Mount Longhu

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Mount Longhu (龙虎山Dragon and Tiger Mountain) is in Guixi County, 20 km south of the city of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. It is where Zhang Daoling, the first Celestial Master, originally began to cultivate himself and make immortality pills, so it is the ancestral home of Zhengyi (Orthodox Oneness) Daoism. Mount Longhu has a beautiful view and strange mirages and it is said that its shape is like that of Mount Wuyi and its soul is like that of Guilin. It is the 32nd blissful realm among Daoism’s Grotto Heavens and Blissful Realms.

During the time that Daoism prospered in the Mount Longhu area, 10 Daoist palaces, 81 Daoist temples, 50 Daoist hermitages and 10 Daoist nunneries were built successively. It can therefore be seen that Daoism was flourishing then. Since the Han Dynasty, many of the buildings have been severely damaged due to natural calamities and other factors, so that what can be seen now is mainly a wild area in which none of the buildings are recognizable, leaving only the Celestial Masters Mansion still in fairly good condition.

Celestial Masters Mansion (Tianshi Fu 天师府) is known in full as Mansion of the Celestial Masters Descended from the Han Dynasty (Si Han Tianshi Fu 嗣汉天师府) and is also called Great Perfect Man Mansion (Dazhenren Fu 大真人府). It is in the center of Shangqing Town and is a place where every generation of Celestial Master lived and offered sacrifices to gods. The mansion was first built during the Song Dynasty, while most of the buildings that can now be seen were rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. The whole mansion complex covers 42,000 sq. m, of which 14,000 sq. m is land occupied by buildings. The mansion is located in the north and faces south. Taken together with the Mansion Gate, the Second Gate (Er Men 二门) and the private house as the axis, the Jade Emperor Hall, the Celestial Masters Hall, the Hall of Mysterious Altars (Xuantan Dian 玄坛殿), the Bureau of Magical Talismans (Falu Ju 法箓局), the Office of Retired Officials (Tiju Shu 提举署), and the Ancestral Altar of All Skills (Wanfa Zongtan 万法宗坛) and so on were built so that the temples and royal buildings were fused into one unit.

Entering Shangqing Town and stepping into the big yard with a red wall, the visitor can see the imposing Mansion Gate. Hanging from the two doorposts in the middle at the front, there is an antithetical couplet with gold writing on a black background that says: “There are immortal guests in Unicorn Hall; the prime minister’s home is on Mount Longhu.”

Through the Mansion Gate, a wide 10-m-long cobblestone path leads directly to the Second Gate. The Hall of Mysterious Altars, rebuilt in 1998, is at the eastern side of this path. The deity worshiped there is Zhao Gongming, the God of Wealth. Long ago, Celestial Masters used to hold small-scale religious ceremonies in the hall. At the western side of the path are the Bureau of Magical Talismans and the Office of Retired Officials, which were rebuilt in 1998. The Office of Retired Officials is where Celestial Master Zhang dealt with the everyday routine of Daoism. There are tidian (提点) and tiju (提举) officials in the office and they were divided into six ranks. Their work was to help Celestial Master Zhang deal with the daily tasks of Daoism.

One hundred and twenty steps from the Mansion Gate, there is the Second Gate, which was first built in the fourth year of Emperor Tongzhi’s reign in the Qing Dynasty (1865) and has been rebuilt recently. There are red walls and green tiles, with flying animals on the top of the gate. Painted on the doors are six pictures with three pairs of door gods: Qin Qiong, Yuchi Gong, Yang Lin, Luo Cheng, Cheng Yaojin and Shan Xiongxin. There is a vertical board above the middle door with three characters in gold: “chi ling zhi” (敕灵旨). A pair of antithetical couplets is on the front columns. The couplet above says, “As Dao rises, dragons and tigers are vanquished,” and the one below says, “Deep virtue ghosts and gods admire.” Eighteen kinds of weapons are lined up on two sides, providing an awesome air.

A yard comes into sight after the visitor passes through the Second Gate. More than 10 camphor trees with luxuriant foliage around which people can just get their arms make this yard very exuberant. Two valuable things that are kept here are a Yuan Dynasty bronze bell weighing 4,500 kg and a stone tablet with an inscription in the handwriting of the Yuan Dynasty calligrapher Zhao Mengfu. In the middle of the path between the Second Gate and the main hall, there is a nine-m-deep well called Magic Spring Well, said to have been dug by the famous Southern Song Dynasty Daoist priest Bai Yuchan on the Celestial Master’s order.

Moving “nine times nine” or 81 steps, the visitor then comes to the Jade Emperor Hall. It was initially a large room where the Celestial Master would give instructions in the magic arts of Daoism and where Daoist priests would chant sutras. The hall covers about 500 square meters and is the biggest building in the Celestial Masters Mansion. In the middle of the hall is a statue of the Jade Emperor that is about 9.9 meters high, accompanied by statues of 12 heavenly generals on either of the east and west sides.

The private residence is at the back of the Jade Emperor Hall. It is where the Celestial Masters lived in times past. With its green bricks and gray tiles, its flag stone-paved floor, wooden corridor, rich interior decorations, and decorated courtyard, the ancient palace’s architectural style makes it a sight to behold.

The antechamber of the residence was initially a guest area and was also called Three Provinces Hall (referring to Celestial Master Zhang’s Du Province, Perfect Master Tai Xu’s Province and Fairy Graybeard Ge’s Xuan Province). It was used for meetings held in the Celestial Masters Mansion. It was first built during the Ming Dynasty and rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty and then it was named Celestial Masters Hall in 1985. There are five statues of gods in the hall, the middle one being Zhang Daoling, the patriarch of the Celestial Masters. On the east side is Zhang Jixian, the 30th Celestial Master who is described in Outlaws of the Marsh (Water Margin), and on the west side is Zhang Yuchu, the 43rd Celestial Master who is described in the Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era compiled in the Ming Dynasty. The two statues standing with a sword and a seal in hand before Zhang Daoling are his disciples Wang Chang and Zhao Sheng.

There are three golden boards on the crossbeam, which is supported by the biggest column in the middle of the Celestial Masters Hall. The middle one was given by Yuan Shikai in the third year of the Republic of China (1914) as a gift to the 62nd Celestial Master Zhang Yuanxu. It says “Daoism accords with Kongtong,” which means that Celestial Masters Daoism accords with the principles for life expressed by Guang Chengzi to the legendary Yellow Emperor on Mount Kongtong in Gansu Province. The board on the east says “renowned descendant of divine beings,” which is a reference to Celestial Master Zhang as a descendant of the god Zhang Liang. The western one says “Na jia zhou cheng (纳甲周呈),” which means that the Celestial Masters Mansion is filled with the Daoist talismans that coordinate the Eight Trigrams, the Ten Heavenly Stems, the Five Elements and the Five Directions.

At the hall door is a huge old drum-shaped natural emerald-green rock that has a surface area of about one square meter. It is called the “meeting and seeing-off stone” due to the legend that it is where every generation of Celestial Master met and sent off his guests. It is also called the “Supreme Ultimate Stone” because it has a natural goldfish-style pattern like an irregular Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate (a circle with an S-shaped dividing line between light and dark).

The Ancestral Altar of All Skills is west of the private residence and is connected to the siheyuan courtyard in the first area. The altar is the most sacred altar for performing the magic arts, a place where all the gods gathered together, and a symbol that Celestial Master Zhang Daoling is in charge of all Daoist matters under heaven. Historically, there were four altars of four sects: the Mysterious Altar of Zhengyi on Mount Longhu in Jiangxi Province; the Ritual Altar of High Purity on Mount Maoshan in Jiangsu Province; the Mysterious Altar of Numinous Treasure on Mount Gezao in Jiangxi Province; and the Lineage Altar of Pure Brightness on the Western Mountain in Nanchang in Jiangxi Province. During the Yuan Dynasty, the emperor granted the title of Master of the Zhengyi Teaching to the 38th Celestial Master Zhang Yucai, who led the Talisman sect of Daoism. The Mysterious Altar of Zhengyi on Mount Longhu then changed its name to the Ancestral Altar of All Skills.

The whole Celestial Masters Mansion is on a grand scale and it has a primitive simplicity and elegance. So the mansion is praised with the words “There is no place like it in the west, and it is the first one in the south.”