Cloud Platform Temple (Santai County, Sichuan)

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The Cloud Platform Temple ( 雲台觀 Yuntai Guan ) is situated on Mt. Yuntai, in Anju Village, Santai County, Sichuan Province. It was originally built in the second Kaixi year of the Southern Song dynasty (1206), and its founder was Zhao Faying. Again in the third Jiading year of the Southern Song dynasty (1210), Zhao Faying and his disciples raised money to build a hall, which was later named Temple of the Mysterious Northern Heaven ( 玄天宮 Xuantian Gong ). Enshrined in the temple is an iron statue of the Perfect Warrior ( 真武 Zhenwu ).

The temple kept attracting worshipers in the Song and Yuan dynasties and was thrived in the Ming dynasty. On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in the eleventh Yongle year (1413), Zhu Chun, Prince Xiangwang of Shu, who was made military governor of Sichuan, sent an executive official to take charge of building the Gongchen Tower and renovating the principal hall of the Cloud Platform Temple. In the fifth Tianshun year (1461), Abbots Xie Yingxuan and He Xuancheng solicited contributions to reconstruct the Gongchen Tower, which had been destroyed in ravages of war. In the second Chenghua year (1466), the prince of Shu sponsored building a hall with roofs of glazed tiles for the temple. In the tenth Zhengde year (1515), Emperor Wuzong of the Ming dynasty sent a chamberlain on a pilgrimage to the temple, with instructions to make a golden statue of The Jade Emperor ( 玉帝 Yudi ) and build jasper steps for the temple, an Imperial Jade Seal Terrace below the steps, and an Octagonal Tower on the terrace, which was titled "Tianyi Pavilion" as inscribed on its horizontal tablet. In the sixteenth Wanli year (1588), the prince of Shu bestowed money to build three stone gates. In the 27th year of the Ming dynasty (1599), Emperor Shenzong granted the temple a Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 正統道藏 Zhengtong Daozang ) and an imperial edict. (As for the Canon, part of it was later lost in the ravages of war, and the rest was handed over to Sichuan University in the 1940's and has been preserved to this day.) In the 32nd Wanli year, a fire broke out in the Cloud Platform Temple, and the Tianyi Pavilion and its two corridors were burnt down. Emperor Shenzong alotted money and sent a eunuch to reside in the temple to supervise its restoration. According to the "stele inscription on renovating the Cloud Platform Temple" written by Wan An of the Ming dynasty, the temple was restored over ten times in the Ming dynasty, resulting in its grand halls and large scale.

In the eight year in the period of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty (1669), the Daoist Chen Qingjue came from Mt. Wudang to Mt. Qingcheng to spread The Dragon Gate Sect ( 龍門派 Longmen Pai ) of The Complete Perfection Tradition ( 全真 Quanzhen ). Zhang Qingyun, one of the five Daoists who accompanied Chen, became Abbot of the Cloud Platform Temple, and converted it into a temple of the Dragon Gate Sect. Another fire befell the temple in the 12th Guangxu year (1886). It burnt down the front hall and the Gongchen Tower. Santai County and other eight counties and villages around made donations for repair. The front hall and the Gongchen Tower were rebuilt into the Hall of Vanquishing Demons ( 降魔殿 Xiangmo Dian ) on their original ground.

The existing buildings of the Ming and Qing dynasties of the Cloud Platform Temple include the Temple of the Mysterious Northern Heaven, the temple of the Three August Ones ( 三皇 Sanhuang ), the Hall of the City God ( 城隍 Chenghuang ), the Compassionate Salvation Pavilion, the Hall of the Black Dragon ( 青龍 Qinglong ), the Hall of the White Tiger ( 白虎 Baihu ), the Ten-Hall, the Nine-Room, the Hall of the Numinous Official ( 靈官殿 Lingguan Dian ), the Hall of Vanquishing Demons, the Scriptorium ( 藏經閣 Cangjing Ge ), the Hall of Zitong, the Hall of Mao'an (where founder Zhao Faying is worshiped), the Fragrant Pavilion, the wooden memorial archway, the bell tower, the drum-tower, the Returning Dragon Pavilion, the Long Corridor Pavilion, the stone ornamental columns, the cave gate, the triple gate, the Three Heavens gate, the Jade Belt Bridge, etc. They extended over one kilometre between the entrance and the Hall of the Mysterious Northern Heaven.

The major building, the Mysterious Northern Heaven has a single-eaved roof. There are six columns and five rooms. All the dougong (sets of brackets on top of the columns supporting the beams within and roof eaves without) and wooden roof beams are decorated with colored drawings, and the colors remain bright up to the present. The roof of the hall is covered with yellow and green glazed tiles, which form three pieces of diamond patterns. Three iron statues of divinities are enshrined right in the middle of the hall.

Another important building is the magnificent Hall of Vanquishing Demons. It has thirty ten-meter high columns, so big that two persons are needed to put their arms around them. In the principal hall, there is a clay sculpture of the Great Perfect Warrior Emperor ( 真武大帝 Zhenwu Dadi ) vanquishing demons. It is three meters high. The Great Perfect Warrior Emperor is barefooted. He bristles with anger, with a long sword in hand.

In 1981, the Santai County Administration classified the Cloud Platform Temple as a historical and cultural site under state protection. In May, 1986, the temple was formally opened as a Daoist site. The Daoist Association of Santai County is just located in it.