Mt. Zhongnan, also called Mt. Taiyi, Mt. Difei, Mt. Zhongnan, Mt. Zhounan and Mt. Nan for short, is a section of the Qinling Mountains running from Wugong in the west to Lantian in the east. Its emerald peaks and beautiful scenery attract such laudatory titles as "the Fairyland", "the First Grotto Heaven ( 洞天 Dongtian )", and "the First Blissful Realm ( 福地 Fudi ) Under Heaven". Its dominant peak, located in Zhouzhi County, is 2,064 meters above sea level.
Mt. Zhongnan is one of the birthplaces of Daoism. It is said that during the reign of King Kang of the Zhou dynasty, astrologist Yin Xi, the guarding official at the Hangu Pass, built a straw tower and mounted it to observe constellations and clouds. One day, he suddenly caught sight of purple clouds coming from the east and auspicious stars going to the west. Anticipating that a sage would certainly travel past the pass, he waited there. Soon an elder dressed in five-colored clouds came on a black ox. It turned out that Laozi travelled westward and arrived in Qin. Yin Xi hastened to invite Laozi to his tower. He acknowledged Laozi as his teacher and asked Laozi to preach scriptures and write books. Laozi imparted to him the 5,000-word Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 道徳經 Daode Jing ) on the high hillock to the south of the tower and then floated away. It is said that the platform for preaching scriptures at the Lookout Tower Platform ( 樓觀台 Louguan Tai ) is just the place where Laozi once taught scriptures.
From the time Yin Xi originally founded the tower, buildings were set up on Mt. Zhongnan in different dynasties. The First Emperor of the Qin dynasty built a temple to worship Laozi to the south of the tower, and Emperor Wudi of the Han dynasty built a shrine for Laozi to the north of the platform for preaching scriptures. During the Wei, Jin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties, famous northern Daoists gathered at the tower and built new temples. They founded the Lookout Tower Tradition. In the Tang dynasty, the Daoist patriarch Laozi was regarded as the sacred patriarch and Daoism was greatly venerated by the imperial family, and the large Temple Venerating the Sage ( 宗聖宮 Zongsheng Gong ) was constructed on Mt. Zhongnan. During the Five Dynasties after the collapse of the Tang, Daoist priests of the popular Golden Elixir Sect of Zhong and Lü( 鍾呂金丹派 Zhong Lu Jindan Pai ) such as Zhongli Qun, Lü Dongbin, and Liu Haichan, once lived in seclusion on Mt. Zhongnan. In the Jin and Yuan dynasties, Wang Chongyang, founder of The Complete Perfection Tradtion( 全真 Quanzhen ), cultivated Dao in Liujiang Village and Nanshi Village near Mt. Zhongnan, which thus became the earliest birthplace of the tradition. As a result, after Qiu Chuji vigorously developed the Complete Perfection Tradition, he went in for large-scale construction of temples on Mt. Zhongnan. This helped Daoism on Mt. Zhongnan to reach its height of power and splendor. It is recorded that since the early Yuan dynasty, plenty of temples, the Temple of Chongyang's Longevity ( 重陽萬壽宮 Chongyang Wanshou Gong ) being the center, were set up on Mt. Zhongnan successively. These include the Temple of Chongyang's Attainment of the Da ( 重陽成道宮 Chongyang Chengdao Gong ), the Encountering Immortals Temple ( 遇仙觀 Yuxian Guan ), the Longevity Temple of Communication with Immortals ( 通仙萬壽宮 Tongxian Wanshou Gong ), the Temple for Hermits ( 棲雲觀 Qiyun Guan ), the Temple for the Assembly of Immortals ( 集仙觀 Jixian Guan ), the Temple of Supreme Oneness ( 太一 Taiyi ), the Jade Flower Temple ( 玉華觀 Yuhua Guan ), and the White Deer Temple ( 白鹿觀 Bailu Guan ). During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Daoism on Mt. Zhongnan came to decline gradually. Run-down and desolated, most of the temples except the platform for preaching scriptures were ruined and collapsed. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the ancient temples on Mt. Zhongnan were renovated many times, and a building group with the platform for preaching scriptures as its center has come into being.
Address: Zhouzhi County, Shanxi Province
Traveling route: Go to Xi'an firstly and then to the Lookout Tower Platform by bus.