Center of the Qinling Mountains
Sacred Daoist Range of NW China, south of Xian
my brief visit in August 2014
|western part of
The Daqin-tǎ 大秦塔 or Great Qin (Dynasty) Pagoda is an ancient Buddhist tower located about 2
kilometres (just over one American mile) to the west of Louguan-tai Daoist Temple, in the western sector
of Zhongnan-shan, within Zhouzhi County of Xian City. It has been claimed to have served as a
Nestorian Christian church from the Tang Dynasty by researcher and translator Martin Palmer, but
that theory is very controversial among other scholars. The claim is now utilized by local tourism
authorities, to boost visits, with no worries about its veracity.
The first definite record of this pagoda is a well-known poem about it, named "Daqin Temple", from
1064 CE -- written by poet Su Shi after he visited it. It was severely damaged by an earthquake in
1556 and then abandoned; due to that devastation many of the underground chambers of the whole
ruined complex are no longer accessible. It was restored in the 20th century. It has seven storeys,
is octagonal, is made of bricks, and stands about 32 meters high.
Zhongnan-shan 終南山 [Terminal-South Mountains] is the sub-range and region in the center of the
sacred Qinling Mountain Range directly south of modern Xian City and old Chang-an (imperial capital
of a dozen dynasties) -- in ancient times the most active holy area of Chinese Daoism. These craggy
and convoluted mountains stretch west-to-east across southern Shaanxi Province, from Lantian County
through Zhouzhi Countyto Wugong County. They are also called Taiyi-shan [太乙山] and Zhounan-shan [周南山].
The summit of this sub-range is Mt. Cuihua-shan, 2604 meters high, in its eastern section; it is
now the Shaanxi Cuihua-shan National Geopark 陕西翠华山国家 地质公园售票处. This area also
features the Jiawutai Scenic Area 嘉午台风景区 with the Sanli Buddhist Temple 三里庙 and the
Qili Buddhist Temple 七里庙, and now the Geumseon-gwan Korean-Daoist temple.
These mountains have hosted major Daoist temples and shrines, and spiritual hermits, since at least
the middle of the Zhou Dynasty. Buddhist monks also began practicing in them after that religion
was introduced to China over the Silk Road in the first century CE. They were also sites of refuge,
self-exile, artistic inspiration and recreation for literati officials throughout Chinese history.
The northern foot of the western sector of Zhongnan-shan contains the Louguan-tai Temple,
legendary site of both the original Louguan School and the dominant Quanzhen School of Daoism.
This area of the Zhongnan mountains (also called Shouyang-shan) additionally features the significant
Daqing Pagoda on the northern foot, and also Mt. Jiaoyu-shan 蛟峪山 with Daoist Laojun-si 老君庙
[Ancient Lord Temple, Nogun-sa in Korean] and the Nanwutai Scenic Area (Nan-wu-tai-shan 南五臺山
means "Southern Five Platforms Mountains", naming them after the holy-to-Buddhism Wutai-shan in north China).
|central region of the Qinling Mountain Range
|Gate of the Nan-Wutai temple-area
|Today there is a very large faux Daoist Temple and Palace complex built in the styles of various dynasties in front of the Western
Zhongnan-shan, on the entrance-road to Louguan-tai Temple -- used as sets for traditional-themed movies and as a tourist attraction.
|an idealized artwork of the ancient sacred Altar to Heaven on a peak of Cuihua-shan
somewhat similar to the actual Zhongnan-shan Geumseon-gwan's Hyeondo-dan / Xuandu-tan Altar-Peak
|Daqin Pagoda 大秦塔 Daejin-tap
|a 20th-century painting of a Zhongnan-shan landscape
|The dramatically perched Nan-Wutai-si [NamOdae-sa] temple, seen looking east from Geumseon-gwan