The Emerald Cloud Shrine on Mt. Tai (Tai'an, Shandong)
Lying at the south of the summit of Mt. Tai, the Emerald Cloud Shrine ( 碧霞祠 Bixia Ci ) was first built in the 2nd year of the Dazhongxiangfu Era (1009) of the Zhengzhong Emperor of the Song Dynasty. Originally named the Shrine of Revealed Perfection ( 昭真祠 Zhaozhen Ci ), it was renamed the Temple of Revealed Perfection ( 昭真觀 Zhaozhen Guan ) in the Jin Dyansty, the Emerald Cloud Temple of Numinous Correspondence ( 碧霞靈應宮 Bixia Lingying Gong ) or Emerald Cloud Temple of Numinous Protection ( 碧霞靈佑宮 Bixia Lingyou Gong ) in the Hongzhi Era in the Ming Dynasty(1488--1505). Rebuilt in the 35th year of the Qianlong Era in the Qing Dynasty (1770), it was called the Emerald Cloud Shrine, a name used till today.
Composed of 12 large buildings including the Great Hall and the Incense Pavilion, the Emerald Cloud Shrine is a set of magnificent ancient constructions on high mountains. Symmetrical along an axis formed by the screen wall, the Southern Divine Gate, the Mountain Gate and the Incense Pavilion, the whole construction is arranged in a precise distribution at gradually higher altitudes from north to south. Outstanding in its quality of construction and typical in ancient Chinese style, it is representative of Daoist temple architecture.
With five principal columns, nine sloping roof ridges and 360 tile ridges, it symbolizes the number of the cosmic orbit. All the tiles, owl-beak-shaped roof ridge ornaments, beast-shaped hip ornaments and big ridges are cast of bronze. Under the brim hang the huge steles of "Aiding and Transforming the East" by Emperor Yongzheng and "Blessing and Pacifying the Sea" by Emperor Qianlong. A richly ornamented building, the great hall shines brilliantly under the sun. The gilded bronze statue of the Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud, wearing a phoenix coronet and a cloudy cape, sits serenely and kindly on the tabernacle in the middle the hall.
A Daoist goddess proverbially named the Lady of Mt. Tai, the Holy Mother of Mt. Tai and the Granny of Mt. Tai, The Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud was, according to legend, a daughter of The Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East ( 東岳大帝 Dongyue Dadi ) and was given the title Primordial Lady of Emerald Clouds and Heavenly Immortal Jade Maiden ( 天仙玉女碧霞元君 Tianxian Yu’nu Bixia Yuanjun ). According to Daoist scriptures, she was an incarnation of the Western Heaven Big Dipper ( 西天斗母 Xitian Doumu ) and cultivated in Mt. Tai. Perfected as a heavenly immortal, she commands, under the Jade Emperor's mandate, the divine troops of the sacred mountain investigating into the morality of the people. In folk legends, the Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud grants whatever is requested and blesses sentient beings, esp. women and children. Every year, millions of people came to worship the Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud and pray for blessing from the goddess.
On both sides of the great hall lie two side halls. Enshrined in the east side hall is Auntie Eyesight ( 眼光娘娘 Yanguang Niangniang ) who heals all kinds of diseases and protects all in health, and in the west side hall is the Auntie Who Delivers Babies ( 送子娘娘 Songzi Niangniang ) who is in charge of fertility. Usually pilgrims take home from the hall a plaster puppet dressed in red cloth and lay it in bed as a way praying for children.
The Incense Pavilion ( 香亭 Xiangting ) between the two side halls is also for the worship of the Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud. In feudal times, the great hall was only opened to emperors and noble ministers. The common people could only pray to the Lady of Mt. Tai in the Incense Pavilion.
In 1983, the State Department approved the Emerald Cloud Shrine on Mt. Tai one of the 21 key Daoist temples of the state. In 1985, this 1000-year-old temple returned to the management of Daoist organization and opened as religious activities site.