Mount Emei, 127 km from Sichuan's capital of Chengdu, is one of Buddhism's four sacred mountains in China; the others are Wutai in Shanxiprovince, Jiuhua in Anhui province and Putuo in Zhejiang province. Buddhism reached the mountain about 2,000 years ago, and Mount Emei, with its approximately 30 monasteries, is a pilgrimage for Buddhists today.
The 1,612-year-old Wannian Temple, which is 1,020 meters above the sea level, is the oldest temple on the mountain. The mountain's patron, Bodhisattva Puxian (or Samantabhadra), is worshipped in the most sacred building on Mount Emei, a square brick hall topped with a stupa-like dome. The hall is made totally of bricks and stones, and houses a magnificent bronze statue of Puxian and his mount, a six-tusked elephant with its feet resting on lotuses.
Sacred mountain of wonders
Wannian Temple has been ravaged by at least three big fires since Puxuan's statue, one of Emei's best-known, was installed there in the 10th century. But the fires didn't cause any harm to the 62-ton statue.
During my recent visit to Mount Emei, I saw scores of Buddhists from Jiaxing in Zhejiang kneeling in front of the temple and reading scriptures advocating love for all living beings. Taking a clue from the Buddha's teachings, I shifted my gaze from humans to other living beings and was enraptured by the beauty of a rare species of frog and two monkeys.
The Wannian Temple and its surroundings are home to a rare kind of frog whose croaks sound like the notes of a zither. According to local legend, four beautiful fairies drawn to the temple by the enlightening preachings of an eminent monk were later transformed into the frogs. I was lucky enough to hear the frogs "singing" in a pond full of lotus blossoms.
Just as I was about to leave, two monkeys appeared on the roof of a building opposite the pond to the vociferous "welcome" of tourists and clicking of their cameras. But since the jumping monkeys were breaking the roofing tiles, the house owner drove them away with a long bamboo pole.