"A Buddhist Land between Sea and Heaven"
Mt. Putuo, located in the eastern part of the archipelago, is ranked as one of the four famous Buddhist holy mountains along with Mt. Jiuhua, Mt. Emei and Mt. Wutai. Its name "Putuo," a Chinese transliteration of Sanskrit "Potala," means "a beautiful little white flower." Its attractions include grotesque caves and rocks, and many famous Buddhist temples. It enjoys such names as a "Buddhist Land between Sea and Heaven" and the "Penglai Wonderland."
Mt. Putuo's origin as a "Buddhist Land" is based on the legend that more than one thousand years ago GuanYin of the South Sea (Bodhisattva) performed Buddhist rites and preached scriptures on a small island opposite to Putuo. Another story has it that during the 10th century a reverent Japanese monk was sailing back to Japan from Ningbo, bringing with him a statue of GuanYin, when storms rose from the sea area around Mt. Putuo. Besides this, several hundred iron lotus flowers floating on the sea got in his way. He tried to press on, but to no avail. At that point it suddenly occurred to him that the Bodhisattva was refusing to leave China for Japan. The monk prayed and promised to build a shrine for the statue wherever the boat might carry him. The iron lotus flowers instantly vanished into the Chaoyin Cave at the foot of Mt. Putuo. The monk and the island's inhabitants built a shrine named the "bukenqu (unwilling to go) GuanYin shrine" in a grove of black bamboo. Afterwards, Mt. Putuo gradually became a sacred site for GuanYin. In the year 1131, all the Buddhist sects on the island were converted into the Chan (Zen) sect. From then on, it became a sacred place for Chan Buddhism as well as a shrine for GuanYin. In its heyday, there were more than 300 Buddhist temples of various sizes on Mt. Putuo resounding with the chanting of scriptures. The major temples that still exist today include Puji Temple, built during the Song Dynasty, and Fayu Temple, built during the Ming Dynasty. What is unique about Puji Temple is its 8.8-meter-tall statue of GuanYin flanked by 32 incarnates of GuanYin.
Religions in Zhejiang
Prior to the Han Dynasty, religious beliefs in Zhejiang were those of the primitive worship of natural forces and multiple deities. Indian Buddhism began to spread to China after the Eastern Han Dynasty. During the Wei and Jin dynasties and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Zhejiang was one of the major areas for Taoism and Buddhism in China, either as a place of origin or dissemination. The Tiantai Sect of Buddhism was founded on the Tiantai Mountain of Zhejiang during the Northern and Southern Dynasties as the first indigenous Buddhist sect. The existing famous Buddhist temples include Lingyin Temple of Hangzhou, Puji, Fayu, and Huiji temples of Mt. Putuo, Baoguo, Tiantong, and Asoka temples of Ningbo, Guoqing Temple of Tiantai, and Dafo (Big Buddha) Temple of Xinchang.
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