Pusa Ding, Wutaishan, Shanxi
(August 27, 2012)

(1) There are supposed to be 108 steps (an important number in Indian tradition) on the way up to Pusa Ding. I counted 110 going up, and 109 coming down; given my state of exhaustion, I'm willing to accept that there's 108! (I saw people doing 3 steps, 1 bow all the way up--impressive!)

Founded in the fifth century, Pusa Ding (Bodhisattva Peak) was the main state temple on Wutai Shan during the Qing Dynasty, which meant that it governed the affairs of all the temples there.

(2) Just as I reached the top, the sky opened up, and I spent some time huddling with half of China until the storm passed. One side courtyard seemed emptier than the rest, so it's where my tour started. This is the Great Compassion Mantra on a wall of that courtyard.

(3) At the back of that courtyard, this stele had its own hall built around it; not much head clearance!

(4) The gateway exiting the east courtyard, bell tower to the left

(5) This little guy had just had a workout--he's squatting over a floor drain at the front of the main compound.

(6) Old steles and old trees in front of the Buddha Hall--always a sign of a temple's longevity

(7) The people in the foreground were lined up for their turns to venerate the Buddha statue, as the floor of the hall was filled with ceremonial furniture.

(8) This is in a "Vajra Hall" on the side of the compound; if you look closely, you may notice that the central Buddha is flanked by covered-up tantric Yab-Yum figures (symbols of the union of compassion and wisdom).

(9) In the Patriarch's Hall--Tsong Khapa?

(10) The "Giant Woks" are so important, they have a compound of their own, behind (and below) the last hall of the main compound. There are three in the room; this is the biggest. (Pusa Ding actually passes from one side of its peak to the other, so you walk up to the main gate, continue climbing in the courtyards, then walk down to the back gate, passing the "Great Wok" courtyard on the way.)

(11) Looking out the front gate at the top of the Pai Lou (another kind of gate) under which I sheltered when the storm first hit. (This shot is on the way out, after the rain had stopped.)

(12) This is the walkway leading to the 108 steps. When I was on my way up, it was crowded with vendors and shoppers; it's much more atmospheric now that the rain has driven them out!

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