, and mountains were revered as residences of the gods. In the Chinese imaginary, pilgrimage is thus associated with mountains because they are locations where the sacred manifests. In Chinese, a pilgrim (xiangeke 香客) is one who “offers incense,” and going on pilgrimage translates to chaoshan jinxiang (朝山进香) literally meaning “offering incense to a mountain.” Going on pilgrimage in Chinese carries with it notions that one journeys to pay respect, and does so through ritualistic offering. Buddhism’s rooting in China therefore includes the mapping of Bodhisattva abodes (physical pure lands) at numinous mountains. Buddhist cosmology in Chinese geography significantly includes the four great and famous Buddhist mountains (sida fojiao mingshan 四大佛教名山), which are all associated with a Bodhisattva. The offering of incense at such locations is a mechanism for making contact with the enlightened being, and through seeing and physically traversing the being’s abode, the pilgrim gains worldly, and other-worldly, benefits. Significant geographical locations for Chinese Buddhists are therefore those known for their efficacy in empowering pilgrims. Buddhist pilgrimage circuits also includes treasured temples, which many became known for because of the monks who stayed there. Since the first millennium CE when Faxian (337?–422?), Xuanzang (602–664), and Yijing (635–713) famously detailed travel accounts between India and China, distinguished pilgrims have contributed to the dissemination of Buddhist teachings and rituals. While sutra exegesis historically provided legitimacy for the great Buddhist mountains, ordinary pilgrims elevated the status of famous pilgrims by traversing to locations associated with them. Chinese pilgrimage can therefore be categorized in many different ways. Such categorizations include state-sponsored pilgrimage, Chan Buddhist pilgrimage (including pilgrimage to famous monastic residences), Daoist pilgrimage, and pilgrimage to Bodhisattvas.

General Overviews

The following works offer an overview of sacred geography in China. Significant to Chinese religious history is the demarcation of mountain landscapes. These locations were distinguished for their sacred magnetism, and seen as ideal for building monasteries and temples. But mountain locales are not the only places of spatial significance. Naquin 2000 focuses on temples as the locus of pilgrimage activity, and does so within the context of Beijing. Hanh 1988 discusses standard Daoist mountain configurations, which is included in this section, for it provides an overview of how such natural landscapes fit within a broader context of Chinese religious geography. Einarsen 1995 offers a transnational guide to sacred mountains, which is pivotal to understanding Chinese pilgrimage against the backdrop of Asia more broadly, and Naquin and Yü 1992 provides an essential introduction to views of pilgrimage from diverse Chinese contexts. Benn, et al. 2012 offers accounts regarding the development of sacred sites, as well as how mountains relate to religious ideology.

  • Benn, James, Jinhua Chan, and James Robson, ed. Images, Relics, and Legends: The Formation and Transformation of Buddhist Sacred Sites. Oakville, Canada: Mosaic, 2012.

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    A collection of essays that expands understanding on the relationships between sacred sites, monastic communities, pilgrimage, and tributes to Buddhist saints and patriarchs.

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  • Einarsen, John, ed. The Sacred Mountains of Asia. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.

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    In this pan-Asian study of sacred mountains, the mountain as symbol and icon of sacredness comes forth, and essays in this collection emphasize mountains as abodes of deities and ancestors as well as pilgrimage destinations.

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  • Hanh, Thomas. “The Standard Taoist Mountain and Related Features of Religious Geography.” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 4 (1988): 145–156.

    DOI: 10.3406/asie.1988.916Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Hanh discusses sacred geography within China, and provides a highly useful introduction to spatial arrangements within the Daoist context—both from the standpoint of natural landscapes and human constructed sanctuaries.

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  • Naquin, Susan. Peking: Temples and City Life, 1400–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

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    Focusing on the Ming and Qing periods, Naquin historicizes Beijing itself as a sacred site, with temples existing in pilgrimage networks.

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  • Naquin, Susan, and Chün-fang Yü, eds. Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    Provides an invaluable introduction to the Chinese notion of pilgrimage. Naquin and Yü unpack Chinese terms used for pilgrims and going on pilgrimage, and their edited volume offers individual studies of Chinese pilgrimage occurring at Buddhist, Daoist, and state significant locations.

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Chan Buddhist Pilgrimage

The following works provide introductions to the creation of particular Chan pilgrimage sites, as well as the pilgrims who visit them. This includes the transmission of Buddhism and the development of sacred Buddhist mountains. Faure 1992, Faure 1993, and McRae 2003 especially explore Chan pilgrimage destinations. Charleux 2015, along with Debreczeny 2011 and Lin 2014, provide studies of Mount Wutai as a Chan sacred site that received national and international visitors. Yü’s 1992 essay details the historical development of Mount Putuo as the known abode of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and Hargett 2006 examines Mount Emei and its association with the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Finally Fu 2009 frames pilgrimage within the context of expanded travel, and inquires into the canonization process of the four sacred Buddhist mountains.

  • Charleux, Isabelle. Nomads on Pilgrimage: Mongols on Wutaishan (China), 1800–1940. Boston: Brill, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004297784Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on written and visual sources, Charleux details the development of Mount Wutai as a sacred site for Mongols. Not only is this a pertinent resource for studies of pilgrimage in China, it is a worthy work for its analysis of intercultural exchanges occurring at, and around, China’s sacred mountains.

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  • Debreczeny, Karl. “Wutai Shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 6 (2011): 1–133.

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    Explores Mount Wutai as a location in which Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese religious and artistic traditions encountered each other. Contends that Mount Wutai was not only significant for its pilgrimage activity but also for its political dimension.

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  • Faure, Bernard. “Relics and Flesh Bodies: The Creation of Ch’an Pilgrimage Sites.” In Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Edited by Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, 150–189. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    An important essay, especially for its noting that in the creation of Chan Buddhist pilgrimage sites, physical structures intermingled Chan dogma and literati prose.

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  • Faure, Bernard. Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Traditions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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    Includes an essential discussion of Chinese views on space and place—including those from Chan and from territorial cults. Faure further unpacks the mountain as a recurring metaphor in early Chan circles.

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  • Fu, Li-tsui Flor. Framing Famous Mountains: Grand Tour and Mingshan Paintings in Sixteenth-Century China. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2009.

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    Examines China in the 16th century as a time when going on travel began to expand. Entering its initial peak in the 17th century, travel expansion was shaped by imaginings of travel, trips planned, and journeys undertaken. This work especially discusses gentry tourism and the canonization of the mingshan (famous mountains).

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  • Hargett, James. Stairway to Heaven: A Journey to the Summit of Mount Emei. Albany, NY: SUNY, 2006.

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    Making use of travelogues and gazetteers, Hargett analyzes the historical contexts under which Mount Emei developed as a place of pilgrimage.

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  • Lin, Wei-Cheng. Building a Sacred Mountain: The Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014.

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    Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this work offers a unique thesis in the field of pilgrimage studies—that it was Mount Wutai’s architecture that was vital for its construction as a pilgrimage destination.

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  • McRae, John R. Seeing through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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    Provides a rich introduction to Chan’s development in China, as well as the significance of imperial patronage for the creation of Buddhist sites.

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  • Yü, Chün-fang. “P’u-t’o Shan: Pilgrimage and the Creation of Chinese Potalaka.” In Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Edited by Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, 190–245. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    Traces Mount Putuo’s development as the Bodhisattva Guanyin’s home—the location where she manifests in human forms. Significant to the history of Chinese pilgrims, tales of Guanyin’s appearance at Mount Putuo inspired pious pilgrims to travel there in hopes of receiving a vision. Mount Putuo was not Guanyin’s first Chinese home, and this chapter traces the emergence of Mount Putuo as a national, and international, center for Guanyin worship.

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Travel Accounts

Buddhist scriptures provide significant legitimacy for a site’s sacredness, and local histories, “gazetteers,” offer historical record of the numerous imaginings regarding such sites. Futhermore, pilgrimage diaries are an especially important subset of travel writing, as they present one of the most valuable resources for understanding constructions of sacred sites. As Bingenheimer 2016b notes, the temple gazetteer was one of “the most important emic genre that was used to describe sacred sites in later imperial China” (p. 5). Bingenheimer 2013 offers pertinent Buddhist gazetteers in Chinese; Bingenheimer 2016a is a work on pilgrimage routes, and Bingenheimer 2016b, a study of Mount Putuo, significantly enhances scholarship on gazetteers as primary sources regarding the transformation of Buddhist sacred sites. Andrews 2011 also focuses on textual resources and does so through looking at gazetteer archives related to Mount Wutai. Birnbaum 1986 complements these by providing travel accounts from the monastic perspective. Finally, the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism is an invaluable resource for records located at temples in China. Together, these sources enhance scholastic inquiry regarding Chinese pilgrimage and primary texts.

  • Andrews, Susan. “Tales of Conjured Temples (huasi) in Qing Period Mountain Gazetteers.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 6 (2011): 134–162.

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    Concentrating on the Qing dynasty monk-pilgrim Wuzhuo, this study investigates narrative traditions that influenced Mount Wutai’s association with sacredness over time. It highlights connections between stories from Buddhist and non-Buddhist textual materials.

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  • Bingenheimer, Marcus, ed. Zhonghua fosizhi congshu (中華佛寺志叢書). No. 1–12. Taipei: Xinwenfeng 新文豐, 2013.

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    (The Zhonghua Collection of Buddhist Temple Gazetteers). This collection provides primary text mountain gazetteers in Chinese. Vol. 1: Mount Qingliang Gazetteer (清涼山志), Vol. 2: Mount Emei Gazetteer (峨眉山志), Vol. 3: Revised Gazetter of Mount Putuo (重修普陀山志), Vol. 4: New Gazetteer of Mount Putuo (普陀洛迦新志), Vol. 5: Mount Jiuhua Gazetter (九華山志), Vol. 6: Mount Tiantai Gazetteer (天台山方外志), Vol. 7-1: Aśoka Temple Gazetteer (明州阿育王山志), Vol. 7-2: Continued Aśoka Temple Gazetteer (明州阿育王山續志), Vol. 8: Hanshan Temple Gazetteer (寒山寺志), Vol. 9: Huiyin temple Gazetteer (玉岑山慧因高麗華嚴教寺志), Vol. 10: Mount Huangbo Gazetteer (黃檗山志), Vol. 11: Kaiyuan Temple Gazetteer (泉州開元寺志), Vol. 12: Mount Jizu Gazetteer (雞足山志).

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  • Bingenheimer, Marcus. “Knowing the Paths of Pilgrimage: The Network of Pilgrimage Routes in Nineteenth-Century China according to the Canxue zhijin 參學知津.” Review of Religion and Chinese Society 3 (2016a): 189–222.

    DOI: 10.1163/22143955-00302004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study pays attention to the 19th-century monk Ruhai Xiancheng 如海顯承 and his travel book of fifty-six pilgrimage routes.

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  • Bingenheimer, Marcus. Island of Guanyin—Mount Putuo and Its Gazetteers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016b.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456191.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focusing on mountain gazetteers, Bingenheimer offers the first monograph on Mount Putuo as a foundation of Chinese Buddhism. This work emphasizes the rich multitude of interpretations regarding Mount Putuo that arise by examining gazetteers.

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  • Birnbaum, Raoul. “The Manifestations of a Monastery: Shen-ying’s Experiences on Mount Wu-t’ai in T’ang Context.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 106.1 (1986): 110–137.

    DOI: 10.2307/602367Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Rooted in Mount Wutai’s Tang religious settings, Birnbaum’s work investigates Shen-ying’s experiences to better understand medieval Chinese Buddhist practices.

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  • Digital Dictionary of Buddhism.

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    This highly important web resource offers textual databases and collections in their original languages. Searchable topics include Chinese temples, and primary texts related to those sacred sites.

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Pilgrimage to Bodhisattvas

In the history of Chinese Buddhism, mountains are sites of international support, but they are not the only locations worthy of patronage. Cave temples and monasteries also inspired travel, especially those associated with miracle tales and Bodhisattva sightings. The following works explore relationships between practitioners, Bodhisattvas, and natural environments. Birnbaum 1983, Stevenson 1996, and Campbell 2009 examine relationships between pilgrimage cults and expressions of meaning, including miracle tales, paintings, and texts of revelatory experiences. Gjertson 1981 is also interested in miracle tales as inspiration for pilgrimage. Yü 1995 incorporates pilgrimage songs that encourage religious travel and convey mythic views of Mount Putuo. These works all provide important insight into the religious lives of pilgrims in China, plus their devotion to Bodhisattvas.

  • Birnbaum, Raoul. Studies on the Mysteries of Maňjuśrī: A Group of East Asian Maņdalas and Their Traditional Symbolism. Boulder, CO: Society for the Study of Chinese Religions, 1983.

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    Provides a monograph on the Bodhisattva Manjusri, using iconographic images and paintings. Birnbaum’s work is useful to the study of pilgrimage in China, for it offers understanding of the cult of the Bodhisattva Manjusri.

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  • Campbell, Aurelia. “The Influence of the Cult of the Bodhisattva Guanyin on Tenth-Century Chinese Monasteries.” Sino-Platonic Papers 182 (2009): 83–117.

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    Examines the rise of the Guanyin pilgrimage cult aided by miracle tales and Buddhist scriptures, and explores the influence this cult had on 10th-century designs in Buddhist monasteries.

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  • Gjertson, Donald E. “The Early Chinese Buddhist Miracle Tale.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.3 (1981): 287–301.

    DOI: 10.2307/602591Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses early collections from which miracle tales survive. Given the influence that miracle tales had on inspiring Chinese Buddhist pilgrimage, this work is significant. Gjertson examines characteristics of Buddhist tales, including the incorporation of doctrinal material and references to sacred mountains.

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  • Stevenson, Daniel. “Visions of Manjusri on Mount Wutai.” In Religions of China in Practice. Edited by Donald S. Lopez Jr., 203–222. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

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    Provides an investigation of Mount Wutai’s pilgrimage cult, as well as how quasi-Daoist elements and elixirs of immortality figured in pilgrimage quests.

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  • Yü, Chün-fang. “Chinese Women Pilgrims’ Songs Glorifying Guanyin.” In Buddhism in Practice. Edited by Donald S. Lopez Jr., 176–180. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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    Discusses Chinese knowledge of Guanyin through her manifestation as Princess Miaoshan, as well as the phenomena of pilgrimage to cultic centers for Guanyin worship. This chapter further articulates the influence that reading and listening to the chanting of texts had on myth-making regarding Guanyin.

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Pilgrimage and the State

The resources below relate to sacred geography, the Chinese state, and pilgrimage in diverse ways. Many of the authors explore the manners in which the ruling elite, in terms of both law and patronage, shaped sacred mountains and pilgrimage activities. Birnbaum 1984 examines the situation of the Tang Dynasty, Gimello 1992 investigates monastic practices during the Northern Song, Brook 1998 provides an analysis of the Ming state, and Köhle 2008 provides an account of Mount Wutai as a pertinent Tibetan location, inspiring early-Qing rulers to pay it patronage. Other works examine mountain traditions from the perspective of official imperial rites. Mount Tai was a particularly important location regarding state activities, for it was a space for imperial homage to heaven. Works related to Mount Tai rituals include Bokenkamp 1996, a case study of Feng and Shan rites, and Dott 2004, a manuscript on Mount Tai’s development. Dudbridge 1992 is also significant to this topic, for it offers a study of women pilgrimage at the imperial destination. Relationships between state authority and pilgrimage pertinently contributed to China’s relationships with nations abroad, including India. Buddhist pilgrims traveled to India, bringing back a wealth of religious texts, and Japanese pilgrims journeyed to China. Such travels occurred with state support, and furthermore, benefitted both religious and state interests. Reischauer 1955 provides a translation of the Japanese monk Ennin’s (793–864) pilgrimage to China, and Lahiri 1986 and Wriggins 2004 analyze eminent Chinese monks and their India excursions.

  • Birnbaum, Raoul. “Thoughts on T’ang Buddhist Mountain Traditions and Their Contexts.” Tang Studies 2 (1984): 5–23.

    DOI: 10.1179/073750384787758678Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Places mountain traditions within the context of the ruling elite and cults. Analyzes the reasons for which some mountains became associated with sacredness and others did not, including remarkable geology, strategic locations, and religious features.

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  • Bokenkamp, Stephen. “Record of the Feng and Shan Sacrifices.” In Religions of China in Practice. Edited by Donald Lopez, 251–261. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

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    Offers a case study of Feng and Shan rites at Mount Tai, which provides a pertinent look at the importance of communing with the unseen world atop mountains.

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  • Brook, Timothy. “Communications and Commerce.” In The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 8, The Ming Dynasty, 1368–1944. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Frederick W. Mote, 579–670. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Brook offers a useful discussion of Ming-period pilgrimage, and does so within the context of social and economic history including transportation, commerce, and state support.

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  • Dott, Brian R. Identity Reflections: Pilgrimages to Mount Tai in Late Imperial China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004.

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    Dott gives a researched book on Mount Tai, one of China’s most important sacred mountains. Offers a pertinent view into the Chinese imagining of pilgrimage, as well as pilgrimage behaviors from diverse social groups.

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  • Dudbridge, Glen. “Women Pilgrims to T’ai Shan: Some Pages from a Seventeenth-Century Novel.” In Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Edited by Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, 39–64. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    Examines passages from a 17th-century novel written by women. These passages are important to studies of Chinese pilgrimage, for they reveal popular imaginings regarding Mount Tai pilgrimages.

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  • Gimello, Robert M. “Chang Shang-ying on Wu-t’ai Shan.” In Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Edited by Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, 89–149. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    Analyzes Chang Shang-yin within the religious, cultural, and political history of the Northern Song period. His historiography provides an important record of his pilgrimage to Mount Wutai, thus adding to literature on Chinese intellectuals as Buddhist pilgrims.

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  • Köhle, Natalie. “Why Did the Kangxi Emperor Go to Wutai Shan? Patronage, Pilgrimage, and the Place of Tibetan Buddhism at the Early Qing Court.” Late Imperial China 29.1 (June 2008): 73–119.

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    Looks at the position of Tibetan Buddhism with Early Qing rulers, which includes patronage to Mount Wutai.

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  • Lahiri, Latika, trans. Chinese Monks in India: Biography of Eminent Monks Who Went to the Western World in Search of the Law During the Great T’ang Dynasty. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986.

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    Lahiri translates the pertinent 7th-century Biography of Eminent Monks by monk-scholar I-Ching (614–713).

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  • Reischauer, Edwin. Ennin’s Diary: The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law. New York: Ronald, 1955.

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    Provides a translation of Ennin’s diary from Chinese into English.

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  • Wriggins, Sally Hovey. The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2004.

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    The author of this text examines the 7th-century monk Xuanzang’s journey by offering a travel account. By following the pilgrimage route of Xuanzang, the author provides readers with an intimate journey.

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Daoist Pilgrimage

While within the religious imaginary of Daoism mountains are numinous, this does not ensure that a location becomes a center for pilgrimage. The sources listed here investigate key elements in the transformation of mountain sites into pilgrimage locations. Lagerwey 1992 and Chao 2011 investigate the creation of Mount Wudang as a Daoist pilgrimage destination, that involved rituals by Daoist clerics, lay worshippers, and imperial patrons. Robson 2009 and Bokenkamp 2009 focus on what draws pilgrimages to sites of numinosity, and incorporate religious imaginations from pilgrims of different social classes. Gu 1989 and Mei 2007 are both concerned with the Ming period as a time for expanded Daoist pilgrim networks.

  • Bokenkamp, Stephen R. Ancestors and Anxiety: Daoism and the Birth of Rebirth in China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

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    Examines intersections of Buddhist and Daoist imagery, including that of ancestors and the underworld. Bokenkamp introduces how Buddhist visions of hell and otherworldly geographies shaped religious imagination in China, including the association of underworlds with physical mountains.

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  • Chao, Shin-Yi. Daoist Ritual, State Religion, and Popular Practices: Zhenwu Worship from Song to Ming (960–1644). New York: Routledge Studies in Daoism, 2011.

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    This study introduces Zhenwu worship, and the god’s home at Mount Wudang. Chao untangles the site’s historicity that includes patronage from lay pilgrims who enacted the life of the deity, as well as monastic support. This work importantly places Mount Wudang within the context of other competitive landscapes and argues that the role of Daoist clerics was the primary force for the site’s creation.

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  • Gu Wenbi 顧文壁. “Mingdai Wudang shan de xingsheng he Suzhou ren de da guimo Wudang jinxiang lüxing (明代武當山的興盛和蘇州人的大規模武當進香旅 行).” Jianghan kaogu 江漢考古 1 (1989): 71–75.

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    (The flourishing of Wudangshan and pilgrimages to Wudang from Suzhou in the Ming dynasty). Provides an overview of Ming period pilgrimages to Mount Wudang.

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  • Lagerwey, John. “The Pilgrimage to Wudangshan.” In Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Edited by Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, 293–332. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    Details the historical construction of Mount Wudang, plus tales of Zhenwu and his cult. Looking at monographs, Lagerwey provides critical details of the mountain’s development, including clerical activity, imperial construction (and worship), and cultic activity suggesting that a Daoist tradition at Mount Wudang can be traced from the mid-12th century on.

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  • Mei Li 梅莉. Ming Qing shiqi Wudang shan chaoshan jinxiang yanjiu (明清時期武當山朝山進香研究). Wuhan, China: Huazhong shifang daxue chubanshe, 2007.

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    (Research on pilgrimage on Mount Wudang in the Ming and Qing dynasties). An important source related to Zhenwu worship, as well as the networks of pilgrims at Mount Wudang.

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  • Robson, James. Power of Place: The Religious Landscape of the Southern Sacred Peak (Nanyue 南嶽) in Medieval China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009.

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    Untangles common misperceptions regarding the nature of sacred mountains. The first chapter is important for an overview of the range of feelings travelers have felt since the Han period, with fear being an especially potent one requiring apotropaic objects for safe entry.

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Pilgrimage in Art and Architecture

Sacred locations in China, including the enlightened beings manifested there, have inspired pilgrims to express their patronage through art. Cahill 1992 focuses on the impact of paintings in the construction of pilgrimage routes, Cartelli 2013 is interested in pilgrimage songs that inspire pilgrims and travel itself. Howard 2001 details Buddhist cave art at Dazu, in Sichuan province, to reveal this location as an important expression of esoteric Buddhism, and Russell-Smith 2005 analyzes Uyghur Buddhist art. These studies unpack Buddhist art to reveal pilgrimage locations as important sites for merit making and artistic expression. The remaining authors are interested in the imaginings of religious landscapes, from multiple perspectives. Heller 2008 and Chou 2011 discuss maps and map-making as representations of deeper expressions of meaning, and Schaeffer 2011 provides constructions of religious landscapes, that include the Chinese Mount Wutai, from Tibetan perspectives. These works offer an insight into the lives of pilgrims, and understand pilgrimage landscapes as dynamic entities represented and imagined in multiple ways.

  • Cahill, James. “Huang Shan Paintings as Pilgrimage Pictures.” In Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China. Edited by Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, 246–292. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    This essay pays attention to paintings as travel guides to Huang Shan and further questions what pilgrimages occur in relation to paintings.

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  • Cartelli, Mary Anne. The Five-Colored Clouds of Mount Wutai: Poems from Dunhuang. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013.

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    Not only details views of sacred mountains in ancient China, but also offers a significant literature review of early texts associated with Mount Wutai. Cartelli’s study emphasizes the relationship between Mount Wutai and artistic expressions, and gives the reader songs, eulogies, poetry, and paintings that transmit iconic views of Mount Wutai.

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  • Chou, Wen-Shing. “Maps of Wutai Shan: Individuating the Sacred Landscape through Color.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 6 (2011): 372–388.

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    Describes how the choice of coloring maps discloses different visions of Mount Wutai.

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  • Heller, Natasha. “Visualizing Pilgrimage and Mapping Experience: Mount Wutai on the Silk Road.” In The Journey of Maps and Images on the Silk Road. Edited by Philippe Forêt and Andreas Kaplony, 29–50. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004171657.i-248.24Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In examining the map of Mount Wutai from Mogao Cave 61, Heller uncovers significant social layers that contextualize this sketch as an image with multiple levels of meaning.

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  • Howard, Angela Falco. Summit of Treasures: Buddhist Cave Art of Dazu, China. Trumbull, CT: Weatherhill, 2001.

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    Illuminates the meanings of symbols and icons present within Dazu’s cave art to connect the location with Esoteric Buddhist principles. This importantly provides scholarship regarding pilgrimage destinations, from a non-Chan perspective.

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  • Russell-Smith, Lilla. Uyghur Patronage in Dunhuang: Regional Art Centres on the Northern Silk Road in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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    Considers the influence Chinese and Uyghurs had on Dunhuang’s religious art, adding to scholarship highlighting the complexity of Dunhuang’s identity.

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  • Schaeffer, Kurtis R. “Tibetan Poetry on Wutai Shan.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 6 (2011): 215–242.

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    This article studies the work of Tibetan clerics, and their literary expressions of the mountain’s sacredness. Such an exploration is important for it recognizes Mount Wutai’s inclusion in a Tibetan, as well as a Chinese, religious landscape.

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Modern Pilgrimage

Traditional pilgrimages have always included economic exchanges, for along the journey, pilgrims were consumers at inns, teashops, and other commercial settings that upheld the journey. Current scholarship is beginning to explore relationships between pilgrimage and economic exchanges, including Bruntz 2014, a thesis on Buddhist revivalism and state-promoted tourism. Yü 2012 analyzes the spread of Tibetan Buddhism across multiple networks, including economic ones. Chan and Lang 2011 and Chau 2011 also evaluate Buddhist activity within the context of economic exchanges, and do so by focusing on revitalization efforts. Zhang, et al. 2007 and Oakes and Sutton 2010 consider the effects that relationships between Buddhism and government investments have had on historical pilgrimage destinations. Many of these works draw on an anthropological approach, which builds upon that of Welch 1967, a work that significantly describes modern Chinese Buddhism from oral accounts. Also included in these references is Chen-hua 1992, a memoir from the Chinese monk detailing his travel to Mount Putuo.

  • Bruntz, Courtney. “Commodifying Mount Putuo: State Nationalism, Religious Tourism, and Buddhist Revival.” PhD diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2014.

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    Investigates the commodification of Buddhist pilgrimage in contemporary settings. Bruntz is concerned with the promotion of pilgrimage through state-supported tourism networks that have substantially contributed to the revitalization of Buddhist sacred sites in a post-Mao era.

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  • Chan, Selina Ching, and Graeme Lang. “Temples as Enterprises.” In Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation. Edited by Adam Yuet Chau, 133–153. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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    Offers the contention that there is an imbalance between religious revival and the restoration of religious buildings. Instead, waves of social movements result in the repurposing of certain religious spaces while disregarding others, which is an important argument when considering contemporary pilgrimage activities.

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  • Chau, Adam Yuet. “Revitalizing and Innovating Religious Traditions in Contemporary China.” In Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation. Edited by Adam Yuet Chau, 1–31. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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    Focuses on the revitalization of Chinese religious landscapes, and emphasizes the important blend of pilgrim and tourist. This contributes to contemporary studies of Buddhism and economic interactions.

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  • Chen-hua, ed. In Search of the Dharma: Memoirs of a Modern Chinese Buddhist Pilgrim. Translated by Denis C. Mair. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

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    Written by a Chinese monk, this text provides the account of Chen-hua’s pilgrimages to monasteries and sacred sites associated famous Chan masters. His memoir includes details of his journey to Mount Putuo.

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  • Oakes, Tim, and Donald S. Sutton, eds. Faiths on Display: Religion, Tourism, and the Chinese State. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.

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    Analyzes relationships between government-supported tourism and pilgrimage destinations, including how revitalization efforts influence devotional activities.

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  • Welch, Holmes. The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, 1900–1950. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967.

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    This is a pivotal work for examining modern Chinese Buddhism, including acts of pilgrimage. Based on Welch’s interactions with monks, this study offers interactions between pilgrims and monastic communities, including those living in hermitages on sacred mountains.

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  • Yü, Dan Smyer. The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: Charisma, Money, Enlightenment. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    In particular, this work’s fourth chapter explores the result of Han Chinese pilgrimage to Tibet. What is furthermore significant in this work is the comparison of Han and Tibetan pilgrims, with Tibetan pilgrimage routes emphasizing sacred mountains and lakes and Han focusing on monasteries. Yu adds to discussions of Han Chinese in modern times entering Tibet as both students and pilgrims of Tibetan Buddhism, and the effects of such interactions.

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  • Zhang Mu, Huang Li, Wang Jian-hong, Liu ji, Jie Yan-geng, and Lai Xiting. “Religious Tourism and Cultural Pilgrimage: A Chinese Perspective.” In Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Festivals Management: An International Perspective. Edited by Razaq Raj and Nigel D. Morpeth, 98–112. Cambridge, MA: CAB International, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1079/9781845932251.0098Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers an analysis of the commercialization of pilgrimage sites, as well as issues regarding the development of pilgrimage destinations as tourist locations.

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