Located to the south of West Lake is the magnificent Jade Emperor Hill, a majestic location for travelers. Of course, it is better known as the Yuhuang Mountain. This hill is located in the city of Jincheng, in the southeast of Shanxi province, north China.
In the past, people would come to Yuhuang Mountain in order to pay their respect to Emperor Yuhuang, who was the Taoist ruler of entire existence including the heaven and the hell. It is located in the expanse between the lake and the Grand Canal but is not obvious to everyone and is therefore better known only to the locals of this area. A half hour’s walk from here is located a verdant bamboo forest, at the heart of which is the Yuhuang Temple.
The Yuhuang Temple or Yuhuang Palace is situated on a hillock behind Chengfu Village, 13 km east of Jincheng City, Shanxi Province, China. This Taoist temple was built in 1076 in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), after which it underwent several expansions and renovations in past dynasties. It was reconstructed in the Ming Dynasty’s Chenghua Period.
What we know today as the Jade Emperor Hall was said to have been built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), while the present day Tangdi Hall was constructed in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). The backyard’s side halls were constructed in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Today, it forms the basis of important information for anyone researching art and history in Taoism. This is the most influential and the largest of all Taoist temples in old Zezhou.
Formerly called the Peace Peak or the Tianzhu Peak, the chief buildings of this temple comprise the Jade Emperor Hall, Riverview Pavilion, Sunrise Pavilion, and side chambers to the east and west of this great structure.
More than 300 statues are housed at this temple, belonging to the Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing (1368-1644) dynasties, each one a magnificent piece of art of Chinese Taoism.
Enshrined in the temple is a splendid bronze statue of the Jade Emperor along with two rows of maids and concubines. Here are 51 statues. A horizontal board above the altar bears an inscription referring to ancient emperors who performed sacrificial rituals there by burning firewood when they prayed the gods of rivers and mountains, asking for protection.
In the east hall are statues of the gods of the elements—earth, sea and heaven; while in the west are found the statues of the 12 stars. The central hall in the past housed the statue of Tangdi depicting god safeguarding the prison at both ends of the rooms. In the backyards are located eight west halls where the gods of 28 constellations are housed, each 1.8 meters high. There are true-to-life statues here of men and women with natural facial expressions. They are with 12 animals that also look very real.
Beautifully painted wood and stone carvings, sculptures and multicolored glaze ware can be seen here in abundance, so it is aptly titled the “Treasury of Carvings.” The natural and true-to-life facial expressions of the statues are something people cannot stop marveling at.
Outside the Yuhang Temple, there are also several stone tablets depicting various dynasties that serve as valuable cultural material for any student of Chinese Taoist history and art.