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Mt. Longhu Scenic Area and Its Taoist Legacy

Mount Longhu (dragon and tiger), formerly known as Mt. Yunjin, is in the suburbs 20 kilometers south of Yingtan city, Jiangxi Province. It is celebrated as the cradle of Chinese Taoism. This scenic area covers more than 200 square kilometers, and encompasses numerous scenic spots, such as the Taoist Master¡¯s Mansion, Shangqing Temple, Mt. Longhu, the Xianshui (divine water) Rock, the Ancient Town of Shangqing, Mazu Rock, Mt. Xianlu (incense burner), and the Jinlong (golden dragon) Cave. Traditional Taoist culture, the beautiful Luxi River scenery, and a group of thousand-year-old Cliffside tombs constitute the ¡°three wonders¡± of Mt. Longhu.

Zhang Daoling, the first Taoist Master, who lived during the mid Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) made the elixir of immortality here. It is said that the first year he began making the elixir, an auspicious red light appeared. During the second year, colorful clouds hovered about the vessel he used to mix its ingredients, and in the third year, when success was finally achieved in making this elixir, a tiger and a dragon appeared, hence the name Mt. Longhu (tiger and dragon). Zhang Daoling had 62 generations of followers, spanning a period of more then 1900 years, the longest Taoist sect in China. Mt. Longhu is therefore celebrated as the main Taoist mountain of China.

The Ancient Town of Shangqing was called Xiongshi Town during the Five Dynasties (907-960), and later Niyang City. It was during the Song and the Yuan dynasties that its name was changed to Shangqing Town. The Shangqing Temple and the Mansion of the Taoist Master are both located in the town. The Taoist Master¡¯s Mansion comprises a group of ancient Taoist buildings in the form of a feudal prince¡¯s mansion. It was here that successive Taoist Masters lived. The mansion was first built in the third year of the reign of Emperor Chongning during the Song Dynasty (1105), and its extant buildings (built around 1368) date from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Taoist Master¡¯s Mansion covers an area of more than 30000 square meters, and is near the mountain and the river. Its layout resembles the Eight Diagrams (eight combinations of three whole or broken lines formerly used in divination). The mansion is one of the oldest and largest feudal building groups, and represents almost the entire history of Chinese Taoism.

Shangqing Temple is in the east of Shangqing Town, about one kilometer away from the Taoist Master¡¯s Mansion, and is where successive Taoist masters cultivated their spirit and worshiped. Shangqing Temples is generally regarded as the mainspring of Taoism. It was first built during the Eastern Han Dynasty and renovations and expansions were sponsored by the imperial court of successive dynasties. In the third year of the Zhenghe Reign (1118), it was named Sahngqing Zheng Yi Temple. In the 26th year of the reign of Emperor Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty (1687), the emperor, who also personally wrote an inscription, ordered it to be renamed the Da Shangqing Temple. Today, the Shangqing Temple has a history of over 1500 years. It is one of the largest and oldest Taoist temples in China, and was built just one chi (1/3 meter) shorter than the imperial palace, so that the two might be differentiated. During the heyday of Taoism, there were altogether 282 large or small Taoist temples in China. The famous Chinese classic, Outlaws of the Marsh, describes in its first chapter how the 36 t¡¯ien-kang and 72 ti-sha escaped from the well inside Shangqing Temple, and eventually became the 108 heroes living on Mt. Liangsha.

The cliffside tombs and beautiful scenery of the Luxi River give an impression of primal simplicity. The mysterious cliffside tombs have a history of more than 2600 years, and were created by the Yue people during the Spring and Autumn, and Warring States periods. Their long history, large number and unique location make them a world famous enigma. How and why did ancient people put their dead in cliff caves? What benefits were deemed to ensue from such a process? There are still no specific answers to these questions.

One sight that should not be missed on Mt. Longhu is Xianshui Rock and its ten scenic spots, featuring the shapes of a lotus, a num carrying a monk, a mushroom, a cloud, a drum, a peach, a comb, a Taoist hall, a spoon, and fairy. The scenery here is most beautiful and mystic on a drizzly day.

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