Building a Sacred Mountain The Buddhist Architecture of China's Mount Wutai

Wei-Cheng Lin

By the tenth century CE, Mount Wutai had become a major pilgrimage site within the emerging culture of a distinctively Chinese Buddhism. Famous as the abode of the bodhisattva Manjusri (known for his habit of riding around the mountain on a lion), the site in northeastern China’s Shanxi Province was transformed from a wild area, long believed by Daoists to be sacred, into an elaborate complex of Buddhist monasteries.

In Building a Sacred Mountain, Wei-Cheng Lin traces the confluence of factors that produced this transformation and argues that monastic architecture, more than texts, icons, relics, or pilgrimages, was the key to Mount Wutai’s emergence as a sacred site. Departing from traditional architectural scholarship, Lin’s interdisciplinary approach goes beyond the analysis of forms and structures to show how the built environment can work in tandem with practices and discourses to provide a space for encountering the divine.



  • $60.00 cloth, 9780295993522
  • $60.00 ebook, 9780295805351
  • 352 pages
  • 102 illus., 12 in color, 10 maps, 7 x 10 in.

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Mt. Wutai map

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about the author

My research focuses on medieval Chinese architecture, in particular, religious structures, dwellings for the living and the dead, and cities in the context of urban culture and practice. Other architectural topics that interest me include representation of architecture (e.g., painting, diagram, illustrations, photos, etc.), space and place, monument and memory, and cultural heritage and identity in both premodern and modern periods. I am also interested in the intersections between visual and material cultures as manifested in the practice of burials in medieval China. Another aspect of my research engages issues regarding how China was constructed visually in the modern and contemporary world from both historical and historiographical perspectives.