Mt. Heng (Hunan province)
Mt. Heng is located in the middle part of Hunan province. It is the Southern Marchmount. It is grand, graceful, sequestered and culturally abundant. It leads the five sacred mountains by its gracefulness. It is eight hundred miles in width, the Huifeng Peak is the head of seventy-two peaks, Yuli Mountain is the foot, and the Zhurong Peak is the highest.
Mt. Heng was a holy Daoist mountain since ancient times. Water Hanging Cave, one of the four apexes in Mt. Heng, is the third grotto heaven among the thirty-six grotto heavens. The Black Jade Altar Blissful Realm ( 青玉壇福地 Qingyutan Fudi ), Glory Heaven Altar Blissful Realm ( 光天壇福地 Guangtiantan Fudi ) and Cave Spirit Origin Blissful Realm ( 洞靈源福地 Donglingyuan Fudi ) of the seventy-two blissful realms are in the Mt.Heng. The Records of Southern Mountain told us that during 25-1840, there were one hundred and nine persons who built temples, cut holes and excavated cliffs for retirement and cultivation and for teaching Daoism and instructing disciples. Maoyin of the Han Dynasty went here to learn Daoism before he cultivated at the Mao Mountain and was esteemed as the founder of the Mt. Mao Sect. The eminent female Daoist priest and founder of the Highest Clarity Sect Wei Huacun came to the South seeking refuge from war. She stopped at the Southern Mountain to cultivate and instruct disciples until she died at the age of eight-three. The eminent Daoist priest Sima Chengzhen in the Tang Dynasty arrived at the Southern Mountain during 693-737 from the sea and built the Nine perfected Temple. Emperor Xuanzong conferred him the title of Master Orthodox Oneness. His disciple Xue Jichang inherited his teaching and spread Daoism at the Southern Mountain. He was regarded highly by Emperor Xuanzong who called him Daoist brother. So Daoism was quite flourishing at that time. Other eminent priests like Chen Xingming, Shi Cunchong, Xu Lingqi and Yin Daoquan received titles from emperors successively. The Yuan emperor conferred Liu Yongguang, Daoist priest at the Southern Mountain, title of "Rushing Silence Master" ( 沖靜先生 Chingjing Xiansheng ) and presented him a gift with the following words: "Your career is lofty, your good faith can move heaven". Since 1368, Daoism declined at the Southern Mountain though it has started to develop again today.
Grand Temple of the Southern Mountain is the most magnificent on Mt. Heng. It is situated at the south foot and it is the largest and best-maintained ancient set of architecture in South China. Along the middle axle, there are nine entrances and four courtyards. There are eight temples in the East and eight monasteries in the West. The first entrance is Gate of Constellations, the second Big Dipper Gate, the third South Gate, the fourth Imperial Stele Gate, the fifth Fine Response Gate, the sixth Imperial Calligraphy Stored House, the seventh Holy Emperor Hall enshrining Great Emperor of the Southern Mountain, the eighth bedchamber palace and also called Back Palace enshrining Great Emperor of the Southern Mountain and Empress Jingming. The last entrance is Northern Back Gate, with Life-giving Palace in the East and Gods Administration Hall in the West.
Several temples in the back have been destroyed in modern times. In 1978, Daoist priests began to rebuild temples here. After twenty years of effort, Daoist monasteries have been constructed from the base to the top. The Founder Hall has been enlarged and resumed its original scale. The Mystery Capital Temple at Waist Pavilion has been renewed and now exceeds its original size. Climbing this temple to view the scenery, one feels relaxed and enjoyable. So it is a great place for sightseeing. Eight temples in the East are under reconstruction and will soon be completed. The Three Origins Temple, the Chunyang Temple, the Longevity and Tranquility Temple, Complete Virtue Temple, Life-giving Temple have been raised from sheer wasteland. The Yellow Court Temple is located at the foot of Jixian Peak and the bank of White Dragon Brook. It has been built on the remains of the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and becomes the only Daoist scenic spot on the West side of this mountain. Reconstruction of temples provides space for Daoist activities. Most important of all, it improves conditions of religious travel and presents travelers a long history of Daoism in the Southern Mountain.
Address: Southern Mountain, Hengyang Municipality of Hunan Province, P.R.C
Touring Route: Take train to Hengyang, then to Southern Mountain by train or by bus.