Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
The palaces and temples which form the nucleus of this group of secular and religious buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China's Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Situated in the scenic valleys and on the slopes of the Wudang mountains in Hubei Province, the site, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming dynasty (14th–17th centuries), contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years.
Outstanding Universal Value
The palaces and temples of the Ancient Building Complex are located amongst the peaks, ravines and gullies of the picturesque Wudang Mountains, Hubei Province. Established as a Taoist centre from the early Tang Dynasty, some Taoist buildings could be traced back to the 7th century. However the surviving buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China’s secular and religious buildings of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Ancient Building Complex reached its apogee during the Ming dynasty, with 9 palaces, 9 monasteries, 36 nunneries and 72 temples, following the major building campaign undertaken by Emperor Zhu Di to align his imperial regime with Taoism. Today, 53 ancient buildings and 9 architectural sites survive, including the Golden Shrine and the Ancient Bronze Shrine, which are prefabricated buildings in bronze made in 1307; the stone-walled Forbidden City of 1419; Purple Heaven Palace built originally in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 15th century and extended in the 19th century; the Nanyang Palace of the 12th and 13thcenturies; the Fuzhen Temple of the 15th and 17th centuries and the stone Zhishi-Xuanyue Gateway built to mark the entrance to the Wudang Mountains in 1522.
The buildings in the Wudang Mountains exhibit exceptional architectural art and technology and represent the highest level of Chinese art and architecture achieved over a period of nearly 1,000 years. They are examples of religious and secular buildings closely associated with the growth of Taoism in China and lavishly endowed by successive Emperors. As an exceptionally large and well-preserved Taoist building complex it is important material evidence for studying early Ming politics and the Chinese history of religion.
Criterion (i): The ancient buildings in the Wudang Mountains represent the highest standards in Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly one thousand years.
Criterion (ii): The Wudang buildings exercised an enormous influence on the development of religious and public art and architecture in China.
Criterion (vi): The religious complex in the Wudang Mountains was the centre of Taoism, one of the major eastern religions and one which played a profound role in the development of belief and philosophy in the region.
All the 62 ancient buildings and sites have been included in the property boundaries surrounded by extensive buffer zones with signs and enhanced safety control. Meanwhile, guided by the principle of “giving priority to the protection of cultural relics and attaching primary importance to their rescue”, priority is given to each building in terms of maintenance and repairs to ensure the integrity of the property.
Besides carrying out necessary works on the property such as cleaning, reinforcement, termite prevention and lightning conductors, the principle of respecting the authenticity is strictly adhered in terms of maintenance and repair, so that the original condition of the property in terms of layout, specification, style and material are all preserved. Meanwhile, the setting of the property has been improved by relocating residents out of the property area, which helps to preserve the authenticity as well as to restore the original setting.
According to the planned national water diversion project from the south to the north, the local water level is to rise 15 meters. As a result, some ancient buildings may need to be elevated, while some others may need to be relocated, which may impact the authenticity and integrity of the property.
Protection and management requirements
The property is protected at the highest level by the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics. The Management Committee of the Wudang Mountains Tourism and Economic Special Zone where the property is located exercises the local governmental responsibility, and is exclusively in charge of protection, management, development, use, planning and construction of the Wudang Mountains scenery area. The Cultural Heritage Bureau under the Management Committee is responsible for the administration of cultural heritage in the Special Zone. The Institute for Cultural Heritage Conservation, a museum and 5 cultural heritage management departments are set under the Bureau to carry out conservation works. Among them, the 5 cultural heritage management departments are established according to the distribution of cultural heritage over the Mountains, and have clearly assigned scope of jurisdiction and staff. With regard to the 28 remote heritage sites, voluntary conservators’ tenders coming from the villages where these sites are located take care of them. At present, there are 84 such conservators that are professionally engaged in cultural heritage conservation.
Meanwhile, the “Four Legal Prerequisites” (demarcation of the boundaries, erection of an official plaque declaring a site a protected entity, creation of an archive for records, designation of an organization or person dedicated to management) and ‘five bring into’ (bring into the economic and society development plan, bring into urban and rural construction plan, bring into the fiscal budget, bring into system reform, bring into leadership accountability system) for cultural heritage conservation have been achieved, and the heritage monitoring system and database have been established.
The Outline of the Master Plan of Wudang Mountains Scene Area, the Twelfth Five-year (2011-2015) Conservation Plan for the Ancient Building Complex in Wudang Mountains, Regulations of Wudang Mountains Environment and Regulations on Basic Construction in the Planned Area of Wudang Special Zone have been formulated, and the provincial government has issued laws and regulations including the Regulations of Wudang Mountain Scene Area. The Master Plan for Cultural Heritage Conservation of Wudang Mountain is under preparation.
Moreover, the top-level protection zone inside the Scenic Area has been expanded to coincide with the property boundaries. Farmers living in the property area have been relocated for better protection of the sites, while all constructions impairing the setting of the property have been demolished.
The property is properly managed and preserved through periodic, strict and well planned maintenance and protection.
The palaces and temples which form the nucleus of this group of secular and religious buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China's Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Situated in the scenic valleys and on the slopes of the Wudang Mountains in Hubei Province, the site, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming dynasty (14th-17th centuries), represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of some 1,000 years.
To commemorate the success of the Governor of the Wudang Administrative Region in bringing rain by prayer, Emperor Taizong ordered the Five Dragon Hall to be built (627-49). This was quickly followed by the Taiyi and Yanchang Temples, and in 869 the Weiwu Gong Temple. In 1018 Song Emperor Zhenzong converted the Five Dragon Hall into a temple, and his successor had the Purple Heaven Hall built beneath the Zhanqi Peak. Then came the Laojun Monastery and the Xianguan Terrace. In 1304 the mountains became known as 'The Blessed Land', at which time the Gate to the Blessed Land was constructed. The Tianyi-Zhenqing Palace, the Yuxu Cliff Temple, the Thunder God's Cave, and the Yinxian Cliff Temple were also built around this time. After his enthronement Ming Emperor Zhu Di started construction work in the Wudang Mountains. It took 20,000 men 12 years to complete the work, which included 9 palaces, 9 temples, 36 monasteries, 72 cliff temples, and over 100 stone bridges, divided into 33 groups.
The Wudang (Taihe) Mountain is located in Danjiangkou City, Hubei Province. Sky Pillar Peak, the highest at 1,612 m is surrounded by 72 lesser peaks and 24 ravines. The palaces and temples, which acted as nuclei for other structures, were built in valleys or on terraces, with monasteries and cliff temples clustered around them. They were distributed regularly across the landscape and linked by a network of sacred roads.
Of the vast complex created during the Ming dynasty, four Taoist palaces (and three in ruins) survive, along with two temples and many monasteries and cliff temples. The Golden Shrine, situated in the middle of a stone terrace on the top of Sky Pillar Peak, was built from bronze, imitating wooden construction. The shrine, in the form of a palace, is 5.54 m high and surrounded by columns that support the five-ridged roof with double eaves (a form only permitted on imperial buildings). The whole structure is richly decorated and painted. The Ancient Bronze Shrine, on top of the Lotus Flower Peak, was made in 1307, in the same way as the Golden Shrine. The metalwork of the shrine is the earliest anywhere in China. The Forbidden City round the Sky Pillar Peak dates from 1419. Four wooden gates represent the Gates of Heaven.
The Purple Heaven Palace, built in 1119-26, rebuilt in 1413 and extended in 1803-20, is the largest and best-preserved building complex in the Wudang Mountains. There are five ascending terraces on the central axis, each with its hall; on the sides of the halls there are pavilions and annexes used by the Taoist monks as living quarters. The main structure is the Purple Heaven Hall, built from gigantic wooden pillars and beams. The decoration is sumptuous, especially the roof, which is covered with peacock-blue tiles and ornamented ridge tiles. The Nanyang Palace, built in 1285-1310 and extended in 1312, includes 21 buildings. The major buildings include the Tianyi-Zhenqing Stone Hall, Liangyi Hall, Bagua Pavilion, Tiger and Dragon Hall, Grand Pavilion and South Heavenly Gate.
The Dragon Head Incense Burner is a stone structure that projects over a deep valley. The farther end is carved in the form of a dragon's head in which an incense burner was placed. It is of special artistic and technological importance for its design and construction. The Fuzhen Temple, below the Lion Peak, was built in 1412 and extended in 1683. A screen wall, an incense burner, the Dragon and Tiger Hall, and the Prince's Hall are on the main axis of the complex. The Zhishi-Xuanyue Gateway is located at the intersection of the former Sacred Road and the main highway and marks the entrance to the Wudang Mountains. It is built from stone imitating wood and dates from 1522. It is ornately decorated with carved patterns of tortoises, dragons, cranes, plants, clouds, waves and celestial beings.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Work began on the buildings in the Wudang Mountains in the early Tang Dynasty, in AD 627-49. To commemorate the success of Yiao Jian, Governor of the Wudang Administrative Region, in bringing rain by prayer, the Emperor Taizong ordered the Five Dragon Hall to be built. This was quickly followed by the Taiyi and Yanchang Temples, and in 869 the Weiwu Gong Temple (Temple of the Powerful Duke) was built. In 1018 the Song Emperor Zhenzong converted the Five Dragon Hall into a temple, and his successor Huizong had the Purple Heaven Hall built beneath the Zhanqi Peak. Then came the Laojun Monastery and the Xianguan Terrace.
The Yuan Emperors relied on Taoism for support, and so the Emperor Shizu extended the Five Dragon Temple and made it into a palace. The Emperor Renzong, whose birthday was that of the god Zhenwu, gave a commemorative plaque to the building designed to give the impression that he was the god in disguise. In 1304 the mountains became known as "The Blessed Land", at which time the Gate to the Blessed Land was constructed. The Tianyi-Zhenqing Palace, the Yuxu Cliff Temple, the Thunder God's Cave, and the Yinxian Cliff Temple were also built around this time.
After his enthronement the Ming Emperor Zhu Di declared that his imperial power was granted by God, and announced that he was under the protection of the Taoist god Zhenwu. To repay the god's favour, he put his son-in-law Mu Xin, the head of the Ministry of Works Guo Jin, and the head of the Ministry of Rites Jin Chun at the head of four hundred officials charged with construction work in the Wudang Mountains. It took twenty thousand men twelve years to complete the work, which included nine palaces, nine temples, 36 monasteries, 72 cliff temples, and over a hundred stone bridges, divided into 33 groups. In 1416 he sent over three thousand prisoners to the area to work on the land to provision the Taoist monks. The local inhabitants were exempted from co&e labour, a large military force was stationed in the area, and workers were assigned to keep the temples and palaces clean. Renowned Taoists were summoned from all parts of the country to serve as elders at important palaces and temples. The title of "Great Mountain" was conferred on the Wudang range. All the subsequenMt ing Emperors sent their favourite eunuchst o the mountain to worship and allocated funds for the upkeep of the buildings. In 1552 the Ming Emperor Shizong put Lu Jie, head of the Ministry of Works, in charge of repair work; under his leadership, a hundred officials and workmen from more than sixty counties worked for nearly two years. The Zhishi-Xuanyue Gate was set up to commemorate this work.
During the Ming Dynasty over 4000 ha of land belonged to the temples, thousand of Taoists lived in the area, and 369 Imperial edicts concerning the mountain were issued. The fame of Taoist monks from Wudang such as Zhang Shouqing, Lu Dayou, and Wang Zhen spread widely across China.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation