Hánshān Temple

Buddhist Temple in Suzhou

Literally meaning 'Cold Mountain Temple', Hánshān is famous in China thanks to a Tang-dynasty (618–907) poem that immortalises both the temple and its enormous bronze bell, a modern-day version of which is on display and rung every 31 December to bring in the New Year.

Hánshān Temple was founded around 502 AD. The highlight here is the enormous 8.6-metre-high bell, reputed to be the largest Buddhist bell in the world. Climbing the stairs of the pagoda in which the bell is housed gives you a sense of just how big it is, while the photographs on the ground floor show the epic amount of machinery needed to transport and install the bell. There's a particularly charming photo of a monk blessing the bell as it travels on a barge along the Grand Canal, which runs to the west of the temple.

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 located west of Sūzhōu's old town, about 1500m from Xihuan Lu metro station. An entrance ticket gives access to both Hánshān Temple and the Great Bell Tower (8am-4.30pm), which are actually in two separate compounds. You need to exit one to enter the other – be sure to have your ticket on hand. For an extra ¥25, you can enter the Maple Bridge Scenic Area, a landscaped park built at the edge of the Grand Canal, where you can ride canal boats.