Wudangzhao Monastery

Last updated by fabiowzgogo at 2013-11-7

Situated in Wudang Valley, about 70 kilometers northeast of the city of Baotou, Wudangzhao Monastery is the largest and best preserved lamasery (i.e., Tibetan Buddhist monastery) in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (Inner Mongolia, for short). The lamasery was originally named Bada Gele, which means "White Lotus" in the Tibetan language. The changed name, Wudangzhao Si, means "Willow Tree Monastery" in Mongolian, a reference to the many willow trees that originally surrounded the area of the lamasery, though today the dominant trees in the area are pine and cypress. According to legend, the first living Buddha (these are by definition Lamas, or living Tibetan Buddhas, as in the present-day Dalai Lama), Luobusangjialacuo Lama, selected the site on Mount Ao Bao where the Bada Gele Lamasery would later be erected.

According to the records, Bada Gele Lamasery was built in keeping with general Tibetan temple construction customs (Bada Gele Lamasery cum Wudangzhao Monastery is constructed in the style of Tashilhunpo Lamasery in the city of Shigatse, in Tibet Autonomous Region, aka Tibet) during the reign (CE 1661-1722) of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644-1911), though the monastery was restored and expanded - and thus first came into prominence - in CE 1749, during the reign (CE 1735-1796) of Emperor Qianlong, also of the Qing Dynasty).

Down the years, the monastery has undergone many changes and expansions. It is for this reason that the monastery has become the largest such monastery in Inner Mongolia. Built on the slopes of Mount Ao Bao, the monastery is a vast white complex structured on different levels, with the mountain as a backdrop. Nestled among the verdant pine and cypress trees, the white temple takes on an even greater appearance of grandeur.

Covering an area of over 300 mu (a mu corresponds to 666 2/3 square meters*), Wudangzhao Monastery comprises some 2500 rooms, including its various storage facilities. The complex houses 6 halls for chanting Buddhist scriptures, 3 Living Buddha mansions, 1 mausoleum and 1 lama dormitory. All of the buildings belonging to the complex, all of which are arranged in a logical hierarchy in accordance with their various functions, are in a Tibetan-style, flat-roofed design which is generally square, though sometimes rectangular. The color of the overall complex and the various sizes and arrangement of its individual structures all come together to create an impression of internal as well as external harmony, i.e., the buildings are also "at one with nature", which adds to the aesthetic appeal of Wudangzhao Monastery. Set against the verdure of the mountain behind it and the blue skies above it, the white monastery takes on a special, ethereal quality.


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* Note: 10 mu, as measured today, is equal to 2/3 hectare or roughtly 1.65 U.S. acres. Unfortunately, the measurement has not been uniform throughout history; during the colonial era, the measurement was reckoned at about 15% above its original value, which original value also corresponds to the present-day value of a mu. There is of course a Greek (cyrillic) letter known to students of calculus that is rendered as "mu" (pronounced "mew") in English and which looks slighly like the lower-case English letter "u" and which is sometimes writen simply as "m" (both lower and upper-case), but it has nothing to do with the Chinese area measurement.

 

Solo Adventure Tips:

Location:

How to Get There?

There are regular buses from the Eastern Railway Station Square in Baotou that service the monastery. It is a 4-hour journey each direction, so overnighting locally is advised.

Ticket Price:

Opening Hours:

From 8:00AM to 6:00PM, daily.

More Tips:

The annual Spring Sacrifice ceremony is held at the monastery on March 21st of the lunar calendar. On this date, devotees in droves descend on the monastery in order to pay their respects, to make sacrifices, burn incense, and to present Hada (Hada is a narrow strip of silk or cotton carried in a special pouch (the Hada pouch) and used as a greeting gift, and though the Hada itself is not of great intrinsic value, its symbolic value in the tradition-rich nomadic Mongolian culture - where everything had to be carried so as not to interfere with the horseman's free movement, necessitating "abbreviated" versions of everything, including the all-important greeting gift - is immeasureable… Hada continues to be the same thin strip of silk or cotton, even where nomadic culture has given way to city life, as cultural traditions possess a self-perpetuating force).

The Spring Sacrifice ceremony has a secular side as well, where the traditional Mongolian "manly sports" of horseracing, archery and wrestling unfold to the immense delight of the spectators.

 


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