Mt. Putuoshan lies to the east of Zhoushan City. Zhoushan City is situated on Zhoushan Island that in turn gives its name to a group of some four hundred small islands off the east coast of China in Zhejiang Province. These islands are in fact the peaks of submerged mountains and so rise steeply from the sea. Mt. Putuoshan dominates the small rhomboidal land mass with its total area of about 12.5 square kilometres (4.8 square miles). The mountain is of one of four in the country that are held sacred by Buddhists and it was here that over the centuries a once large Buddhist community was to evolve.
Mount Putuo's fascinating beauty can be summed up in these words: of the "fascination of the sea, the mystery of the mountains and the auspiciousness of the Buddha". The Five Wonders of Mount Putuo are the golden beach, exotic rocks, sound of the pounding waves, and the mirage. Mount Putuo is often compared to the West Lake of Hangzhou : "No place is better than the West Lake in terms of the combined beauty of mountains and lakes; by the same token, no place is better than Mount Putuo in terms of the combined beauty of mountains and the sea." Mount Putuo is said to be the Remotest Part of Heaven, the Farthest Corner of the Sea, the Shangri-La, the Penglai Wonderland and the Buddhist Kingdom on the Sea.
Mount Putuo became a Buddhist Sanctuary during the Tang Dynasty. An Indian Monk arrived there to cultivate his morals during the 847-860 Dazhong reign of Emperor Xuanxong of the Tang Dynasty. It was said that he personally attended lectures given by the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara who bestowed a seven-hued precious stone on him. Thus Mount Putuo became the holy place where Avalokitesvara made his female presence felt. In 916, the second year of the Zhenming reign of the Late Liang Dynasty, the eminent Japanese monk Huie was stranded at Mount Putuo while shipping a statue of the Goddess of Mercy from Mount Wutai to Japan. He entreated the Goddess for help and his call was answered. In gratitude he had a temple built at Mount Putuo to enshrine the statue of the Goddess he was carrying. This is the so-called Bukenqu (Reluctant to Go) Guanyin Temple in Mount Putuo. Since then, Mount Putuo has become the spiritual bodhimandala of Guanyin.
Mount Putuo's cultural heritage includes an edict bestowed by Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty on the Zhenhai Monastery (the Fayu Temple), Kasayas from emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, a horizontal board inscribed with the wording "ever-bright Sea and Moon" written by Emperor Kangxi, a jade zeal bestowed by Emperor Guangxu, and a painting of peonies by Empress Dowager Cixi. After more than a thousand years of development, Mount Putuo has emerged as a Buddhist Kingdom on the Sea, where, as the saying goes, "Every nook and corner of the mountain contains a temple, and a monk appears whenever someone has lost his way."
Mount Putuo is covered all over with evergreen trees. Among them are about 1170 huge camphor trees. One of them is found in Puhui nunnery, whose trunk is six meters in circumference, and the tree is over 800 years old. There are also gingkoes, cypresses and pines. To the west of the Huiji Temple on the Foding Mountain is a E'er manger, a rare tree under second-class state protection. Ancient camphor trees in exotic shapes are also found at the Fayu and Puju temples, the Guanyin Cave and the Wall of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and by Miaozhuangyan Road. Mount Putuo, cocooned in verdant trees, looks really like a place of great wilderness and is truly a Buddhist Kingdom on the sea.
On the East China Sea there floats a mountain called Putuoshan, which is a 12.5 square kilometer narrow island in the Zhoushan Region of China's Zhejiang Province. With verdant trees, strange rocks, golden beaches and craggy reefs, the island fits perfectly with the serene, solemn and holy atmosphere that Buddhism pursues.
Hence, it became a special place to enshrine Avalokitesvara, or Guanyin in Chinese, since the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and one of the four Famous Buddhist Mountains in China, the rest being Mutai Mountain in Shanxi Province, Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province and Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui Province. There used to be such a comment: nor sceneries excellent in mountains and lakes, the West Lake in Hangzhou is the best; yet for sceneries excellent in mountains and sea, Putuoshan takes the first place. Consequently, the fame of Putuoshan as a buddhist Fairyland on the Sea, spread throughout the country and even beyond.
When it is winter in Southern China but Putuoshan is glitter, plentiful and intelligent because the mountain is a Buddhist mountain, the trees are Buddhist trees and the flowers are Buddhist flowers. Even the waves, due to the vastness of the sea, roll like Buddhist clouds. December 20, 2002 was just an ordinary day but when dawn broke, more than ten thousand visitors who had already ferried to the island the previous evening started to flock from all over the mountain to Puji Temple, the main monastery where Guanyin is enshrined.
A Buddhist said that an abbot had been entrusted to manage all the temples at Putuoshan since 1950, and the ceremony for the abbot to take office was called assumption of the Seat A grand ritual was going to be held for the new abbot Master Jieren to formally assume the seat, and hence elders of various Buddhist monasteries both home and abroad, representatives of governments at different levels and people of various circles all made their way to the island to witness the ritual and extend their greetings.
Stepping into Puji Temple, one was impressed by the brightly burning candles, coiling incense smoke and crowds of people. First built during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Puji Temple is enormous in size with magnificent architecture. It has 9 halls with ancient trees and huge incense burners standing in between. In the center of Grand Yuantong Hall, the main hall is a glittering 9-meter-tall statue of Guanyin and on both sides are 32 statues representing Guanyin's different images with some of them as ordinary persons. Puji Temple, together with Fayu Temple and Huiji Temple, are known as the three major temples at Putuoshan, each endowed with its own beauty and splendor.
At about seven o'clock in the morning, Master Jieren, new abbot for the whole of Putuoshan, departed from Fayu Temple and proceeded in the company of devoted followers of Buddhism to Yuantong Hall in Puji Temple to preach the Law and then to partake in the seat-assuming ceremony in the Hall of the Law. The path he traversed was covered with red carpet and a tasseled canopy was held above his head. Nonetheless, the most important scene in the whole ritual was the opening of the main gate of the temple. It is said that even an Emperor was kept outside of the gate when he tried to make a private visit in disguise, because according to Buddhist rules, the main gate only opens when a new abbot assumes his seat or when the first of the 10 Heavenly Stems and the first of the 12 Earthly Branches meet again after 60 years. At about 9 o'clock the long-closed main gate finally opened in the resounding sound of firecrackers. The pious and celebrating masses, following Master Jieren, crossed the threshold of the gate and joyfully stroked the various steles behind the gate as if they wanted to hold fast in their hands the fortune that had been gathered behind the gate for so long. Coincidently, the sky over Putuoshan cleared up after several days of rain and the sun shined. The whole ceremony lasted for more than three hours. It is such a wonderful experience that it's really an eye-opener.
Old Temple, New Abbot
Buddhist doctrines are rich and sophisticated. In the more than 2000 years since its introduction into China, Buddhism, with its immortal wisdom, merciful spirit and peaceful way of preaching, has integrated with the intrinsic culture of China and become a wonder flower in the garden of Chinese traditional culture.
Master Jieren, the new abbot, was tonsured to become a monk 22 years ago. Having studied at and graduated from the Qixiashan Buddhist College in Nanjing and the Chinese Buddhist College in Beijing, he served as supervisor at Linji Temple in Zhengding County, Hebei Province and came to teach in the Putuoshan Buddhist College ten years ago. Having served as supervisor at Huiji Temple as well as at Puji Temple and helped his predecessor Abbot Miaoshan to manage the affairs of the whole mountain, he was elected this year as vice president of the Chinese Buddhist Association as well as president of Zhejiang Provincial Buddhist Association and Zhoushan Municipal Buddhist Association. When he assumed the seat of abbot for the whole of Putuoshan at the age of 43, he once again encouraged followers to love the country as well as the faith and to care for state affairs and social development, and at the same time, to work tirelessly to invigorate Buddhism and cultivate more Buddhist talents.
The clouds shroud the mountains on the sea where tall rocks and water palaces stand isolated from the earthly world.We have reasons to believe that led by the wise and sagacious Abbot Jieren, the buddhist Fairyland on the Sea will undergo fresh changes, and we look forward to different experiences and gains from Putuoshan in the other three seasons of the year.
The sandy shores of the island are also special features and particularly attractive to tourists are the bays known as "The Thousand-Step Sands" with its 1.5 kilometer (0.9 mile) beach and the smaller "Hundred-Step Sands". These fine beaches are very popular with bathers and also have entertainment facilities.
On top of all this, Mount Putuo has some of China's greatest seafood on offer. Sampling fresh seafood dishes has become an indispensible part of any trip to Putuoshan.
Despite the name, the trip to Mount Putuo does not involve any overly strenuous climbing. The highest peak here is a mere 300 meters above sea level and for most of the small peaks on the island cable cars are available (RMB30 for the round trip). Maps for the island can be brought for a small price beside the port. For those not wishing to treck, the island also has a fairly comprehensive minibus transport system to all the main sights.
It is small wonder that this island is famed for having such a delightful combination of mountain scenery and seascapes.
On the 19th day of the second, sixth and ninth month, grand religious ceremonies are held to commemorate Guanyin's birthday, Pravrajana, and enlightenment. Buddhist followers and tourists from China and abroad gather here, making Putuo Mountain a particularly popular tourist destination. Its numerous attractions include Foding Mountain, Pantuo Rock, Chaoyin Cave, Nine-Dragon Wall, cliff sculptures, and more than 30 temples, such as Puji Temple, Fayu Temple and Huiji Temple, which are representative of the early Qing Dynasty architecture.
Putuoshan is accessible by ferry from Shanghai. There are two daily ferries: 12-hour night ferry 3-hour high-speed ferry (leaves mid-day). Buses leave from downtown to the ferry wharf and tickets can be organized through hotel concierges.
Entrance charge: CNY 140 (Dec.1-Jan.31) CNY 160 (Feb.1-Nov.30) CNY 200 during the legal holidays; Excluding: CNY 5 for the Puji Temple CNY 5 for the Fayu Temple CNY 5 for the Huiji Temple CNY 5 for the Violet Bamboo Grove Buddhist Temple (Zizhu Lin) CNY 6 for the Standing Kwan-yin Statue of Mt. Putuoshan CNY 49 for the Luojia Hill CNY 40 for the round-trip cable car or CNY 25 for the one-way cable car