In Shanxi Province, sits one of the world’s forgotten wonders. A place Time magazine featured in 2010 as one of “The Top 10 Unique and Precipitous Architectures.”
Xuan Kong Si, which is commonly called the Hanging Monastery, is by far the greatest medieval miracle of architecture.
As you can tell by the photographs, the Hanging Monastery clings was built on the side of the Hengshan Mountain in defiance of gravity.
How did I not KNOW this place? Perhaps it was because of my fear of heights?
According to the China Highlights website, the Hanging Monastary was built by a monk named Liao Ran during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534). He did it by drilling holes (7-10 feet deep) into the cliff and inserting large beams into place. From there he began to build this impresses all wooden structure which is 32 meters long and consists of two pavilions, a bridge and 40 halls, as well as a dizzying array of wooden plank pathways that connect them together.
The supports you see in the pictures were added later for preservation and safety purpose when the structure was restored in 1900.
What on earth would inspire a person to call such a crazy place home?
Believe it or not, it wasn’t the geography. “The Hanging Monastery boasts an ingenious location - chosen not for its typography but because of its unique topographical advantages.” Yes, it's all about the weathering well...the weather.
For starters, tucking his creation under the natural overhang of Hengshan’s Cuiping Peak blocked the monastery from rainfall.
A monastery by nature is often a secluded community of monks living under religious vows. They often served as places where travelers could stay. This was especially true in the Middle Ages as there were very few inns during that time. Monks were known to also helped to feed the poor, take care of the sick, and provided education to boys in the local community.
If you are a student of Confucianism, Taoism, or Buddhism then the Hanging Monastary might just be the place for you. For the temple is dedicated not to just one religion but three. The most outstanding feature of the Hanging Monastery is the side-by-side sculptures of Laozi, Confucius, and Shakyamuni — the founders of the three main religions of China.
As David Russel Schilling wrote, “Perhaps most amazing is that the monastery has withstood the test of time, withstanding wind, rain, and storms as well as the often violent changes from one Chinese dynasty to another.”
I’m not sure this would be the place for me to live in seclusion. At least, like I said, not until I deal with my acrophobia. It’s just a little too close to heaven for my comfort. And given my inability to walk and chew gum, it’s also a little too far from the ground.
Schilling, David Russel. Spiritual Power of China’s 1500-year-old Hanging Monastery. (January 13, 2017).
Song, Candice. The Hanging Monastery, Datong —3 Faiths, 1,500 years old! (October 2, 2021)