Cham Shan Temple in Thornhill, Ontario, has undertaken a major initiative to build four temples near Peterborough, each replicating one of the Four Sacred Mountains of China. The project began several years ago, and Wutai Shan is the first temple being constructed. Here is comprehensive information from Chan Shan Temple about the project, followed by a few pictures…
The Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in Canada Qs and As (for volunteers’ use)
Translated By Anna Cheung
1. What are the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains?
Wenshu, Puxian, Guan Yin and Dizang are the Four Great Bodhisattvas that are known by virtually every single household in China. Emulating the wisdom, compassion, great practices and vows of the Four Great Bodhisattvas has always been the way of the Mahayana School of Buddhism as a means to perfect oneself.
- Wenshu Bodhisattva of Wutaishan, or Five-Terrace Mountain, is a representation of infinite wisdom (the riddance of all mental hindrances through enlightened wisdom).
- Puxian Bodhisattva of Emeishan, or Delicate-Eyebrow Mountain, is a representation of great practices (the abidance of precepts, the attainment of deep concentration and wisdom; the ability to consistently carry out Buddhist practices without procrastination or idleness).
- Guan Yin Bodhisattva of Putuoshan, or Potala Mountain, is a representation of great compassion (the act of not abandoning a single sentient being, viewing all beings with compassion and making, as one’s ultimate goal, the relief of all sentient beings from suffering)
- Dizang Bodhisattva of Guihuashan, or Nine-Glories Mountain, is a representation of the power of Great Vows. During His quest for enlightenment, Dizang Bodhisattva made two great vows: 1) He shall never attain Buddhahood until all hells are emptied of beings, and 2) He shall never attain enlightenment until all other beings are enlightened. This Bodhisattva is also known as an avid preacher to all beings of the law of cause and effect, the merits of righteousness and of respecting one’s ancestors.
2. What are the reasons for creating the Four Sacred Mountains in Canada?
a) To create sacred and centralized places of worship
- To give all Asians from various tribes and ethnic groups an opportunity to unite and celebrate their similar cultural beliefs together; to promote, in North America, the spirit of compassion which characterizes the Mahayana School of Buddhism in China through the Four Great Bodhisattvas: The infinite wisdom of the Wenshu Bodhisattva in Wutaishan, the great practices of Puxian Bodhisattva in Emeishan, the great compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva in Putuoshan and the great vows of Dizang Bodhisattva in Guihuashan.
- To give all Buddhists the opportunity to gather and pay homage to the Four Great Bodhisattvas together
b) To promote a correct understanding of Buddhism
- To create accessible and favourable environments for people of all ethnic origins around the world to pay homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, perform Buddhist practices and purify their minds; to promote correct Buddhist principles and universal truths, to spread the Dharma (the Buddha’s Teachings) so that we can all attain Buddhahood together
- To promote the Mahayana School of Buddhism to people of different nationalities so that they can purify their minds and thus bring glory and unification to the country
c) To establish popular tourist destinations in Canada
- To demonstrate the culture and traditions of ancient China and promote Buddhism in Canada by introducing Buddhist traditions and architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty in China
- By the good grace of the Canadian government which gives Buddhism ample opportunities to flourish in the country, it is important that we cherish and show our gratitude for the support that we are given by making our best efforts to spread the Dharma; this will help instill a sense of peace and harmony in our society and righteousness in the hearts of all people
d) To establish centres of culture and heritage in Canada
- To establish centres of Buddhist traditions, international cultural exchanges and tourism where the art of ancient architecture and the beauty of nature can unite as one
- To give people in the west an opportunity to understand the traditions that characterize the Mahayana School of Buddhism in China
3. What are the addresses of the Four Sacred Mountains in Canada?
The Four Sacred Mountains occupy about 1,300 acres of land in total. They are located not too far away from each other in Peterborough which is northeast of Toronto, about 100 km (approximately one hour’s drive) from Toronto. Each Sacred Mountain is about a little more than 10 km away from each other. To see a more accurate location of the Four Sacred Mountains, please refer to a map or promotional flyer of the Four Sacred Mountains.
- Wutaishan, honouring Wenshu Bodhisattva (550 acres) Located at: 15 Bland Line, Cavan, Peterborough, Ontario
- Emeishan, honouring Puxian Bodhisattva (120 acres) Located at: 1547 Ballyduff Road, Bethany, Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
- Putuoshan, honouring Guan Yin Bodhisattva (200 acres) Located at: 4 Lifford Road, Bethany, Ontario
- Guihuashan, honouring Dizang Bodhisattva (420 acres) Located at: 340 Pontypool Road, Pontypool, Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
4. Why is Wutaishan chosen to be developed first out of the Four Sacred Mountains?
- Amongst Wenshu Bodhisattva of Wutaishan, Guan Yin Bodhisattva of Potuoshan, Puxian Bodhisattva of Emeishan and Dizang Bodhisattva of Guihuashan that make up the Four Sacred Mountains, Wenshu Bodhisattva has always ranked first due to His “infinite wisdom that only the Buddhas can comprehend.”
- It is also because the original Wutaishan in China, known for its antiquity, also exceeds the other three Sacred Mountains in size and grandeur. This is why we have chosen to develop the Sacred Mountain of Wenshu Bodhisattva first.
5. Why does the temple to be built in Canada’s Wutaishan have to imitate that of the Foguang Temple of the original Wutaishan in China?
- This is because the area in which Canada’s Wutaishan is being built is a beautiful scenic area that is very similar to one of the scenic areas of the original Wutaishan in China’s Shaanxi Province.
- According to historical records, the Foguang Temple in Shaanxi is one of the oldest Buddhist temples established in China’s Wutaishan during the Eastern Han Dynasty in China; it then underwent renovation in the Tang Dynasty, during the eleventh year of the Tang Zhongzong Reigning Period (683-684 AD). The temple’s eastern main hall is actually considered to be one of the most significant and well-preserved architectural structures from the Tang Dynasty in China.
- Not only is the temple considered the first significant Buddhist centre of worship ever to appear to China, but also the ancient architectural structure that took the longest to build. It is a truly rare historical creation ever to have been built in the world.
6. Characteristics and Interesting Facts of the Four Sacred Mountains
- The temple in Wutaishan, which honours Wenshu Bodhisattva, shall be built first. Its blueprint is, overall, complete, and shall be designed in the classical “Seven Halls of Sangharama Bodhisattva” layout according to traditional Chinese architectural methods: The seven halls or components are, namely, the Main Shrine Hall, the Dharma Hall, the Sangha Hall, the storage room, the Front Gate, the washroom and the bathroom.
- The Main Shrine Hall, to be modeled after that of the Foguang Temple of the Tang Dynasty, shall be built using classical Chinese architectural methods: A wooden framework, constructed in traditional dougong style (a unique structural element of interlocking wooden brackets) and without the use of a single nail.
- The temple, occupying up to 8,000 m2, shall be spacious and enveloped in an aura of grandeur and solidity.
- Most parts of the temple shall be made of high-quality rosewood.
- Roofing tiles shall be made of bronze, making them durable and long-lasting.
- The Main Shrine Hall shall measure “seven bays by four” (34m x 17.7m) with a single-eave roof (in Chinese architecture, roofs can have a double-eave), encompassing an atmosphere of immense solidity and strength.
- The main pillar of the Main Shrine Hall shall be 20 m tall, with a diameter of 88 cm.
- With a gently sloping roof, grand, dougong style interlocking brackets, and a simple, clean design, the temple shall be an embodiment of greatness, uniqueness and spaciousness.
7. Why is the temple being built according to classical architectural styles and methods of the Tang Dynasty?
a) The Glory of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty
- The Tang Dynasty is historically known as the golden age of Buddhism. It was during this time period that the Buddhist culture truly flourished with the emergence of great Dharma Masters, a period of great prosperity characterized by peace and harmony.
b) Architecture of the Tang Dynasty: A combination of historic and artistic values
- Architecture of the Tang Dynasty is known for its historic, artistic, pedagogic and aesthetical values. Unfortunately, there are very few remaining structures of the Tang Dynasty left in China today.
- All Buddhist temples of the Tang Dynasty that are currently in China, Japan and Korea have all been deemed as cultural heritage sites that are under the country’s protection.
c) The Preservation of Buddhist History and Culture in Canada
- By emulating classical architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty, the unique styles and methods of that dynasty will be preserved and exalted; the spirit of compassion, which characterizes Buddhism, will continue to flourish; the essence of traditional Asian cultures and values will continue to be upheld; and, last but not least, the traditions and cultural beliefs of the Tang Dynasty will be recognized and revered in North America henceforth, thus adding richness and diversity to the spirit of multiculturalism on this continent. We have, therefore, decided to build in Canada a Main Shrine Hall that has the characteristics of classical Chinese architecture: It is for the sake of preserving our traditional Chinese cultures and values, dating back to over a thousand years ago, that we are founding what is to become an emblem of Buddhist history in Canada.
8. Why is wood the only type of building material chosen for the temple?
- Only wood is chosen as building material because structures made of reinforced concrete can only be preserved for 100 to 200 years, whereas structures made of wood can be preserved for at least one thousand years. The Foguang Temple, currently in China’s Wutaishan, has been in existence for 1150 years.
- Another reason why wood is chosen is because of its ability to create that traditional, ancient ambiance in any architectural design, both internally and externally, making it a visibly solid, noble and majestic structure for all to see. Lastly, it allows the temple to be integrated seamlessly into its natural surroundings and become one with nature.
- Due to the peaceful and natural environment of the temple, Dharma practitioners will find it easy to put aside their troubles and worries for awhile and just become one with their true selves whether they are meditating, chanting the Buddha’s name, reciting Sutras or doing prostrations in the temple’s main hall.
9. Why is rosewood chosen amongst so many kinds of wood? What are its characteristics and what is its value? (see “Buddhism in Canada”, 5th issue, p. 13 & 18)
- Rosewood, imported from Lao, will be used because of its superb quality that is unrivaled in comparison with other types of wood. According to a report on the strength and stability of building materials published by the Nanjing Forestry University’s Wood Science Department, the reddish-coloured rosewood is made from the wood species Pterocarpus pedatus (also known as the Maidou Burl) and has an air-dried density level of 0.96 to 1.01g/cm3; this level is higher than that of the Pterocarpus macrocarpus (also known as the Burma Padauk) and is twice as high as that of the Pinus tabuliformis Carr (Chinese Red Pine), the latter being the type of wood used to build the Main Shrine Hall of the Foguang Temple in China.
- Rosewood is also superior to the other two types of wood in terms of bend resistance and strength, tensile strength parallel to grain, modulus of elasticity in static bending, shear strength parallel to grain, etc.
The following was said by Professor Lok Ka Yin of Nanjing Forestry University’s Wood Science Department concerning rosewood:
- “Burmese rosewood is, in fact, just another name for rosewood. It is reddish in colour with a touch of yellow, consistent in thickness, has an interlocked figure that reveals crisscrossing lines on the surface.”
- “It is given the name ‘rosewood’ due to the sweet, vanilla-like, stress-relieving scent it exudes.”
- “It is characterized by its beautiful interlocking pattern, stability, ability to remain intact in the absence of moisture, ability to resist shrinkage, density, elasticity and long-lasting qualities.”
- “This type of wood is of superior quality and is beneficial to both the environment and the well-being of all. Not only is it valuable because of its practicality, but also because of its artistic and healing qualities.”
10. Can this type of wood withstand the cold, harsh winters in Canada?
Absolutely. The winters we experience in Canada are similar to those of the region where the Foguang Temple in China’s Wutaishan is currently located. That temple still remains today, and the wood used to build the Foguang Temple is of a lesser quality than the rosewood which shall be used to build the temple in Canada’s Wutaishan.
With the help of architectural and construction experts, the following elements have been carefully considered, discussed, and included in the temple’s building plans to ensure workability and functionality:
- Effects of the natural environment (i.e. rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind, thunder, lightning) and possible natural disasters (i.e. earthquake)
- Amenities and necessities such as drainage, electricity, hydro, air-conditioning, heat and even communication methods to be used
- Methods, rules and regulations to be used concerning the construction and general maintenance of the temple
- Protection against decay/decomposition, pests, flooding and fire hazards
11. Are there any experts who can attest to the validity of the existing architectural style of the Tang Dynasty?
- Yes! Mr. See Shing Leung, a leading expert in the field of ancient architectural studies, has described the Main Shrine Hall of Foguang Temple in China’s Wutaishan as follows: “Built in true Duogong Style and with such deeply-protruding eaves, it is a representative masterpiece of the wooden framework architecture, a genuine patrimony of the Tang Dynasty” (for more information, please see “Buddhism in Canada”, 5th issue, p. 17).
- We, at our end, have consulted Master Shing Shun, Head Abbot of the Tiantong Temple, who has given us His support and approval of our building plans.
- After consulting with a number of experts in the field, it has been unanimously agreed that all aspects surrounding the construction of the Main Shrine Hall are appropriate and feasible, such as the application of ancient architectural styles, traditional construction methods to be used, the superior quality of wood selected as construction material, and the intricate and delicate work to be executed during its construction.
12. What are the qualifications of the architects hired to build the temple? Do they have a solid understanding of the environment in Canada?
They are experts in the field of traditional Chinese architecture who will be joining forces with architects here in Canada so that the temple will not only meet our standards in terms of style and quality, but also comply with the building rules and regulations of Canada.
13. Are there currently any such architects who are experts in traditional Chinese architecture here in Canada?
It does not appear that there are currently any such architects; therefore, they have to be hired from China.
14. Will there be a professional engineer to oversee and monitor the construction process?
All construction work carried out shall be closely monitored by professional engineers, both from China and in Canada, to ensure that the environment will not be damaged by the construction process in any way.
15. How long is the construction period estimated to be?
The construction period has been estimated to be about five years.
16. Is the model of the Main Shrine Hall finished?
The 1:10 scale model of the Main Shrine Hall was completed in the province of Zhejiang in China and is currently on display to the public inside the Cham Shan Temple’s Wenshu Hall in Toronto. We encourage everyone to go look at the model. Our volunteers are always on-site to answer any questions you may have.
17. How has the construction work been progressing?
- A Dharma protector (someone who helps spread and/or preserve the Buddha’s Teachings) has kindly and generously donated to the Cham Shan Temple four copper statues of the Four Great Bodhisattvas, each measuring 5.5m in height. They are currently housed at a temporary shrine hall for worship.
- The main building materials of the temple have all been purchased. They are currently being enhanced by workers in the city of Ningbo in Zhejiang and will eventually be delivered to Toronto for assembly.
18. What are the estimated expenditures of phase one of the construction plan?
- Estimated expenditures of phase one come to a total of $80,000,000 (not including wood milling fees which the building company in China, China GLB, and Mr. Kwok Wing Sieu have generously taken care of).
- The $80,000,000 includes infrastructure development, the purchase of wood, the building of roads and the actual construction of the temple and the basement.
- This amount covers the construction of basic amenities only, such as the dining hall, the library and sleeping quarters. An additional amount of about $50,000,000 is still urgently required. We are hoping that more donors will come forward and contribute to this construction project.
19. Can an official tax receipt be requested for donations made?
Yes. An official tax receipt can be issued upon request for a minimum donation of $50.
20. Is it possible to have my name engraved for the donation I made?
- Yes. Those who have made a donation of $500 or more have the option of having their names engraved on a plaque.
- Alternatively, they can choose to have their names engraved on a large piece of copper board that is similar to the Copper Boards of Merit currently seen on the outside walls of the Toronto Chan Shan Temple’s Dizang Hall and Guan Yin Hall.
21. If I am currently not yet financially capable of making a donation, could I make one in the future when I am capable?
Yes. Donations can be slowly accumulated. What matters is not the donation amount but the act of giving with a sincere heart. One can also consider the option of establishing an automated bank withdrawal so that a set amount is transferred directly from one’s bank account into the Cham Shan Temple’s account every month. The minimum amount required to set up an automated bank withdrawal is $10; the set amount will be withdrawn from your account on the 15th of each month.
22. What are the different donation methods?
- Please inquire about donation methods with the Cham Shan Temple’s volunteers at the Toronto Cham Shan Temple’s Dining Hall or any other locations in the temple where there are volunteers present (usually on the 1st and 15th of each month as well as during special services that celebrate the birth of a Buddha or Bodhisattva).
- Alternatively, you can complete a donor’s registration form and submit it, along with your donation, to the receptionist at the temple’s Main Shrine Hall.
- To transfer funds directly to the Cham Shan Temple’s bank account, or to set up an automated bank withdrawal, please see information below:
Bank: TD Canada Trust
Account Holder Name: Cham Shan Temple
Canadian Account: 1084-5208376
United States Account: 1084-7302156
- For other inquiries, please contact the abbots of the Cham Shan Temple below:
Ven. Master Dayi: 905-886-1522, ext. 227, or
Ven. Master Shing Guang: 905-886-1522, ext. 238
For more information, please visit the Cham Shan Temple Website at www.chamshantemple.org.