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Thursday, July 29, 2010

No. 38: Hanshan Temple, Suzhou, Jiangsu

Hanshan (寒山) and Shide (拾得) were great friends, and their joyous friendship is
commemorated on an altar at busy Hanshan Temple (寒山寺) in Suzhou, Jiangsu  (江苏, 苏州市)
Because it was late in the day (after 2:30) when I left Lingyanshan Temple, I flagged a taxi and went directly to Hanshan Temple. The crowds were greater than any I've seen in any temple. True, it was a beautiful summer day; but it was a weekday!

The first thing to catch my eye as I arrived at the back gate was a beautiful small wooden pagoda. It was an imitation of the one from the temple's earliest days, when it had been named Puming Tayuan, or "Compound of the Pagoda of Eternal Brightness."

But that temple was destroyed in the Qing Dynasty, and when it was rebuilt early in the 20th century, it was given a new name: "Old Hanshan Temple."

The origin of the name lies in the legend that a monk named Hanshan once lived in the temple. A famous poet as well as a monk, he had a best friend, Shide, and their friendship is the model for many "buddy stories."

Their original story can be told briefly: Hanshan had a woman; when he thought that Shide wanted her, he left her to him, and became a monk. But Hanshan was mistaken, so Shide set out to set him straight. They both ended up as monks at what is now Hanshan Temple.

There is no proof of this story, but images of the two friends abound in the temple, even on the altar of one hall.

There's much to be seen here: the Maple Bridge; the giant bell; and the "Hall for Promotion of the Dharma" with images of Xuanzang who went to India, Jianzhen who went to Japan, and Konghai who came from there.

But let me recommend that you go early in the morning, or on a cold winter's day, to avoid the crowds.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily October 8, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 31.310535, 120.567864



Map:




GALLERY

Puming Pagoda at Hanshan Temple, Suzhou
Great friends Hanshan and Shide on an altar (postcard above)
Konghai, a Japanese monk who passed through this temple
on his way to Xi'an (then called Chang'an) to study
Pavilion containing a huge bell in its own grounds next to the temple

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