Ring in the New Year in China at the Hanshan Temple Bell Ringing Festival

by Lexa Pennington / Dec 13, 2014 /
Lexa Pennington's picture

In Suzhou, China locals and visitors literally ring in the New Year at the Hanshan Temple Bell Ringing Festival. Held on December 31st, the festival welcomes the New Year in Suzhou. Hanshan Temple, over 1400 years old, is one of the ten most famous temples in China. In ancient times, monks struck the bell at midnight to remind people a new day was coming. Legend has it that each layman has 108 kinds of annoyances per year, and each bell tolling can help people dispel one kind of annoyance. A person who listens to all 108 bell tolls on New Year Eve will have good luck and happiness in the coming year. Every year, thousands gather inside and outside the temple listening to bell tolls and praying for good luck and happiness in the coming year. The experience is accompanied by an array of activities and performances arranged around the ringing moments.

 

Monks at Hanshan Temple

 

There is a New Year's Eve feast before the bell ringing together with performances of traditional music and dance. In the hours leading up to the ringing, the temple takes on a festive air as people arrive to celebrate and watch lion dancers and performers on stilts. The ancient halls are lit by colorful dragon lanterns and decked with decorations evoking wishes for an auspicious New Year. From the main temple come the sounds of the assembled monks chanting Buddhist sutras, wreathed in thick, fragrant clouds of incense smoke. As midnight approaches, a lull of reverent silence falls over the crowds. Everyone listens respectfully as the bell is rung 108 times. As the echoes of the last srtoke fades, the New Year begins amidst the lively crackle of countless firecrackers.

 

Hanshan Temple

 

Located in the Fengqiao Town of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, Hanshan Temple (literally translated to "Cold Mountain Temple") was originally named Miaolipumingta. The temple was later given its present name due to Han Shan, an eminent monk who lived there in the Tang dynasty (618-907AD). Hanshan Temple has been made famous because of a poem named "Mooring for the Night at Fengqiao Bridge" by Zhang Ji (a poet of the Tang Dynasty), as well as the tolling of the bell in the temple.   

 

               Moon falls, crows caw, frost fills the sky;
               Under Maple Bridge, fishermen’s flares confront my weary eyes.
               Outside the city wall lies Han Shan Temple;
               Late at night the sound of its bell reaches a traveler’s boat.

 

The temple was first built in the Liang period (502-557AD) of the Southern Dynasty, and was repaired several times in the following dynasties. The present one was built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in the Qing architectural style, covering an area of around 10,600 square meters (about three acres). The main sites of the temple are the Mahavira Hall, Sutra-Collection Building, Bell Tower, the tablet inscription of the poem "Mooring for the Night at Fengqiao Bridge," and the Fengjiang First Pavilion. 

 

Hanshan Cold Mountain Temple

 

Address: No. 24, Hanshan Temple Alley, Fengqiao Town.

For more information:
Suzhou Tourist Board - http://www.classicsuzhou.com/