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Hanshan Temple Legend

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.


The temple 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.


According to 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.


The apprentice 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.


The following 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 as well.


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.

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