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As one of the most sacred monastic sites in mediaeval China, Mount Wutai used to host hundreds of monasteries in the past. Most of these monasteries have been substantially altered or have disappeared completely, with only a few surviving, including the Foguang Monastery. This monastery has been widely regarded as an outstanding, rare example of a monastic complex in mediaeval China, which is currently located near the south peak yet offset the formal boundary of Mount Wutai. Since it was firstly discovered in 1937, its physicality has been subjected to detailed academic and professional research, particularly the building components of its main Buddha Hall. However, why the Foguang Monastery was placed in the south-western area of Mount Wutai and how the traditional pilgrimage routes run between the Foguang Monastery and Mount Wutai is still not entirely clear. This work demystifies the religious interaction between the monastery and the mountain based on textual and visual archival studies, and reveals the impact of Foguang Monastery's site selection through photogrammetric analysis. The research shows three ancient pilgrimage lines (north, southwest and southeast) on Mount Wutai that were successively developed and settled by imperial ordinations and favoured by silk roads. The findings also described here shed new light on Foguang Monastery: it was built on the south-western pilgrimage route towards the sacred Mount Wutai as a holy destination, and this conceptual direction was able to bridge Buddhist communication between the Chinese imperial capitals and Mount Wutai; the technology of photogrammetry helps to read the landscape design from a broader perspective and shows that the whole complex was artificially created by excavating two huge gullies from the northern and southern directions. 

Xiaolu Wang completed her architecture degrees in China and worked as a lecturer at Jinan University in China for 3 years, including a visiting fellowship at Waseda University in Japan in 2018, before applying for a PhD in the UK in 2019. She is currently a third-year PhD candidate at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield. Her research focuses on contextualising and interpreting historical Buddhist architecture from landscape and architectural perspectives. 


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