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The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into two groups, one associated with Taoism and the other with Buddhism. The group associated with Taoism is known as the Five Great Mountains (simplified Chinese: 五岳; traditional Chinese: 五嶽; ||pinyin]]: Wǔyuè), whereas the group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism (Chinese: 四大佛教名山; ||pinyin]]: Sìdà Fójiào Míngshān).
The sacred mountains of both groups have been important destinations for pilgrimage, the Chinese expression for pilgrimage (simplified Chinese: 朝圣; traditional Chinese: 朝聖; ||pinyin]]: cháoshèng) is a shortened version of an expression which means literally "paying respect to a holy mountain" (simplified Chinese: 朝拜圣山; traditional Chinese: 朝拜聖山; ||pinyin]]: cháobài shèng shān).
The Five Great Mountains
East: Tài Shān
West: Huà Shān
South: (Nán) Héng Shān
North: (Běi) Héng Shān
Center: Sōng Shān
Alternatively, these mountains are sometimes referred to by the respective directions, i.e., as the "Northern Great Mountain" (北嶽/北岳 Běi Yuè), "Southern Great Mountain" (南嶽/南岳 Nán Yuè), "Eastern Great Mountain" (東嶽/东岳 Dōng Yuè), "Western Great Mountain" (西嶽/西岳 Xī Yuè), and "Central Great Mountain" (中嶽/中岳 Zhōng Yuè).
According to Chinese mythology, the Five Great Mountains originated from the limbs and the head of Pangu (盤古/盘古 Pángǔ), the first being and creator of the world. Because of its eastern location, Mount Tài is associated with the rising sun which signifies birth and renewal. Due to this interpretation, it is often regarded as the most sacred of the Five Great Mountains. In accordance with its special position, Mount Tài is believed to have been formed out of Pangu's head.
The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism
The Buddhist Four Sacred Mountains in China are:
Other mountains with spiritual/religious significance in China are:
- China's famous mountains - (Chinese website)
- Google Earth Map of both Five and Four Sacred Mountains KMZ File
- Religion and the environment in China, 中国的宗教与环境 - chinadialogue article, why the five sacred mountains survive in a good ecological state