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The Bell of the Bailin (Cypress Grove) Temple

The bell of the Cypress Grove Temple was cast in the 46th year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi during the Qing Dynasty (1707). Part of the Buddhavatamsaka-mahavaipulya Sutra was carved on the bell, so it was also known as the Buddhavatamsaka-mahavaipulya Bell. The bell is 2.36 meters in height, 1.68 meters in rim diameter and 2,268 kilogrammes in weight. It was originally kept at the Cypress Grove Temple east of the Guozijian (Imperial College). The temple was built in the 7th year of the reign of Zhizheng during the Yuan Dynasty (1347) and rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty. Usually after a bell was cast out of its mould, its pouring head was removed. Then finishing touches were done. The surface of such a cast bell is more or less uneven. But the surface of the Buddhavatamsaka- mahavaipulya Bell is very smooth. The characters of the sutra cast on the bell are neat and graceful. They are so smooth that one can hardly believe that the characters of the sutra and the bell itself were cast simultaneously. According to an analysis, the entire bell was polished for a long time after it was cast. Another feature of the bell is that the pulao bell handle is superb and lifelike, vividly depicting the bravery and fierceness of the dragon's offspring. The legend goes that the dragon gave birth to nine sons, but none of them became dragons, and that one of them was called pulao whose roar shook heaven and earth. According to the Selections from Ban Gu, "There is the big fish called the whale in the sea and the animal called pulao at the seaside. The pulao is always afraid of the whale. Whenever the whale attacks the pulao, the latter roars. Whoever wishes to make a bell sonorous puts a pulao design on it. The striker is the whale." So the image of the pulao was cast on the bell. This made it possible to suspend the bell and express people's real wishes. This was an ingenious combination of art and reality.



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