Unique architectural constructions around the world (P.24) - Hanging Temple of Hengshan (China) : The timeless beauty of the ancient temple built on a cliff


(WorldKings.org) The temple was built on the cliffs of Mt. Hengshan, one of the five most sacred mountains in China. About 1/3 of the building body is hanging on the cliff, with its halls connected by winding corridors and bridges.

Located in Hunyuan County, Datong, Shanxi Province, Hanging Temple (also called Hanging Monastery or Xuankong Si) is famous for its precipitous location, and it’s the only existing temple which is dedicated to three religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. It is quite rare to see the saints of the three religions being enshrined in one temple. It is said that this is also part of the reason this temple can survive the vicissitude of dynasties in history.

The Hanging Temple was constructed in the late Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 491) and has a long history of over 1500 years. Its most attractive part is that the whole temple is protruding from the cliff of Cuiping Peak and is 50 meter above the ground.

Almost everyone who sees the Hanging Temple will wonder: Why can it stand firmly on the cliff for 1500 years? Some people think it owes to a dozen standing pillars. But they are actually added long after the Hanging Temple was built to reassure people who were afraid that it would fall down. What actually support the temple are the 27 cantilevers inserted deeply into the cliff-side. The top of the cantilever beams is jacked with wedges. When they are put into the holes drilled on the wall, the wedges will firmly stick on the stone walls, which are similar to today's expansion bolts. The deeper they are drilled, the more firmly they are fixed.

The design and site selection of Hanging Temple is another important reason for its preservation. It's located at the inward concave of the cliff and the protruding part is like an umbrella, which makes the temple free from the impact of rain and falling rocks. The high position of the temple also avoids the risk of being flooded.

Seen from afar, the hanging temple is just like an exquisite relief inlaid in the cliffs and it seems that there is not much space inside. But when you go inside, you will find that it has all the things that a temple should have. The whole temple is 32m long and can be divided into three parts.

Southern Part: The southern part has three floors in total, and it’s about 8m long and 4m wide. It has Chunyang Palace, Sanguan Hall and Leiyin Hall. Chunyang Palace is mainly worshiping Lü Dongbin - one of the Eight Immortals of Taoism. Sanguan Hall is the largest hall of Hanging Temple. Sanguan means three officials, which refer to the heavenly official who blesses people, the earth official who forgives sins, and the water official who relieves the people of their troubles. The clay sculptures in the hall are the precious works from the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368 - 1644), among which the largest one is 2 meters in height. Leiyin Hall is a Buddhism hall and it’s located at the highest part of the southern part. “Leiyin” literally means the “sound of thunder”. Buddhists believe that when Buddha Sakyamuni carries forward Buddhism, his voice is as loud as thunder, so it is called Leiyin Hall.

Northern Part: The northern part is about 7m long and 4m wide. It has Wufo Hall, Guanyin Hall and Sanjiao Hall. Wufo Hall is the lowest hall of the three and is famous for worshiping the Five Dhyani Buddhas. Guanyin Hall lies in the middle part, while Sanjiao Hall is located at the top. Sanjiao (mean “three religions” in Chinese) Hall is the symbol of the combination of three religions, and the statue of the founders of the three religions - Shakyamuni of Buddhism, Laozi of Taoism and Confucius of Confucianism are worshiped in this hall.

Changxian Bridge: Changxian Bridge is a 10m hanging plank road that connects the southern part and northern part.

According to chinadiscovery.com

Mihan (Collect and edit) (World Records Union - WorldKings.org)


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