Mount Lushan, in Jiangxi, is one of the spiritual centres of Chinese civilization. Buddhist and Taoist temples, along with landmarks of Confucianism, where the most eminent masters taught, blend effortlessly into a strikingly beautiful landscape which has inspired countless artists who developed the aesthetic approach to nature found in Chinese culture.
The World Heritage site consists of a cultural landscape of outstanding aesthetic value and with powerful associations with Chinese spiritual and cultural life. Lushan (Mount Lu) is an area of striking scenic beauty and interest from the point of view of the natural environment that has attracted spiritual leaders and scholars, and also artists and writers, for over two millennia. The mountains have been the inspiration for some of the finest Chinese classical poetry. It is a landscape that has inspired philosophy and art, and into which high-quality cultural properties have been selectively and sensitively integrated up to the present century.
Human activities in Lushan date back to at least the Neolithic period (c . 4000 BQ). [BP?] Its importance began in the Han dynasty, beginning in the late 3rd century BC. Emperors of this and succeeding dynasties ordered the building of a long series of monumental structures and it became a centre for study and religion. The monk Hui Yang founded the influential Jingtu Sect of oriental Buddhism in the East Grove Temple, and it was from here that Jian Zhen set out to carry Buddhism to Japan around 750.
During the Tang dynasty (618-907) Lushan became the centre of other sects - the Linji, the Caodong and the Huang Long. This identification as a spiritual centre resulted in other religions being attracted to Lushan. Lu Xiu Jing built the Simplicity and Tranquillity Temple as the repository of Taoist scriptures. Other great religions, such as Islam and Christianity, also established centres at Lushan. Its spiritual and political significance has endured to the present day.
The cultural properties in Lushan National Park fall into four groups: archaeological sites; inscriptions; historic buildings; and Chinese and foreign villas.
Archaeological sites include the large Neolithic village of Tingzi Dun (4th millennium BC), the farming, hunting and fishing settlement of the Shang and Zhou dynasties of Fanzhou Yan (1600-1000 BC), the residences of Tao Yuan-Ming, who moved several times during his lifetime (365-427), and the battlefield of Boyang Lake (Three Kingdoms Period, 220-65).
More than 900 inscriptions on cliffs and stone tablets have been recorded in Lushan. The oldest of the cliff inscriptions is in the calligraphy of the great pastoral poet of the Jin dynasty (265-420), Tao Yuan-Ming. Others are the work of the famous Song dynasty (960-1279) poet Huang Ting-Jian, calligrapher Mi Fu and philosopher Zhu Xi. Equally famous are those from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the work of such notables as the philosopher Wang Shouren and the writers Li Mengyang and Wang Siren. The inscribed tablets range in date from around 1050 to as recently as 1938, when the Chinese words 'Reverence and Respect' were inscribed to encourage the army fighting the Japanese invaders.
Some 200 historic buildings are scattered over Lushan National Park. The most celebrated is the East Grove Temple complex at the foot of Xianglu Peak, to the west of Lushan. Begun in AD 386, this ensemble was added to progressively over the centuries. The group of prayer halls is important for the study of Buddhism in China and relationships between China and Japan. It is considered to be the earliest garden temple in China. The White Deer Cave Academy at the foot of Five Old Man Peak was established in 940 but fell into disuse; it was revived towards the end of the Song dynasty (late 12th century) by Zhu Xi, who made it a renowned centre for academic research. It attracted many additional structures until the 19th century and is a complex of temples, study halls and libraries.
The closing years of the 19th century and the early 20th century saw Lushan become a fashionable holiday area, and many villas were built by Chinese and foreign visitors. Their styles reflect various architectural fashions, and their siting is based on the US National Park model and English landscape design. Over 600 survive, of which three are under state protection as key cultural sites.