At first, Wutai Shan seems like an odd stopover for Gustaf Mannerheim, a Russian spy tasked with assessing China’s strength and the loyalty of its ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims, Mongols and Tibetans. It is one of four sacred mountains for Chinese Buddhism, and is located in a remote knot of mountains about 300 kilometres west of Beijing. However, at the time of his visit in June 1908, it was also the refuge of the 13th Dalai Lama, who was beginning to launch an international campaign to free his homeland from repressive Chinese rule.
For me, Wutai Shan was a refuge of a different sort. After a week in heavily polluted Taiyuan, I became ill with the flu and a terrible cough. I took a long, arduous bus raid to Taihuai, the village that sits in the middle of Wutai Shan’s five mountaintop temples. The crisp alpine air reinvigorated me, and after a few days of rest in a local hotel, I ventured out to explore Wutai Shan’s many temples and to do research on the Dalai Lama at a local Internet cafe.
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Click on the icons to view photos of my tour of the temples of Wutai Shan.