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Hanging Monastery

The Hanging Monastery has its name for a reason. Perched precariously on a near-vertical cliff in the Jinlong Canyon of Hengshan Mountain, the Hanging Monastery is one-of-a-kind and is one of China's most remarkable feats of architecture.

This architectural wonder makes one feel dumbfounded, particularly since the original temple was built in the Northern Wei Dynasty over 1,400 years ago. It is the only ancient site built in honor to all three of Sakyamuni, Laozi, and Confucius, the respective founders of Buddism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Hanging MonasteryHanging Monastery

It is said that the monks built this monastery by tying ropes around their waists and descending down the cliff-side. Using chisels, they bored holes into the rock face. Then they inserted wooden support struts, which served as the main supports for the rest of the temple. The boardwalks in mid-air are propped up by scores of beams, which were made from a special local product "hemlock" and then inserted firmly into the rocks. It is said that the beams were soaked in Chinese wood oil, which repels termites and protects the wood from erosion. In all, over 40 halls and pavilions with an area of 152.5 square meters are connected to each other by corridors, bridges, and boardwalks.

The superlative design of the Hanging Monastery makes use of supporting beams as its basis and the skillful utilization of hidden rocks mostly invisible to the casual eye. What visitors will see is an artistically structured building, with excellent symmetry and sound proportions, but a complicated almost maze-like layout that gives it much of its grace and appeal.

When crossing a boardwalk connecting two pavilions, visitors cannot help holding their breath and walking with the greatest care, fearing that the monastery might collapse. The wooden boards under their feet keep creaking, but the architecture is steady and firm. Though the monastery gives us a dangerous impression, visitors are always willing to take a trip there out of a sense of adventure and curiosity.

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