High up in China’s Wuling Mountains sits two Buddhist temples. Perched on top of Fanjingshan, which is the highest peak in the mountain range, there are an astonishing 8,888 steps to climb in order to reach these places of worship. Their construction is a stunning testament to the faith and devotion of Chinese Buddhists, who consider Fanjingshan a sacred mountain.
Also known as Mount Fanjing, the area was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018 and sits within the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in Guizhou province. It’s of high importance in Buddhism because it’s believed to be the Maitreya Buddha’s bodhimaṇḍa, or “place of enlightenment.” Temples were built along the mountain as far back as the 7th century BCE when the Zangke Road was constructed, as it was easier to transport materials.
The peak of construction on Fanjingshan occurred during the Ming dynasty, when nearly 50 Buddhist temples were constructed as destinations for the devout pilgrims who made the journey to visit the sacred area. While most of those temples have since been destroyed, there are plenty of intact pieces of architecture to take in. In fact, the area is now a popular destination both for Buddhists and secular tourists looking to drink in the spectacular views.