In the spirit of vertigenous constructions, I bring to you Xuan Kong Si also known as the hanging monastery in ancient day China. Xuan kong can be described as a forgotten wonder of the world. It was built in 491 AD, over 1500 years ago and still stands firm till today.
It was constructed by only one man, Liao Ran, who was a monk in the Wei Dynasty, in the year 386-584 AD. Liao Ran singlehandedly started building this temple until he received help from Taoist builders who were drawn to the site due to its peaceful and serene atmosphere. Today, it has become one of the main tourist attractions in Datong.
The temple was built into a cliff 75-metre (246 ft) above the ground near Mount Heng in Hunyuan County , Datong City, Shanxi Province, China. The closest city is Datong, 64.23-kilometre (39.91 mi) to the northwest.
According to claims, the vertical pillars that you see in the pictures were not there when Liao Ran finished building the monastery. They were added during the centuries that followed, mostly because many people were too scared to climb up to the monastery, thinking that it might fall without them. But before the addition of these pillars, the temple was able to stand on its own without the support from these pillars.
This temple is very popular as it’s dedicated to three religions at once; Buddhism, Taoism and confucianism_the three main religions practiced in China. It contains 40 halls separated by hall ways and bridges. In the San Jiao Hall, for instance, the statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha is enshrined together with that of Lao Zi and Confucius. These are the founders of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism respectively.
There’s a short story behind this fusion of three religions though. It has been claimed that the Hanging Monastery once served as a sort of ‘transit station’ for travellers who passed through the area, due to the remote nature of the Hengshan area. It was at this place that weary traveller could get a meal and some rest before setting out again.
Due to the prevalence of religion at the time, it is said that people were reluctant to enter the places of worship of religions other than their own. To ease these travellers’ anxiety, the three major religions of China were enshrined in the Hanging Monastery. In this way, more travellers could stay at the monastery for a while before resuming their journey.
The 105-foot-long Hanging Temple consists of 40 halls, two pavilions (South Pavilion and North Pavilion), and a bridge connecting the pavilions. There are about 80 sculptures made of copper, iron, terracotta, and stone.
The biggest hall, as well as the tallest sculpture, can be found in the South Pavilion, while the statues of Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Lao-tzu, are placed in the North Pavilion.
In order to provide support for the monastery, holes were first drilled into the side of the cliff. Wooden pillars were then half inserted into the rock as the foundation. The monastery was then built on top of these pillars, with additional support from the rock at the back of the building.
Why build a temple like this off a cliff?
The cliff protects the temple from flood. The mountain peak protects it from sunshine, rain, snow and wind. Also in this end the cliff acts as a noise breaker, keeping the noise away. At this point, the noise drops. This follows a principle in Taoism-no noises, including those from rooster crowing and dog baying.
Sometimes in 2018 it was closed temporarily, but has been reopened again to receive visitors from all over the world. This temple is one of the top places to visit in China.