Sacred sites of China are religious destinations found in China. Generally speaking, religions in China do not demand exclusivity, so most Chinese follow a mix of different religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Chinese folk religion. There are also numerous religions practised by China's ethnic minorities, such as indigenous religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Chinese folk religion
Many Chinese and people of Chinese descent around the world observe a mix of traditions taken from many religions and cultures over many centuries, and can collectively be termed 'Chinese folk religion'. Even those who claim not to observe any religion at all will likely follow some form of tradition that belongs to this.
Five Great Mountains
Linell Davis, who wrote the book on practical cultural differences between China and the West, had this to say about Chinese mountains:
"Westerners find Chinese mountains confusing as they do not provide an experience of wild untamed nature. They expect mountains to be natural rather than paved with steps from bottom to top. They don't expect to see very old people and very young children climbing mountains. I have also noticed that each local area in China has a 'mountain' even if it is quite small and even if people had to build it themselves. After a few experiences of finding there was nothing to see from the top or that the view was lost in clouds and mist (Emei and Huangshan, for instance), I started trying to figure out what people are really doing when they are climbing mountains. My conclusion is that in China people climb mountains because the experience of doing it is enjoyable. I think they also do it to experience the mountain by moving into it and up and down it. In climbing the mountain they realise their connection with nature rather than their power over it." –Linell Davis, Doing Culture
Mountains are an important part of Chinese geomancy, and there are many mountains which have religious significance in Chinese Buddhism and Taoism. These mountains often serve as a popular backdrop in Chinese period dramas, and have traditionally been associated with various Chinese martial arts sects. Today, these mountains continue to house many Taoist and Buddhist temples, and continue to serve as scenic backdrops that attract many domestic tourists.
The Five Great Mountains (五岳) are associated with the five cardinal directions in Chinese geomancy, and are believed to have originated from the body of Pangu (盘古), the creator of the world in Chinese mythology.
- 1 Mount Heng (恒山). the Northern Mountain (北岳) in Shanxi province. The "eternal mountain".
- 2 Mount Heng (衡山). the Southern Mountain (南岳) in Hunan province. The "balancing mountain".
- 3 Mount Tai (泰山). the Eastern Mountain (东岳), in Shandong province. The "peaceful mountain".
- 4 Mount Hua (华山). the Western Mountain (西岳) in Shaanxi province. The "splendid mountain".
- 5 Mount Song (嵩山). the Central Mountain (中岳) in Henan province. Also home to the famed Shaolin Monastery (少林寺), historically famous for its warrior monks. The "lofty mountain".
- 6 Meizhou Island (湄洲岛). traditional birthplace of Lin Moniang, a shamaness who is said to have died in celibacy awaiting the return of her brother who died at sea. She has been deified as the goddess Mazu (known as Tin Hau in Hong Kong), and is traditionally worshipped by sailors and fishermen from Guangdong and Fujian and their diaspora.
- 7 Yue Fei Temple (岳王廟) (Hangzhou). grave site of Yue Fei, a Song Dynasty general who was killed by the then chancellor, Qin Hui, on dubious charges. He was traditionally worshipped by martial artists and soldiers.
- 8 Youli Castle Site (羑里城遗址), Anyang. Cultural remains from Longshan to the Western Zhou periods. The cultural layer is about 7 meters thick. It also comprises remains of the national jail with the longest history in China. It is the very place where "the Western Duke (Jichang) deduced the trigrams into hexagrams during his imprisonment in Youli". Being the leader of the Zhou clan in the end of the Shang Dynasty and with the name of Jichang, King Wen widely adhered to the policy of benevolence, which aroused the suspicious and jealousy of King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty. King Zhou put King Wen into the jail in Youli. During the 7 years of imprisonment, Jichang deducted the nine trigrams of Fuxi into the 64 hexagrams, and wrote the classic "Yi-Ching (the book of changes)". Hence, Youli became the birthplace of the "Yi-Ching", which is known as the origin of the Chinese culture. The later generations built the temple of King Wen in memory of this great man, which has become the sacred place for people to pay respects to the late sage King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty.
Confucianism was the state philosophy of governance from the Han Dynasty all the way up till the Qing Dynasty. In the Imperial Examination system, which was started in the Sui Dynasty and greatly expanded in the Tang Dynasty, candidates were tested on their knowledge of the Confucian classics. To this day, Confucianism continues to strongly influence Chinese social etiquette, as well as that of neighbouring Vietnam, Korea and Japan.
- 9 Temple of Confucius (曲阜孔廟) (Qufu). most important temple in Confucianism, located in the hometown of its founder. Near the temple is the Confucius Cemetery, where Confucius and his descendants are buried, and the Kong Mansion, where the mainline descendants of Confucius lived in imperial times.
- 10 Mencius Temple (孟庙) (Zoucheng). temple dedicated to Mencius, perhaps the second most important figure in Confucianism after Confucius himself. Located on the same grounds as the Mencius Cemetery, where Mencius and his descendants are buried, and the Meng Family Mansion, where the mainline descendants of Mencius lived in imperial times.
Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism
Although there are many sacred mountains in Chinese folk religion, the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism (四大道教名山), together with the Five Great Mountains are considered to be the holiest among them. These continue to be scenic spots that feature prominent Taoist temples.
- 11 Mount Wudang (武当山). Regarded by most Chinese to be the holiest of all sacred mountains for Taoists, in Hubei province. Traditionally regarded to be a major centre of Chinese martial arts, and the main (friendly) rival to the Shaolin Monastery.
- 12 Mount Longhu (龙虎山). In Jiangxi province.
- 13 Mount Qiyun (齐云山). In Anhui province.
- 14 Mount Qingcheng (青城山). In Sichuan province.
Other sacred mountains
- 15 Mount Laojun (老君山). In Henan Province. This mountain is not open to foreign visitors due to being close to some sensitive military facilities.
- 16 Mount Sanqing (三清山). In Jiangxi Province.
- 17 Mount Luofu (罗浮山). In Guangdong Province.
- 18 Kongtong Mountains (崆峒山). In Gansu Province.
- 19 Zhongnan Mountains (终南山). In Shaanxi Province
The Quanzhen School is one of the most influential schools of Taoism, and was founded by Wang Chongyang, an ethnic Han living under the Jurchen Jin Dynasty. It plays a very prominent role in Chinese popular culture, having featured (albeit with fictional accounts) in numerous Chinese novels and television serials.
- 20 Chongyang Temple (重阳宫), Xi'an, Huyi District, 105县道. Chief temple of the Quanzhen School, this is where the founder, Wang Chongyang lived and was buried after his death.
- 21 White Cloud Temple (白云观) (Beijing). associated with Qiu Chuji, one of the disciples of Wang Chongyang. He came here to preach Taoism to the then Mongol emperor Genghis Khan, and eventually died and was buried here.
- 22 Yongle Temple (永乐宫) (Ruicheng). temple commemorating Lü Dongbin, a Tang Dynasty poet who has been deified in traditional Chinese religion as one of the Eight Immortals. According to legend, after becoming an immortal, Lü Dongbin met Wang Chongyang and taught him Taoism and secret rituals, and it was this meeting that eventually inspired Wang to found the Quanzhen School.
Other important sites
- 23 Taiqing Temple (太清宫), Luyi. Historically known as the Laozi Temple (老子庙), the temple is dedicated to Laozi, the founder of Taoism, who is believed to have been born in the area.
- 24 Zhuangzi Temple (庄子祠), Mengcheng. Dedicated to Zhuangzi, Taoism's second-most important philosopher. The temple is sited in one of several towns that claim to be Zhuangzi's hometown.
Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism
The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism (四大佛教名山) are traditionally associated with four different Bodhisattvas, who are revered in Chinese Buddhism. To this day, these mountains continue to be scenic spots with prominent Buddhist temples.
- 25 Mount Wutai (五台山). Traditionally associated with Bodhisattva Manjusri (文殊菩萨), in Shanxi province.
- 26 Mount Emei (峨眉山). Traditionally associated with Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (普贤菩萨), in Sichuan province.
- 27 Mount Putuo (普陀山). Traditionally associated with Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (观音菩萨), the most popular Bodhisattva in Chinese Buddhism, in Zhejiang province. It isn't a mountain, but rather an island off the Chinese coast.
- 28 Mount Jiuhua (九华山). Traditionally associated with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha (地藏菩萨), in Anhui province.
Other sacred mountains
- 29 Mount Tiantai (天台山). In Zhejiang Province.
- 30 Mount Tianmu (天目山). In Zhejiang Province.
- 31 Mount Fanjing (梵净山). In Guizhou Province.
- 32 Mount Jizu (鸡足山). In Yunnan Province.
Islam has a long history in China, with the largest Muslim group being the Chinese-speaking Hui people. Islam is also the dominant religion among many of the ethnic minorities in western China, including the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tatars.
- The 1 Great Mosque of Xi'an is the largest mosque in China, and built in a traditional Chinese architectural style. Today, it remains the main centre of worship for the Hui people living in the city.
- 2 Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar is the main centre of worship in this Uyghur-majority city, built in a mostly Central Asian architectural style.
- 3 Emin Mosque in Turpan is an Uyghur mosque known for its distinctive mud minaret.