Hanshan Temple (Cold Mountain Temple)
The Hanshan Temple (literally Cold Mountain Temple) is located in Maple Bridge Town, 5km west of Suzhou. It was founded in 502 A.D. in the Liang Dynasty, with the initial name as “Miaolipuming Pagoda Temple”. Legend goes that in the Tang Dynasty, a famous monk named Han Shan served as abbot there, hence it was later renamed Hanshan Temple. Zhang Ji, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, walked by the Hanshan Temple when returning back after the failure in passing the national examination. He was moved by the sight, so he wrote a poem called “A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge”, which became popular and has been honored by generation after generation. The Hanshan Temple also has enjoyed a worldwide fame because of the poem ever since.
The Ancient Bell Museum in the temple now is in possession of the 118 ancient bells of various specifications from various dynasties, most of which were made during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The new attraction of the Hanshan Temple is called the Bell Monument Park, inside which there hangs a reproduction of a grand Tang Dynasty bell, weighing 108 tons. Listening to the bell tolls of the Hanshan Temple on the New Year’s Eve has attracted thousands of Buddhist believers at home and abroad, and has become a major tourist festival in Suzhou.
Xuanmiaoguan Taoist Temple (Xuanmiao Guan)
The Xuanmiaoguan Taoist Temple is located in the center of the ancient city of Suzhou. With a history of more than 1,700 years, Xuanmiaoguan is called the first and biggest ashram in southeast China. The layout of its buildings is like the Taoist mascot “crane”, and it holds important historical value in the history of Chinese construction. The Hall of Three Purities is the main hall built in the Southern Song Dynasty, which is the only Southern Song timber-framed architecture.
The Taoist music of Xuanmiaoguan sounds pure, low, deep, slow, and moderate, enjoying a great reputation. It is influenced by the Taoist music of the Celestial Masters Tradition of the Dragon and Tiger Mountain in Jiangxi Province, and has also absorbed elements of folk music, such as Kunqu Opera, music of the Jiangnan area and local ditties. You can listen to the Taoist music while watching the flying cymbals performance, which is a Taoist stunt with local characteristics of Suzhou.
Western Garden Temple (Xiyuan Temple)
The Western Garden Temple (Xiyuan Temple), located in the Xiatangji Street, outside of Jinmen, is the general term of the Jiezhuanglv Temple and Fangsheng (free captive animals) Pond in the western garden. It was built in Yuan Dynasty, with a precise layout. The main buildings include the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Main Hall, the Hall of the 500 Arhats, the Avalokitesvara Hall and the Repository of Buddhist Scriptures.
Among the buildings, the Hall of the 500 Arhats is with prominent features. In the center of the hall stands a 13 meters tall statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with one thousand eyes and hands, carved from four pieces of Camphor Wood. Not far from the statue of Avalokitesvara there stands a peculiar figure of Buddha with four faces toward four directions, representing the four sacred Mountains of Buddhism, namely, the Mount Wutai in Shanxi Province, the Mount Emei in Sichuan Province, the Mount Jiuhua in Anhui Province, and the Mount Putuo in Zhejiang Province.
Bao’en Temple (Beisi Temple)
The Bao’en Temple, also called Beisi Temple, is the largest and most well-known temple in Suzhou, with a history of more than 1,700 years. The steep and majestic Bao’en Temple Pagoda, also called Beisi Pagoda or North Temple Pagoda, rises nine stories with a height of 76 meters and an octagonal frame. The Beisi Pagoda is a sign of the ancient Suzhou, known as the “First Pagoda in Southern Yangtze River Region”. The most valuable hall of the temple is the Avalokitesvara Hall. The colorful paintings inside are fine and moving, and the standing Goddess Avalokitesvara is vivid and merciful in expression.
Temple of the Town God (Chenghuang Miao)
The Temple of the Town God, located in Jingde Road, Suzhou downtown, has a long history. It was built in the Tang Dynasty, and rebuilt in the Hongwu period of the Ming Dynasty. In the Wanli reign period of the Ming Dynasty, the reconstruction of the Town God’s Temples of Changzhou County and Wu County were made at the temple’s east and west wings respectively, which formed the symmetrical and magnificent ancient buildings. It is rarely seen throughout China that the Town God’s Temples of one government and two counties are located together.
The Temple of the Town God boasts a hall, a monument and a tree: A hall refers to the Hall of the Town God (the Main Hall of the Town God Temple) which is shaped in the Chinese character of “工” (pronounced as Gong), so it is known as the “Gong Character Hall”; a monument means the monument of “the map of Suzhou’s main rivers”; and a tree refers to the ancient apricot tree which is more than 600 years old.