What do Mount Fuji in Japanese culture, the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Mecca in Islam, and the Black Hills for the Sioux all have in common? They are all examples of a belief in the axis mundi – a perceived center of the world, where Heaven and Earth are connected. This concept is also known by other names, including the ‘world tree’, the ‘world pillar’, and the ‘cosmic axis’.
Since ancient times, many cultures have held the view of their homeland as the center of the world, as it was the center of their known universe. The best example to illustrate this belief is that of the Chinese civilization. In the Chinese language, China is known as 中国, which translates literally as the ‘Middle Kingdom’. In a similar manner, the ancient Egyptians perceived their land as the center of the world, which was ruled by Order, whilst Chaos reigned in the lands beyond their borders.
Where Heaven and Earth Meet
Within this realm at the center of the world there is a specific spot where Heaven and Earth has been believed to be connected, or the distance between them has been seen as the smallest. This spot, which is known also as the axis mundi, was often ascribed to an elevated place such as a mountain, due to its symbolic rising to the skies. In the case of the Chinese civilization, for instance, the axis mundi is believed to be the mythological Mount Kunlun, which is regarded in Taoism as the ‘mountain at the middle of the world’.
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