The Hanging Monastery (Datong, China) Posted by sasha on Apr 18, 2018 in Culture
There are many impressive temples around China, but it’s hard to beat the Hanging Monastery (悬空寺 – xuán kōng sì). In this post, we’ll take a look at this incredible temple and learn some Chinese in the process.
About the Hanging Temple
This amazing temple was literally built right into the side of a cliff 75 meters (246 feet) above the ground. As a result, it really looks like it’s hanging in midair. It really is an incredible sight walking up to the temple and taking it all in.
According to legend, construction of the temple began during the Northern Wei (北魏 – běi wèi), around 1,500 years ago. It’s said that a single monk named Liao Ran (了然 – liǎo rán) started building the temple on his own. The structure that you see today was mostly rebuilt and updated during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
When looking up at the temple, you’ll surely wonder how it stays up there. First, there were holes chiseled into the cliffside. Then, crossbeams made of oak were inserted. This ensured that the rock actually became the support for the temple. It’s an engineering marvel, bringing people from all over the world to admire and study it.
The location in the cliffside was chosen for a few reasons. For one, it helps protect the temple from the elements such as sun damage, snow, and floods. Another reason has to do with a Taoist principle, that no noise should be heard in the temple. Perched up here in the cliffside, you can’t even hear the rooster crowing in the morning. You may assume that this is a Taoist temple. Well, you’re right, sort of.
It’s the only existing temple that combines elements of three traditional Chinese religions – Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism (佛教, 道教, 和儒教 – fó jiào dào jiào hé rú jiào). In this temple, you’ll find statues of Buddha, Laotzu, and Confucius. There are several halls and statues in the temple that you’re free to explore. Enjoy your visit, but don’t look down! It’s a bit freaky up there…
Visiting the Hanging Temple
The Hanging Temple is located about an hour away from Datong (大同 – dà tóng) in Shanxi province (山西省 – shān xī shěng). It’s very close to Mt. Heng (恒山 – héng shān), one of the Five Sacred Mountains of China (五岳 – wǔ yuè). You can get to Datong by train from many other cities in China. It’s possible to get out to the Hanging Temple by public bus from downtown, or you could hire a driver to take you there. There are plenty of local hotels in Datong and a few decent hostels as well. You may as well stick around a day or two and see the other sights such as the Yungang Grottoes and Mt. Heng.
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