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Hanshan Temple

hanshan-temple01 Once the site of bustling local trade in silks, wood, and grain, this temple, repeatedly burned down and re-built, was named after the poet-monk, Hanshan, who lived in the 7th century.

Located in Maple Bridge town in the west outskirts of Suzhou, only 1 kilometer west of the Lingering Garden, it was first built in the Tianjian period of the Liang Dynasty (502-557) with the name of Miaolita Yuan (Miaolita Temple). During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Hanshan was said to have lived here and was the temple's caretaker. The temple was later renamed after him.

hanshan-templeThe temple used to be one of the ten most famous temples in China. The poem, "A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge" by Zhang Ji, a famous poet of the Tang dynasty, is so oft-quoted and widely loved that the poetic rhyme and the bell-tolling sounds have made Hanshan Temple celebrated at home and abroad.

Destroyed and rebuilt for many times, the present complex mainly dates from the Qing dynasty at the time of Emperors Guangxu and Xuantong. Covering an area of 45 hectares, the main architectural structures in this temple include the main hall, the hall with a circular gallery, the sutra library, the bell tower, a pavilion tower known as Maple River Tower, and many more.

The Bell Tower is an important component of Hanshan Temple. The bell mentioned in Zhangji's poem has long been lost and the present one was made in 1906 during the Qing Dynasty. When the bell is tolling, the deep strokes that echo in the halls mix with the deep-toned chants of the monks evoking both a solemn and reverent feelings for all worshippers in the temple.

According to Buddhist legend, each layman has 108 kinds of annoyance per year and each bell tolling can help people dispel a kind of annoyance. Hence, listening to the bell tolls of Hanshan Temple on New Year's Eve has been a grand occasion since 1979. During New Year's Eve, thousands of visitors at home and abroad gather inside and outside of the temple to listen to the one hundred and eight bell tolls, praying for luck and happiness in the New Year.

There are cultural relics including a stone tablet inscribed with the poem "A Night Mooring at Maple Bridge" by Zhang Ji, stone carvings and a large number of steles inside Hanshan Temple.

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