Mt. Zhenwu Daoist Temple (Xiangfan, Hubei)

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Mt. Zhenwu is situated southwestern of Xiangyang Town, Xiangfan City, Hubei Province. It is called the “small golden summit” to the northwest of Ezhou (Hubei), and the “great golden summit” refers to Mt. Wudang in Danjiangkou City (ancient Junzhou), Hubei Province. Traditionally, pilgrims to Mt. Wudang in Junzhou would first come to Mt. Zhenwu in Xiangyang to present petitions to The Great Perfect Warrior Emperor ( 真武大帝 Zhenwu Dadi ), like registering at his place. Those who had enough money and energy went forward to the Tianzhu Peak of Mt. Wudang range to worship the golden summit, but those who didn’t or got ill could just return. They also fulfilled the will of worshiping the Great Perfect Warrior Emperor, anyway.

Looking like a tortoise, Mt. Zhenwu was originally called the Tortoise Mountain. It first became the Sacred Space ( 道場 Daochang ) of the Perfect Warrior in the Ming dynasty. There used to be a famous Buddhist temple, the Jianfeng Temple, on the mountain before the Song and Yuan dynasties. In the Eastern Jin dynasty, renowned scholar Xi Zuochi once invited eminent Buddhist Shi Dao’an to propagate teachings in the temple. During the Rebellion of An Lushan and Shi Siming in the Tang dynasty, Hui Cheng, an eminent Buddhist in Chang’an, fled from the opera house of Emperor Minghuang of the Tang dynasty to the Jianfeng Temple. Being good at playing wind instruments, he taught many disciples there. The Buddhists and Daoists in Xiangfan have kept up the tradition of playing wind instruments up to this day, and the music they play includes that of the Tang dynasty.

In the tenth year of the Yongle era of the Ming dynasty (1412), Emperor Chengzu issued an imperial edict to build the Mt. Wudang Daoist temple. At that time, tens of thousands of boats “carrying colored glazes to Mt. Wudang” were berthed in the Hanjiang River at the foot of Mt. Zhenwu. Suddenly, violent winds rose and big waves surged, and everybody was terrified. Just then several auspicious rays glowed and immediately the wind dropped and the waves subsided, and the water and the sky blended in one color. Believing it to be the numinous manifestation of the Great Perfect Warrior Emperor, people built the Perfect Warrior Temple on the mountain. In the Xuande era (1426-1453) and Chenghua era (1465-1487) of the Ming dynasty, a common Xiangyang native, Shang Xu, and guards of the palace of the prince of Xiangyang both did quite a lot for the restoration and extension of the Perfect Warrior Temple. In the Chongzhen period (1628-1644), this Daoist temple was destroyed. In the period of Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing dynasty (1644-1661), some halls were reconstructed, such as the Perfect Warrior Hall, the Auntie’s Hall, the Hall of The Venerable Sovereign ( 老君 Laojun ), etc. From then on till the 1940s, Mt. Zhenwu had had many worshippers. During the “Great Cultural Revolution”, the temple was pulled down. Reconstruction started in 1994. The first phase of the project, including the building of the Hall of Patriarchs ( 祖師殿 Zushidian ) , the Hall of the Holy Grandpa ( 聖公聖母殿 Shenggong Shengmu Dian ) and Holy Grandma , the bell tower and drum tower, is already completed, and the Daoist temple is beginning to take shape. The second phase of the project, including constructing the Hall of The Numinous Official ( 靈官殿 Lingguan Dian ) and other buildings, has also started. The revival of the ancient temple is in sight.