Hanshan Temple


Literally meaning 'Cold Mountain Temple' and founded around AD 500, Hanshan is famous in China thanks to a Tang-dynasty (618–907) poem that is taught at schools all over the mainland. The poem, by Zhang Ji, is inscribed on an enormous 16m-tall stelae behind the Great Bell Tower.

The Great Bell Tower was closed at the time of writing but it houses an 8.6m-high bell, reputed to be the largest Buddhist bell in the world. Every New Year's Eve, thousands of local people gather to ring the bell 108 times. Legend has it that the average person endures 108 kinds of annoyances per year and that listening to the bell tolling will bring good luck and happiness for the following year.

The temple is west of Suzhou's old town, about 1500m from Xihuan Lu metro station. An entrance ticket gives access to both Hanshan Temple and the Great Bell Tower area (8am to 4.30pm), which are actually in two separate compounds. You need to exit one to enter the other – be sure to keep your ticket on hand.

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