Built in the
Liang period (502-557) of the Southern Dynasty, Hanshan Temple sits
at Fengqiao Town of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. Originally named Miaolipumingta,
the temple was later given its present name because Han Shan, an
eminent monk in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), had lived there.
compound is a scene of luxuriant green creating a secluded atmosphere.
The buildings in it are in an unadorned and natural style. In the
center of the compound stands Mahavira Hall. Behind the hall stretches
a wooden corridor, at the end of which stands a small tower with
a wall behind and a stream in front. Hanshan Temple has been famous
since the Tang Dynasty. It owes its eminence to a poem entitled
"Mooring for the Night at Fengqiao Bridge" by Zhang Ji (A Tang Dynasty
poet) as well as the toll of the bell in the temple. The line of
the poem "a toll is resounding at midnight" makes the temple an
appeal to many people and the toll is said to have been the way
for Han Shan and his apprentice Shi De to communicate their lingering
affection for each other.
a legend, a couple lived in Qingfeng Village at the foot of Mount
Tai in the- Tang Dynasty. They had no sons, but had an apprentice
by the name of Shi De. The couple loved him very much 9 for he was
clever and deft. One early morning Han Shan, husband, left home
on business. His wife, immediately after he went out, put a cotton-padded
quilt on Shi De sleeping in bed as she thought he might catch cold
in the cold weather. She had not expected that her talking with
Shi De in the latter's bedroom was heard by her husband who hurried
back home for his money purse left behind. Han Shan stood dumbfounded
outside the-house thinking to himself, "Oh,my wife is having an
affair with...... It would be advisable to let them do what they
want as a family scandal is not to be spread." Hence he quietly
left 9 with a brief note left to Shi De.
realized that his master misunderstood him when he read the note.
So he bid farewell to the wife of his master and looked for his
master to clear up the misundetstanding. Eating poor food and sleeping
in the open,Shi De traveled many places looking for Han Shan, but
in vain. One day twenty years later, he came wandering to Fengqiao
Bridge at Fengqiao Town and requested the abbot of the temple there
to allow him in to take shelter from rain. While saluting,Shi De
found the abbot none other than his master he had been looking for
over the twenty years. With mixed feelings of surprise and joy,they
both poured their hearts.Han Shan said that he had trekked from
north to south and at last settled down in the temple. At the same
time he blamed his apprentice for deserting his wife. Han Shan ,
however,realized that he had wronged his apprentice when the latter
told thetrue story. Unwilling to be away from his master,Shi De
became a monk in the temple too.
year saw a disastrous rainstorm, leaving the vast land into an expanse
of water. On the day it cleared up, a timehonored and huge bronze
bell floated to the temple gate. It was so odd that the bell did
not have a single drop of water in though its mouth was skyward.
All the monks, fascinated, remarked that it must be a divine bell
bestowed by Heaven. Han Shan asked the monks to take it out of water.
The bell, however, stood absolutely still no matter how hard the
monks tried. Aware that nothing better could be done to take the
bell ashore, Shi De hastily pulled up a bamboo from the garden behind
the temple and,with the aid of its elastic force, jumped into the
bell as if he made a pole vault. Instantly the bell floated away
due east, and increasingly faster at that. Burning with anxiety,
Han Shan kept calling his apprentice. Shi De's responding voices
were getting fainter and fainter as the bell was moviing farther
and farther. Finally the bell got out of sight rice, breed silkworms
and cultivate hemp. Though he was hence held in respect by the locals,
Shi De never stopped. thinking of his native land and his master
While his apprentice
was away Han Shan, anxiety-torn, stood outside the temple all day
long calling him back. The other monks, on pins and needles at the
sight, thought out a solution of tracing Shi De by striking a bell;
They asked craftsmen to cast a huge bell exactly like the one that
had carried Shi De away. Han Shan regularly tolled it day and night.
The booming sounds reached Japan far away. Realizing that the sounds
were made by his master to call him, Shi De tolled the bell which
had carried him across the sea in response. It was very strange
that the sounds also reached the temple at Fengqiao Bridge. In this
way the master and apprentice communicated their feelings of attachment.
Later the, temple was renamed Hanshan in praise of the two who had
so great an attachment to each other.