Temple of the Southern Sacred Mountain (Shishou, Hubei)

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The Southern Sacred Mountain is located in Shishou city, Hubei province. Shaped like a dragon wreathing itself around a precious canopy, it was originally called the Dragon-Canopy Mountain. It was renamed afterwards because on the mountain there was a Great Hall of the Southern Sacred Mountain. It is recorded that as early as the Han Dynasty, Daoists inhabited the mountain for secluded cultivation, and that in the period of the Three Kingdoms, the Great Hall of the Southern Sacred Mountain, the Seven Ladies Temple, etc. started to be established. In the Tang dynasty, when Li Jing, following Li Xiaogong, fought Xiao Xian, he once stationed troops at this place, so the later generations built the Shrine of the State-Defending Duke on the southern side of the Great Hall of the Southern Sacred Mountain. Zhu Di, Emperor Chengzu of the Ming dynasty, venerated The Great Perfect Warrior Emperor ( 真武大帝 Zhenwu Dadi ) and so massively built temples on Mt. Wudang. As the Southern Sacred Mountain has always had a reputation as the "lesser Mt. Wudang", Daoists on the mountain took the opportunity to extend the construction of temples there. They altered the Seven Ladies Temple into The Jade Emperor ( 玉皇 Yuhuang ) Tower, newly built the Hall of the Perfect Warrior Patriarch, the Hall of The Thunder Patriarch ( 雷祖 Leizu ), the Hall of The Numinous Official ( 靈官 Lingguan ), the Purple Gold Hall and the Southern Heavenly Gate ( 南天門 Nantian Men ), and built Daoist temples in succession from the northern foot to the peak of the mountain: the First Heavenly Palace, the Second Heavenly Palace, and the Third Heavenly Palace (i.e., the Kuiwen Pavilion). All these constructions were carved with dragons and painted with phoenixes, looking splendid in green and gold. At that time the monastic Daoists amounted to more than one hundred, and visiting wandering Daoists, pilgrims, and tourists came and went continuously all year round. Between the end of the Ming dynasty and the beginning of the Qing dynasty, temples, towers, pavilions, and altars around the foot of the mountain were built now and then. Brilliant and magnificent, the mountain became a tourist resort, and its name was changed to its present designation. In the fourth year of the Xianfeng era of the Qing dynasty (1854), some of the constructions were burnt down. Later, due to endless wars, only the Great Hall of the Southern Sacred Mountain and the First Heavenly Palace remained extant till the 1940s. Nowadays, the Temple of the Southern Sacred Mountain is taking on a new look after renovations. With the verdant pines, green bamboos, scarlet blossoms, and grotesque rocks, the scenery is serene and beautiful. Especially, to the east of the temple, there is "a stone pond, also known as 'dragon's cave'", which was recorded in books such as the Book of Rivers (shuijing) and the Summarized Local Records (fangyu jiyao). To this day, sweet and limpid water has been gushing unceasingly. There is always an endless stream of tourists who search for ancient relics and scenic spots. Besides, to the south of Guizhou there is also "the Southern Sacred Mountain", or "the Liansi Mountain". It is the birthplace of Guizhou Daoism. According to Daoist masters, temples were formally built in the Jin and Ming dynasties, the front hall being the Hall of the Saintly Pass which enshrined the mountain spirit of the Southern Sacred Mountain, while the back hall enshrined the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清 Sanqing ).