Objective The core of China’s religious mountains lies in the well-known mountains with Taoist culture as their primary constituent, and the design of their scenic system reflects both the regional characteristics and the interplay between religious culture and the surrounding environment. As the westernmost one of the Five Mountains, Mount Hua is a significant part of China’s well-known spiritual mountains. It has evolved over time into an organic totality that incorporates Taoist cultural principles and has a strong connection to both nature and culture. The location, design and scale, as well as the surrounding area of Taoist temples in Mount Hua, are heavily impacted by the royal ritual system and incorporate Taoist cultural concepts. In order to provide theoretical support for the current protection and development of scenic areas in China, this research reviews the construction techniques of Taoist temples in Mount Hua.
Methods To better understand the significant cultural and historical values of Taoist temples and environmental spaces, a general summary of their cultural connotations and overall composition is given first. Second, this research sorts out two types of Taoist temples known as “stone chamber” and “chamber of quietude”, depending on whether external building materials are used. A stone chamber is a secluded area resembling a cave that is used by the Taoist community’s individual members and is constructed solely out of rocks or cliffs. A chamber of quietude is constructed utilizing construction materials on top of its original foundation to serve different socioeconomic groups. After gathering first-hand knowledge about the two types of temples by combining field investigation and data collection, their building origins, spatial distribution and construction techniques are explored.
Results The spatial construction features of the aforesaid two types of temples and relevant composite temples in relation to the surrounding environment are summarized. Stone chambers are typically constructed against cliffs and rocks for purpose of spiritual purification and isolation, which are primarily manifested in the two aspects of site selection and structural form. The siting of stone chambers in Mount Hua is flexible and adapts to the rich mountainous topography of Mount Hua and the ideal fairyland mode in Taoist culture, aiming to create a place for cultivation and isolation that is in tune with the surroundings. Stone chambers often have a circular shape and are medium in size, which meets the requirements for dwelling, worshiping and cultivating. They are mostly featured by large internal area while small door opening. The chambers of quietude seek to create a “divine fairyland” that unites heaven and man, primarily manifested in the four aspects of site selection, courtyard layout, architectural space, and guiding space. They prefer high-altitude regions that are closer to the “sky” and pursue integrating with the heaven. They are typically sited to simultaneously accommodate living necessities and foster a hallowed religious ambiance, with the courtyard design thereof emphasizing the use of gardening techniques to process the environment and incorporates the goal of “being high and hidden” into the Taoist culture of Mount Hua. The structure and layout of the chambers of quietude are entirely based on the objective natural environment of the site. The ratio of architectural scale to courtyard space is not a set rule in architectural space, which is mostly regulated within the parameters of balance and alienation, giving the impression of a homey interior. In terms of guiding space, the guiding space may create a progressive or drastically altering visitor experience, evoking religious feelings of “gradual realization” or “epiphany” and “enlightenment” based on the huge and dark shifts in the surroundings. The two types of temple landscapes, which together make up the temple landscape system of Mount Hua, are inextricably linked by organic principles. Three combination methods, namely beaded, clustered and inclusive combination, are used to express the aforesaid inextricable linkage, which exhibits a high level of environmental integration and an ongoing derivation and updating of historical process.
Conclusion The research viewpoint of Taoist temple landscape has now reached the level of comprehensive cognitive theory thanks to the research categorization strategy of “stone chamber” and “chamber of quietude”, which may provide positive reference for related research. Research on the evolution of Mount Hua Taoism can be improved by classifying the modifications that Taoist temples in Mount Hua have underwent from the past to the present. In the context of the ongoing reconstruction of China’s natural protected area system, it is crucial to advance researches on the surroundings of the well-known Taoist temples in the Five Mountains. The Mount Hua Scenic Area may profit from good management and protection in the current optimization and integration of China’s natural protected area system by preserving the authenticity and integrity of the Taoist temples and their surroundings in Mount Hua. It is helpful to integrate and improve China’s network of protected areas while promoting the use of the “Five Mountains Alliance” for preservation of global cultural treasures.