By Jack Hannaway
Originally, Taoists populated the Jiu Hua mountain area that is now dominated by Buddhists. They built temples and houses on the locations where their modern day counterparts now live and practice their religion. The shift from Taoism to Buddhism occurred after the arrival of the wandering Korean Buddhist Kim Kiao Kak (Jin Qiaojue), who arrived on the mountain around 720AD. He preached the Buddhist message, and following his death in 794 AD the mountain grew in prominence so that by 900AD there were hundreds of monasteries and thousands of monks residing there. Known as one of the four sacred mountains of Chinese Buddhism, the Jiu Hua peaks give the observer a full display of breathtaking beauty. Since the early days here, however, much has changed. The astonishing beauty of the area has brought a modern tourism surge and that means increased rubbish and transport facilities. The number of temples & monasteries has declined to about 60, lost either because of neglect, or because of the ravages of Red Guard cleansing during the Cultural Revolution (1967-77). Though the monks have had to adapt to the tourism and have established an income from it, they still stick to their heritage. There are around 6,800 Buddhist sculptures and a good selection of calligraphic works to view, and without a doubt this area will remain a gem of Anhui province for ages to come.