Hanshan Temple is located in the town of Fengqiao (Maple Bridge) in the west outskirts of Suzhou, only one kilometer west of the Lingering Garden. It was first built in the Liang Dynasty (502-557) as Miaoli Tayuan (Garden of Pagodas). During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a famous monk named Hanshan stayed in the temple, which was later renamed by his name.
The temple was once one of the 10 most famous temples in China. Zhang Ji, a famous Tang-dynasty poet, wrote the poem "A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge," which, consequently, made the temple even more popular nationwide.
Hanshan Temple has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The present complex was from the reign of Emperors Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty. The main architectural structures in the temple include the Main Hall, Circular Gallery, Sutra Library, Bell Tower, and a pavilion known as Maple River Tower.The Bell Tower is an important component of the Hanshan Temple. The bell mentioned in Zhang Ji's poem has long been lost and the present one was made in 1906. When it tolls, its deep sounds produce far-reaching echoes.
Listening to the bell tolls of the Hanshan Temple on the New Year Eve is a grand occasion for tourists to Suzhou and people in the surrounding areas. It is believed that the 108 bell tolls can bring peace and happiness for people in the new year.
(China.org.cn June 24, 2004)