Great Bell Temple


Da Zhong Temple, Bell Temple.

Despite being stranded along the North 3rd Ring Rd, this Qing-era temple is well worth a diversion to marvel at its centrepiece, the humongous Yongle Bell, cast in 1406 and almost 7m tall. The temple halls have been entirely given over to the fascinating and well-presented Dazhongsi Ancient Bell Museum, where you can admire up close the intricate inscriptions and artistry adorning hundreds of temple bells.

Built in 1734 and originally called Jueshang Temple, it is where Qing dynasty emperors would go to pray for rain in times of drought. Later, during the Republic period, it became famous for an enormous temple fair held here at Chinese New Year.

The 'Great Bell', cast around the time of the Forbidden City's conception and inscribed with thousands upon thousands of Buddhist sutras, was moved here and installed after the temple was built – no mean feat considering it weighs 46 tonnes. Nowadays, the bell is rung just once a year on 31 December. The 10cm-thick bronze is said to resonate for up to three minutes after being struck.

The Bell Museum contains great bronze bells from various city temples, many of which have been lost to history, with only the bell surviving. In one example, the bell from the demolished Huitong Temple has been painted bright red – it was acquired by the Xizhimen Fire Department.