Yongtai nunnery, (near) Dengfeng, Henan, CN

Raw data

"Yongtai Monastery was the first imperial Buddhist Nunnery in China following the arrival of Chan Buddhism. Located Northwest of Dengfeng City (登封) on the Western foothills of Taishi Mountain (Chin.: Tàishìshān 太室山) facing the Shaolin Monastery, it was first built during the Northern Wei Dynasty (Chin.: běiwèi 北魏, 386-534), with the original name Minglian Monastery (Chin.: Míngliànsì 明练寺)."

Input by: tmciolek, Dec 16, 2009

"Temple Yong Tai Si
[…] The Yongtai Temple is the only one [institution] that was from the very beginning up to today a place for nuns and had never changed to something different. That is why the Yongtai Temple is considered the earliest reserving nunnery in Chine.

According to religious facts the names of three princesses are engaged regarding the foundation of the Yongtai Temple. Princess Zhuanyun is considered the first nun of Yongtai, even if the temple was not built yet. Princess Zhuanyun devoted her life to Buddhism, became a nun and built a modest hut on the foothills of the Song Shan Mountains to live in compliance with the rules of Buddhism.

However, the origins of Buddhist nuns of Chan and the nuns of Yongtai begin with the well-known nun of Nanbeichao (Southern and Northern) dynasties, Nizongchi, or else known as Zongchi. Called Minglian and her family name was Xiao. She was the daughter of emperor Liangwudi Xiaoyan of the Nanchao dynasty. At the age of 13, she came to Shaolin to learn from the Old Master. Bodhidharma taught her everything he knew about Buddhism […] Minglian is regarded as the first mistress of Shaolin Wu Gong and transformed Zhuanyun's hut into a modest monastery.

Not much was known about her life, as the date of her birth, so when she passed away, the only known fact was that she was a disciple of Damo along with Daofu, Daoyu and Huike. They built with the help of her disciples a pagoda at the foot of the Zijin peak at Taishishan Mountain. The pagoda is 2.5 km away from the Shaolin Temple. According to the Shaolin Temple's records, the Minglian pagoda is located at the east of the Shaolin Temple, and Zhuxunwang and Nizongchi were the first nuns of Chanzong.

The third princess was Yongtai. She was the daughter of the emperor Xuanwudi Yuange and the empress Gao of the Northern Wei Dynasty. […]

She learned about Chan Buddhism and the martial arts practiced by the monks of the Shaolin Temple. Tired by the intrigues of the court and the quarrels in her own family, she decided to convert to Chan Buddhism in 521. Her elder brother, Xiaomingdi Yuanxu, the next emperor, built a magnificent Buddhist Temple near the Minglian pagoda. In his effort to help his sister spread Buddhism, he sent more than 100 ladies of the court, officials and citizens. He also provided his sister and her followers with everything they needed. The temple was named Minglian Temple, as it resided beside the Minglian pagoda.

The nuns were extraordinary practitioners in Shaolin boxing without weapons and in the martial arts; they matched their male counterparts at the Shaolin Temple. […]

During her time, the imperial nunnery experienced great prosperity and flourishing. More than 1,000 women lived in compliance with Bodhidharma’s rules and practiced Shaolin Wu Gong. Thus, princess Yongtai soon enjoyed a high reputation among the people was respected and venerated as a saint. Finally, 185 years later, in 706, the monastery was named after her, Yongtai Monastery.

During the Jin Dynasty, it was called Yongchan Temple because the Buddhist nuns wanted to show that they were following the orthodox school of Chan Buddhism. After the Yuan Dynasty, it was renamed to Yongtai. At that time, the nuns of the Yongtai Monastery had the impression that they belonged to the Shaolin Temple, so the renamed the Monastery to Yongtai and when the nuns perished they could be buried in the Shaolin pagoda forest. In 1344, when the abbess of the Yongtai perished, her disciples built a pagoda for her, where on it is recorded that by the beginning of the Ming Dynasty the Temple was named Yongtai, which lasts up to today."

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 01 Aug 2014

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 2 km from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Yongtai nunnery, CN.

General location of the Yongtai nunnery, CN.
Lat 34.518888 Long 112.9815
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2009.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • China:Henan Sheng

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 34.518888 Long 112.9815 - visual identification in maps.google.com, tmciolek, 16 Dec 2009

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

11. Date-early

MBM chrono-tag: 0433-66c - tmciolek 01 Aug 2014 
0433-66c 0467-99c 0500-32c 0533-66c 0567-99c 0600-32c 0633-66c 0667-99c 0700-32c 0733-66c 0767-99c 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-el

12. Date-intermediate

13. Date-late

MBM chrono-tag: 1200=> - tmciolek 01 Aug 2014 

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • [missing data]

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • [missing data]

16. Additional notes

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

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