Mt. Mao Daoist Temple (Gourong, Jiangsu)

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Mt. Mao, originally called Mt. Gouqu and also known as Mt. Difei, is located in the southeast of Gourong city, Jiangsu province. Daoism makes it the eighth of The Ten Grotto Heavens ( 洞天 dongtian ), which is named the "Jintan-Huayang Grotto Heaven", and the first of The 72 Blissful Realms ( 福地 fudi ). According to legend, in the reign of Emperor Jingdi of the Western Han dynasty, the three brothers Mao Ying, Mao Gu and Mao Zhong cultivated themselves at this place and treated diseases for the people, and afterwards, they obtained the Dao and attained immortality. In order to memorize them, the later generations renamed Mt. Gouqu as Mt. Three Mao Brothers, or Mt. Mao for short. In its most prosperous period, the temples on Mt. Mao amounted to as many as 257, with over 5,000 rooms. They suffered the ravages of war in the period of the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace (the mid-19th century Taiping rebellion). Till the end of the Qing dynasty, "three gong (palatial temples) and five guan (belvedere temples)" were extant. The three gong refer to the Longevity Temple of Loftiness and Auspiciousness ( 崇禧萬壽宮 chongxi wanshou gong ), the Myriad Blessings Temple of the Nine Heavens ( 九霄萬福宮 jiuxiao wanfu gong ), and the Perfect Tranquility Temple of Original Correspondence ( 元符萬寧宮 yuanfu wanning gong ), and the five guan refer to the Temple of Virtuous Blessings( 德佑觀 deyou guan ), the Temple of Benevolent Blessings ( 仁佑觀 renyou guan ) , the Jade Star Temple( 玉晨觀 yuchen guan ), the White Cloud Temple ( 白雲觀 baiyun guan ) and the Qian Origin Temple ( 乾元觀 qianyuan guan ). In September 1938, the Japanese enemies mopped up Mt. Mao and burnt down over 90% of the buildings. During the "Great Cultural Revolution", Mt. Mao Daoist Temple was damaged again, and only some dilapidated walls remained. After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, with the implementation of its religious policies, the government appropriated funds to restore the Myriad Blessings Temple of the Nine Heavens and the Perfect Tranquility Temple of Original Correspondence, jointly called Mt. Mao Daoist Temple.

Located at the top of Damao Peak, the highest peak of Mt. Mao, the Myriad Blessings Temple of the Nine Heavens is called the Summit Temple for short. It was founded in the Western Han dynasty, when The Three Mao Perfect Sovereign Brothers ( 三茅真君 sanmao zhenjun ) had ascended to immortality. It was originally a stone altar or stone house, which enshrined the stone statues of the Three Mao Perfect Sovereign Brothers. In the third year in the Yanyou ( 聖佑觀 shengyou guan ) era of the Yuan dynasty (1316), the emperor named it the Temple of the Saintly Protector , which specially enshrined the eldest Perfect Sovereign Mao, Mao Ying. In the 26th year in the Wanli era of the Ming dynasty (1598), the emperor ordered to build a temple, which he named the Myriad Blessings Temple of the Nine Heavens. In the temple there were five halls, namely the Hall of the Supreme Origin, the Hall of the Lofty Perfect One ( 高真 gaozhen ), the Hall of the Two Sages ( 二聖殿 ersheng dian ), the Hall of The Numinous Official ( 靈官殿 lingguan dian ), and the Hall of The Dragon King ( 龍王 longwang ); two pavilions, namely the Library of Scriptures ( 藏經閣 cangjing ge ) and the Pavilion of the Saintly Master; six houses, namely Yuxiang, Raoxiu, Yiyun, Zhongbi, Lizhen and Yihu; and about one hundred Daoist houses on both sides. The buildings were damaged by wars and man-made calamities day by day. The present buildings were mostly reconstructed in recent years. The whole temple was built against the mountain. At present there are four rows of halls. The first row is the Hall of the Numinous Official. The second row consists of the Library of Scriptures, and the Repository of Treasures to its east and the Kan-Li Palace to its west. The third row is the chief building of the temple, the Precious Hall of the Supreme Origin ( 太元寶殿 taiyuan baodian ). In front of it, on the east side lies the Yingxu Daoist temple, and on the west the Yihu Daoist temple. The major buildings in the fourth row include the Platform for Presenting Memorials and the Hall of the Two Sages. The Platform for Presenting Memorials is also called the Flying Platform. According to legend, it was just from this place that Mao Ying flied to immortality on a crane. Later, it became the place where the Mt. Mao Daoists presented talismans and memorials. The Hall of the Two Sages enshrines the parents of the Three Mao Perfect Sovereign Brothers. On its east and west side respectively there are newly-built structures in pseudo-archaic architecture, the east one being a dormitory and sitting room, and the west one being a tower named the Leisurely Cloud Tower ( 怡雲樓 yiyun lou ), where the valuable "four guarding treasures" of Mt. Mao are displayed in an exhibition room. The four treasures refer to a jade seal, a jade scepter, a jade talisman, and a Ha inkstone, all of which are curiosities of the Song dynasty.

The Perfect Tranquility Temple of Original Correspondence is located on the southern slope of the Jijin Peak of Mt. Mao. Formerly a place to conserve seals, it is called "the Seals Temple" for short. Originally, the eminent Daoist Tao Hongjing of the Liang dynasty once built a hut at this place. In the Zhide era of the Tang dynasty (756-758), temples started to be built. In the Northern Song dynasty, Liu Hunkang, the 25th Patriarch ( 宗師 zongshi ) of Mt. Mao constructed the Qianshen Temple and cultivated Dao there. Hearing about his name, Emperor Zhezong summoned him to the capital and conferred upon him the title "Great Master in Communion with the Origin and the Sublime( 洞元通妙大師 dongyuan tongmiao dashi )". In the autumn of the first year in the Yuanfu era (1098), the emperor ordered to rebuild his former residence and named it "Temple of Original Correspondence". Nine years later, in the fifth year of the Chongning era during the reign of Emperor Huizong (1106), the construction was completed, and the emperor renamed it "Perfect Tranquility Temple of Original Correspondence". At that time the temple was of large dimensions. In its front there was the Gate for Gazing at Stars ( 睹星門 duxing men ); lying in the center was the Hall of Heavenly Peace and Myriad Blessings, which enshrined the Three Mao Perfect Sovereign Brothers; on the left was the Hall of Jade Tablets, while on the right was the Hall of Nine Rewards; the eastern side building was the Hall of Ten Thousand Years of Blessings, which enshrined the statues of the emperor's Fundamental Destiny ( 本命 benming ) constellation, while the western side building was the Hall of the Wheel of the Law Flying in Heaven, where the Daoist scriptures bestowed on Mt. Mao by the court were stored. Besides, there were still the Hall of Precious Registers, the Pavilion of the Polar Star( 北極 beiji ), the Longevity Platform, the Nine-Layer Platform, the Shrine of the Ancestral Altar, the Divine Shrine on Mt. Gouqu, the Dragon King Shrine of Extensive Benefits, the Shrine of the Temple's Protecting Saintly Duke, the Shrine of Duke Numinous Protection and Duke Numinous Guard, the Temple's Two Emissaries, the five divine halls -- namely Triple Simplicity, Ennead Perfection, All Sublimity, Great Existence, and August Divinity -- and thirteen Daoist houses, namely Dongxiu, Xizhai, Guanyun, Qiming, Yeyin, Mianzhai, Xibi, Dongzhai, Lequan, Jue Xiu, Yunlin, Zhenyin and Jianzhai. Having undergone drastic changes, in the late 1970s, except for a few rooms of the Longevity Platform and Mianzhai Daoist House, all the other buildings had been demolished. After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the Temple of Original Correspondence was reconstructed by and by, and formally opened to the public in November 1988. Now the main completed and renovated buildings include the Gate for Gazing at Stars; the Hall of the Numinous Official; the pavilion sheltering stone tablets; the Longevity Platform; the Gate of the Three Heavens ( 三天門 santian men ); the Hall of Compassionate Salvation; the Mianzhai Daoist House; the Yellow Crane Tower; the Tower of the Eastern Sacred Mountain; Daoist dormitories; dining halls; the open-air statue of the Venerable Sovereign ( 老君 laojun ); and the outbuildings.