Travels In China – 10: The Hanging Temple


The jaw- dropping Hanging Temple of China is one of the world’s forgotten wonders

 

 

The Hanging Temple clings to the side of the mountain in apparent defiance of gravity. Its forty odd rooms and a maze of passageways contain seventy eight religious statues and carvings made of copper, iron, terracotta, and stone. The temple is dedicated to all three ancient religions of China – Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It is the only such temple in existence.

The location is spectacular. The temple hangs on the west cliff of the Jinxia Gorge of the Hengshan Mountains, 5 kms. south of Hunyuan County, and 60 kms. from Datong city. The Temple is over 50 metres above ground and in keeping with principles of Taoism, no worldly noises from  ground level reach the upper floors of the temple.

The temple was constructed in 491 AD. It is kept in place with oak crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the cliff. The main supportive structure is hidden inside the bedrock. The prominent summit of the cliff protects the temple from rain erosion and sunlight helping in its preservation. Renovations were carried out in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Jinxia Gorge

We drove to the Hanging Temple after a morning visit to Yungang Grottoes near Datong. The drive took 1 hour and 45 minutes. We crossed the creek and walked through a field of sunflowers to the covered stairway up the cliffside. The stairs lead to a an open terrace and the entrance to Southern and Northern parts of the temple, connected by the  Changxian Bridge . The writing in red on the white rock face below the terrace read “spectacular” (“壯觀“).

The whole temple is about 32m long. The Southern and Northern parts of the temple have three floors each.

The Southern Part is about 8m long and 4m wide. The lowest floor is called Chunyang Palace and is devoted to Lü Dongbin – one the Eight Immortals of Taoism. The middle floor – the Sanguan Hall, is the largest hall of the Hanging Temple and contains clay figures from the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). The top floor is the Buddhist Leiyin Hall.

Buddha statue in the Leiyin Hall

The Northern Part is about 7m long and 4m wide. It consists of  Wufo Hall, Guanyin Hall and Sanjiao Hall. Wufo Hall is the lowest of the three and is devoted to the  worship of the Five Dhyani Buddhas. Guanyin Hall is the middle floor and Sanjiao Hall is at the top. Sanjiao Hall is the symbol of the combination of three religions (Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism), and the statue of the founders of the three religions – Shakyamuni of Buddhism, Laozi of Taoism and Confucius of Confucianism are worshiped here.

Changxian Bridge is a 10m hanging wooden path that connects the southern and northern parts of the Temple.

Southern & Northern Halls of the Hanging Temple connected by the Changxian Bridge

 

Practicalities

The nearest city is Datong, 60 kms. away. A Taxi costs about CNY 150 for the round trip. The site is open daily from 0900 to 1700. Weekends tend to be crowded. Tickets cost CNY 130 pp. Allow 2 hrs for the visit.

My visit to the Hanging Temple was arranged by Wendy Wu Tours.

 

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