For some travelers, the phrase ‘seen one temple you’ve seen them all’ rings true, but a hanging temple in China would impress even the most cynical among them.
Pinned to the side of Mount Heng’s cliff, located in Shanxi province, is the Xuan Kong Si or the Hanging Temple or Monastery. Despite its precarious position, the monastery has been ‘hanging’ in its original position for more than 1,500 years, a testament to the ingenuity of its builders.
Also known as the Suspension Temple, the unique monument is said to have been built in 491 AD, during the late Northern Wei Dynasty. It is commonly believed that the building of the monastery was initiated by a single individual, a monk by the name of Liao Ran.
In time, however, Liao Ran received help from Taoist builders, who were drawn to the site due to its peaceful and serene atmosphere.
The site was perfect for those engaged in meditation, as noises from the ground did not reach such lofty heights. In addition, its height ensured that the monastery was safe from floods.
The Hanging Monastery is also protected from rain, snow, and sun as it is sheltered by the mountain’s peak. This is one of the reasons for the monastery’s continual existence over the centuries.
Hanging 246 feet (75 metres) above the ground, it’s also notable for being the only temple left that represents a combination of traditional Chinese religions Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
The temple of 40 rooms connected by a series of corridors, bridges, and walkways defies gravity due to oak crossbeams which plug into holes chiseled into the cliff-side, with the buildings’ main support structure deep in the bedrock. More than 80 statues of bronze, iron, and clay are found in the temple representing the range of dynasties which have occupied and maintained it over the years.
Nowadays, the Hanging Temple is a tourist attraction in the Datong area and as you can imagine, it is a very popular destination for people from all over the world.