zondag 20 januari 2013

China, Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area

The first Buddhist temple in China was built here in Sichuan Province in the 1st century A.D. in the beautiful surroundings of the summit Mount Emei. The addition of other temples turned the site into one of Buddhism's holiest sites. Over the centuries, the cultural treasures grew in number. The most remarkable is the Giant Buddha of Leshan, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century and looking down on the confluence of three rivers. At 71 m high, it is the largest Buddha in the world. Mount Emei is also notable for its exceptionally diverse vegetation, ranging from subtropical to subalpine pine forests. Some of the trees there are more than 1,000 years old.

The World Heritage site is an area of natural beauty by virtue of its high plant species diversity, with a large number of endemic species. It also underlines the importance of the link between the tangible and intangible, the natural and the cultural. The Mount Emei (Emishan) area possesses exceptional cultural significance, as it is the place where Buddhism first became established on Chinese territory and from where it spread widely throughout the East.
Located in central Sichuan Province, the nominated area includes Mount Emei Scenic and Historical Area, west of Emeishan City, and the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, south-east of Leshan City at the confluence of three rivers: Minjiang, Dadu and Qinqyi.
Mount Emei, with its characteristic three summits, rises 2,600 m from the western margin of the Chengdu Plain. Its diverse topography includes a range of undulating hills, valleys, deep gullies and high peaks. Sedimentary rocks from the late Precambrian contain a large number of fossils and are an important source of geological information.
Mount Emei contains both Sino-Japanese and Sino-Himalayan flora. Five vegetation belts are defined according to vertical zonation. In ascending height order they are: subtropical evergreen broadleaved forest (below 1,500 m), evergreen and deciduous broadleaved mixed forest, coniferous and broadleaved mixed forest, subalpine coniferous forest and subalpine shrubs above 2,800 m. Some 3,200 plant species in 242 families have been recorded, of which 31 are under national protection. There are some 1,600 species of medicinal plants and 600 species of commercial interest. More than 100 species are endemic.
Some 2,300 animal species have been recorded, of which 29 are under national protection, 157 species being threatened or endemic animals to China. A number of type specimens have been taken from Mount Emei. A number of internationally threatened species are to be found, including lesser (red) panda, Asiatic black bear, mainland serow, Asiatic golden cat, Tibetan macaque, Chinese giant salamander and grey-hooded parrot bill. Archaeological evidence indicates that the area was inhabited as long as 10,000 years ago.
Both Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha are places of historical importance, constituting one of the four holy lands of Chinese Buddhism. Mount Emei's history has been documented and recorded for over 2,000 years, during which time a rich Buddhist cultural heritage has accumulated, including cultural relics, architectural heritage, collected calligraphy, paintings, tablet inscriptions and earthenware.
Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, which covers 2,500 ha, includes a number of significant cultural artefacts. These include the sitting Giant Buddha Statue, carved on the Xiluo Peak of Mount Lingyun in the early 8th century and standing 71 m high, with its back against Mount Jiuding and facing the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qinqyi rivers. In addition there are more than 90 stone carvings, Buddhist shrines made during the Tang dynasty, the Lidui (a large rock cut in the centre of the river for irrigation purposes), tombs, Buddha statues, pagodas, temples and city walls.

Historical Description

Buddhism was introduced into China in the 1st century AD via the Silk Road from India to Mount Emei. Pugong, a medicinal Plant farmer, built the Puguang Hall on the Golden Summit at this time. By the 3rd Century the Puxian doctrine of Buddhism was dominant on Mount Emei, and the Chinese monk Huichi built the Puxian Temple (now the Wannian Temple) at the foot of the Guanxinpo Terrace. Buddhism had moved its centre to China by the mid-6th Century and for a time Sichuan was the home of the Chan School of Chinese Buddhism; this period saw the building of more than a hundred temples in the province.
In the mid-9th Century/ the Song Emperor Zhao Kuangyin sent a Buddhist mission headed by Master Jiye to India. On his return he was authorized to build temples on Mount Emei, where he preached and translated the Indian Buddhist texts. He was also authorized to cast a Puxian bronze statue, 62 tonnes in weight and 7.85 m high, now in the Wannian Temple. Since that time Mount Emei has been one of the most holy places of Buddhism. Over the course of the centuries it has accumulated many cultural treasures. The most striking is the Giant Buddha: work began on carving it out of the mountainside in the early 8th century, and was not completed for ninety years.

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