One may have seen pictures of Bhutan's Taktsang Monastery impossibly perched upon a cliff. As impressive as that monastery is, it turns out it is not unique. China too has its fair share of impressive monasteries - including the Fanjingshan Monastery - that could just be the most extremely perched monastery in the world.

One of the problems with lists like "Seven New Wonders of the World" is that there are so many that should be on the list but just aren't - and can't because of the limitation of the number. The Hanging Temple is one of the world's best-forgotten wonders.

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Three Unique Religions Monastery

It is also very ancient having been built over 1,500 years ago and is famous for having been built on a sheer precipice. But that is not the only thing that makes this temple special, it also combines three Chinese traditional philosophies - Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

  • Unique: Only Existing Temple That Combines Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism

The Hanging Monastery has served as more than just a monastery and temple in its time. Because it is fairly isolated, it has also served as a travel lodge so that weary travelers could rest along their way.

This is also why it accommodations the three religions. People of years ago were reluctant to stop at places that worshipped a different religion. By having three religions, more travelers could stop there.

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What To Know About The Hanging Temple

The Hanging Temple is also known by other names like Hengshan Hanging Temple, Hanging Monastery, or Xuankong Temple and is found in China's Shanxi Province. It is built into a cliff 75 meters or 246 feet above the ground.

  • Perched: On A Sheer Precipice

The temple is kept in place by oak crossbeams that are fitted into holes that have been chiseled into the cliffs. They go 2-3 meters or 7 to 10 feet deep into the rock. Amazingly these were added later on, the wooden pillars were added for preservation and safety.

The main supportive structure is hidden inside the bedrock. The temple is protected from rain erosion and sunlight by being in a small canyon basin and by hanging in the middle of the cliff under the prominent summit.

The reason why the monastery was built on such a precipice will come as a surprise to many - it wasn't primarily anti-banditry. Instead, it was anti-weathering. The unique position which it is in protects it from rainfall. The mountainside is dry and stable and being so high above the valley floor, it is protected from the dampness and accompanying rot from flooding and runoff erosion. Additionally, it is protected from wind erosion by being in a bay-shaped valley.

Legend has it that the construction of the temple was started by only one man, a monk named Liaoran. He is supposed to have started in 491 AD at the end of the Northern Wei dynasty.

Over its long lifetime, the temple has undergone many repairs and extensions.

The Layout of The Hanging Temple

The temple has some 40 halls and pavilions - all of which are built on the cliffs. And all of them are over 30 meters or 98 feet off the ground. The many pavilions are connected by dizzying plank roads against the sheer cliffs.

  • Structure: The Whole Temple is Wooden Framed

In the temple, one will find a grand total of around 80 religious statues - including statues of bronze, iron, terracotta, and stone. All are remarkably true-to-life. One of the most remarkable features of this site is the side-by-side sculptures of Laozi, Confucius, and Shakyamuni (these were the founders of the three main religions of China).

  • Length: 32 Meters In Total

The main parts of the Hanging Monastery are the two pavilions, the bridge, and its 40 halls.

  • The South Pavilion: Three-Story and Holds the Biggest Hall and Tallest Sculptures of the Temple (8 Meters or 26 Feet Long and 4 meters or 13 feet Wide)
  • The North Pavilion: Three-Story And Has The Three Statues of The Founders of The Three Religions (Confucius, Laozi, and Shakyamuni)
  • The Long Bridge: Connects The Two Pavilions - Around 10 Meters or 30 Feet Long

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Visiting The Hanging Temple

Visitors can visit the Hanging Temple any time of year, but the most popular season is from April to October. The winter season here (November to March) is long and freezing.

It is also recommended to visit early in the more as the number of visitors permits is only 80 at a time. So arrive early in the morning to avoid long wait times. Reckon on staying and touring for around 2 to 3 hours.

Opening Hours:

  • June to October: 8 am to 6 pm
  • November to July: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm

Most travelers visit the temple together with other attractions in Datong, such as Mt. Heng, the Yungang Grottoes, and Nine-Dragon Screen Wall. And can get a tour of the Hanging Temple.

Next: Sichuan, China: The Home Of Pandas And The Giant Buddha