Pusading 普薩頂/ Zhenrong yuan 真容院

Pusading, a small monastery located on the summit of Lingjiushan or Vulture Peak Mountain, is the highest point in Taihuai, the valley town between the five terraces of Wutai shan. Pusading has been an ongoing center of pilgrimage and imperial sponsorship since at least the Tang dynasty. According to the Expanded Record of the Clear and Cool Mountains (Guang Qingliang zhuan), compiled about 1057-63, the first temple at the site was Wenshuyuan (Cloister of Manjushri), built by Xiaowen (r. 471-499), emperor of the Northern Wei dynasty (385-534). The same record indicates that though apparitions of Manjushri were known to appear on this peak frequently, it was not until the time of the Tang Emperor Ruizong (662-716) that the temple became home to a sculpted image of Manjushri.

The tale of this sculpted image gave Pusading its other name, Zhenrong yuan, or Cloister of True Countenance. According to the Expanded Record, the reclusive sculptor Ansheng repeatedly failed in attempts to complete an image of Manjushri without cracks. Finally he appealed to the bodhisattva himself and then succeeded in making a perfect image by modeling it after seventy-two manifestations of Manjushri that accompanied him as he completed his work. Thereafter the monastery was known by the name Zhenrong yuan and was patronized by the emperors of successive dynasties until it was renamed during the Ming Yongle reign period as Pusading, or Bodhisattva Peak, also identified as Manjushri Peak.

The Ming Yongle emperor took a great interest in Pusading. The monastery was the site of Dawenshu-dian (大文殊殿), the first temple to house a copy of the Yongle edition of the Tibetan Buddhist canon or Kangyur (bka’ ‘gyur). Today, Dawenshu-dian is also sometimes referred to just as Pusading or Zhenrong yuan. The Ming Yongle emperor ordered the reconstruction of Dawenshu dian and then made an offering to the temple of the first printed copy of his Kangyur edition as soon as it was completed around 1410. There were also two temples on Pusading that housed copies of the Wanli print of the Kangyur, Luohou si bentang (羅喉寺本堂) and the Pule yuan bentang (普樂院本堂). Luohou si now houses the only known exemplar of a forty-two volume supplement to the Wanli Kangyur print, but it is missing two volumes.

The Qing Shunzhi emperor (r.1644-61) renovated Pusading extensively into an official imperial establishment and installed a Tibetan Buddhist lama from Beijing. Local legend says that the Shunzhi emperor staged his death and then took monastic vows at Pusading, and that his son the Kangxi emperor came in search of him there, performing many heroic deeds along the way. Both the Kangxi (1662-1722) and Qianlong (1736-1795) emperors stayed at this monastery during their numerous visits to Wutai shan.

  • Jonathan A. Silk. 1996. Notes on the History of the Yongle Kanjur. In Suhrllekhah: Festgabe für Helmut Eimer. Swisttal-Odendorf: Indica et Tiebtica Verlag.
  • Wen-shing Chou. “Ineffable Paths: Mapping Wutaishang in Qing Dynasty China,” The Art Bulletin, Mar 2007, 89 (1): pp.108-129.

Entry by Stacey Van Vleet, 2/20/07