The study of sacred geography in China deals with cardinal concerns; it corresponds with the understanding of the ground upon which many of the dramas of spiritual life have unfolded. In ruminating upon such fundamental material, one becomes acutely cognizant of the framework within which the self-encompassing conventions of Buddhism and Taoism function. Some perspectives of the mountains, caves and practices therein may be seen as “purely Buddhistic,” while others appear to emanate from native Chinese customs, subtly camouflaged in Buddhist trappings. It has been fashionable to examine the “sinicization” of Buddhism in China, and the manner in which Buddhist perceptions and practices have been modified to fit into a Chinese environment. However, study of the traditions and background of such sacred sites advance the theory that it may be productive to consider this subject from a different viewpoint, perhaps that of a common matrix of Chinese religions that is deeply ingrained in culture yet is constantly revised, resurfacing in many guises. It could be that both the concept of God and that of the true essence of man actually reside “in spirit and life” within “… the imagination that liveth forever.”

Bust of Buddha's face, © Navin Khianey 2009, iStockphoto