Mount Wutai is not only a famous Manjusri ashram (a monastery featuring bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism) in China but also the country's only Buddhist holy land that integrates Han and Tibetan elements as well as Qing and Yellow temples (Normally, monks dwell in Qing temples while Yellow temple is a Tibetan Buddhism monastery). It stands out from three other famous Buddhist mountains, namely Emei, Putuo and Jiuhua.
Speaking of domestic pilgrimage places in Buddhism, Beijing, Chengde and Mount Wutai have become three major Tibetan Buddhism centers in China. But Tibetan Buddhism in Wutai has a stronger tie with local folk elements, which endows the temple with burgeoning vitality, compared to those in Beijing and Chengde.
Wutai's Tibetan Buddhism is different with Buddhism in Mongolia and Tibet in scripture chanting, Buddhist study and temple architecture structure. Buddhists in Mongolia and Tibet are mostly local minorities, and Buddhism has become an indispensable part of local people's lives. Buddhists on Mount Wutai cover many ethnic groups, such as Han and Man ethnic groups, taking up only a small part of the local population.
There were not many lamas at Mount Wutai in the Yuan (1271–1368) and Ming (1368–1644) dynasties, as most of them were scattered at Qing temples and there were no temples where monks got together to practice Buddhism. At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1636–1912), some Qing temples were united with the Yellow ones, where Han ethnic lamas prevailed. In the middle of the Qing Dynasty, Tibetan lamas outnumbered Mongolian and Han ethnic Buddhists. But in the late Qing Dynasty, the number of Mongolian Buddhists increased. From the late Qing Dynasty to the eve of the establishment of China, there were only a handful of Tibetan lamas at Yellow temples. Since the founding of China, the implementation of ethnic policies has evened the number of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists in Yellow temples.
Most of the Tibetan Buddhists are from Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan, therefore Buddhists in Yellow temples at Mount Wutai can speak at least two to three languages, namely Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian. The Buddhists of the three ethnic groups at Mount Wutai also learned from each other in languages during the long course of communication and exchange in ancient times.
The Buddhist doctrines are mainly written in Tibetan, with only a few in Mongolian. The Nenghai master from the Han ethnic group is proficient in Tibetan religions and has taken in apprentices at the Jingang yard of Wutai’s Jixiang Temple in modern times. Nenghai taught them Tibetan religion in Chinese and Mongolian languages. Tibetan Buddhism architecture, statues and music are an integration of Han and Tibetan cultures and are also different from temples in Mongolia and Tibet.