Friday, July 19, 2013

Shansi Hanging Temple - Definitely not a place for the Acrophobic

When I first arrived at the site, I was simply overwhelmed by the grandeur of Mount Hengshan where the Hanging Temple (悬空寺) was constructed. Looking at the mountain, I took me awhile to locate the site of which we were there in the first place, the Hanging Temple. The picture above was exactly what I saw when I was on the ground far off. The first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful majestic rocky Hengshan, I was dwarfed by her as we approached. As my eyes slowly picked through the cliffs, there she was, the Hanging Temple, dangling and floating as if she was in mid air by the cliffs.
Hanging Temple is located at the foot of Mount Hengshan,Hunyuan County, Datong City in the Shansi Province. She is approximately 64km from Datong, the second largest city in Shansi, after Taiyuan, the capital of the Shansi province.
Datong is approximately 3.5 hours drive from Beijing. The journey was pleasant and smooth travelling on the expressway. Shansi (山西) or simply translated as 'mountain's west', probably due to her location west of Taihang Mountains. Besides being famous for this magnificent structure, Shansi is also well known for her noodles (which is really out of this world) and also for her black vinegar, something that one must taste to truly  appreciate. Shansi is also the home province of a famous warrior, Guan Gong or Guan Yu (关羽) or Guan Yunchang, made popular by his loyalty and his fearless exploits in the battlefield as depicted in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義).
The Hanging Temple is reportedly built approximately 1500 years ago, by a lone monk named Liao Ran (了然).  This temple is built 75 meters or 246 feet from the ground, along the contours of the cliff, making use of natural hollows and outcrops, where timber poles were driven deep inside the cliff, used as the core supporting beam for the entire structure.

So well built is she that she could withstand the catastrophic earthquake at Shannxi, (华县大地震) a nearby province in the morning of 23rd January 1556 which reportedly killed 830,000 and measuring 7.9 based on our current modern measurement.

Besides the simply incredible manner of which she was constructed, the Hanging Temple is also one of the rare temples or locations where the three main beliefs or religion in China can be seen together, namely Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Covering an area of 152 square meters with over 40 halls and multiple narrow and steep walkways and passage ways, this is definitely not one for those with an acute fear of heights (acrophobia). Falling overboard the narrow passageway would mean a straight drop of over 246 feet to the cliff below, and the thought is certainly scary, all the more with the ever pushing Chinese tourists, all eager to pose and to get the best spot for their pictures.
The picture above just illustrates how narrow the passage way and I had to lean a little over the railing to capture this angle, just to depict how high this structure is. To be honest, my legs were trembling as I lean over for this shot as I for one, is not exactly fond of heights.
The staircase within is steep and narrow. Here, as you can see, I had to bend my legs to ensure that I have a good footing coming down from one floor to another and at one stage, I was literally stuck because of the camera bag and tripod that I was carrying on my bag. It is that narrow and dark too.
But the view from the top is simply magnificent and breath taking. Standing there, looking beyond the Golden Dragon Gorge below, one could only imagine the things, people, battles and history this structure has bear witness to.
 As I leave, I take with the memory of stepping, climbing and walking along the passageways of one of the oldest and simple incredible architecture in the world and the experience is simply amazing. The Hanging Temple is definitely another MUST VISIT place in China, among other interesting sites such as the Great Wall to name one.

The only problem with China is that all her interesting attractions are so scattered all over the country that it is so difficult to visit them all within a short span of time. When I was first relocated to Beijing for 2 years, I thought I have all the time in the world to see what China has to offer. 9 months on, I come to a realisation that I will never be able to see and experience everything that this great diversify land has to offer because it would take more than a lifetime.

Stay tune for the next post on Yunggang Grotoes, statues carved into caves 1500 years ago, so huge and narrow that even my super wide angle lens has difficulties capturing them all.

No comments:

Post a Comment