Hanging Temple


Basic Facts of the Hanging Temple

Chinese Name: 悬空寺 Pronunciation: xuán kōng sì

Building Time: 491

Suggested Visiting Hours: 2-3 Hours

Best Visiting Time: March to October

Popular Activities: Enjoy peach blossoms in spring and see the snow in winter.

Address: Located at the foot of Hengshan Mountain in Hunyuan County, Datong City, Shanxi Province. And it hangs on the west cliff of Jinlong Gorge.

Building Function: Hanging temple was built on the cliff to protect itself from heavy rains and floods because the mountain peak resembles an umbrella. The mountain also reduces the damage caused by wind and sunshine.


Admission Ticket Fare

Tickets  Peak Season
(March 1st to November 30th)
 Low Season
(December 1st to the end of February)
Admission Fee   25 yuan  17 yuan
The Fee for Climbing up    100 yuan    100 yuan  


  • Note: The Hanging temple hangs on the cliff. If you just visit the temple at the foot of Hengshan, you just need to pay the admission fee. However, if you want to climb up and enter the temple, you should pay another 100 yuan.


Opening Hours

(November to May)
(June to October)
Opening Hours    08:30-17:30  08:00-18:00


Introduction of the Hanging Temple

The Hanging Temple,The Hanging Temple
The Hanging Temple

Hanging Temple is located in Hunyuan County, 65 kilometers away from Datong City. It was built more than 1,400 years ago in the Northern Wei Dynasty and was rebuilt on a large scale in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is the only temple in China that combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

The temple is the key cultural relics site in Shanxi province. It is 32 meters high in total. The whole temple perches on the cliff. And it has stood for thousands of years and is considered a miracle of Chinese architecture. Hanging Temple is listed as the “Top Scenic Spot” of the eighteen scenic spots in Mount Hengshan.

Hanging Temple is an architectural wonder. Li Bai, the great poet of the Tang Dynasty, finished his tour of Hanging Temple and wrote down "Zhuang Guan”(magnificent). Xu Xiake, a traveler in the Ming Dynasty, visited the temple and marveled that it was a grand view of the world.

A British architect wrote: "The Hanging Temple in China combines mechanics, aesthetics and religion to make it perfect. Such a peculiar art is rare in the world. The Temple embodies the splendid culture and civilization of the ancient nation. The Temple is not only the pride of the Chinese people but also the pride of the people of the world.

The Monastery,The Hanging Temple
The Monastery

The Hanging Temple consists of two pavilions (North and South Pavilions) and a bridge. There are 40 halls in total in the two pavilions. These buildings do not stand on the same horizontal line but are scattered randomly on the cliff. The long bridge is located between the South and North Pavilion and is about 10 meters long.

The temple is characterized by its steep terrain. The whole monastery is about 50 meters above the ground, like hanging on the cliff of Mount Hengshan (one of China’s Five Sacred Taoist Mountains). In ancient times, a temple usually represents just one kind of religion. However, the Hanging Temple includes three religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. That is actually rare in Chinese temples. In the temple, there are 80 statues made of bronze, iron, clay, and stone.

  • Reasons For Building a Temple on a Cliff

    The Corridor,The Hanging Temple
    The Corridor

Firstly, it’s said that in ancient times, Mount Hengshan is the main road to Mount Wutai (one of the Four Famous Mountains of Buddhism in China) in the south and to Datong (the capital of the North Wei Dynasty) in the north. The Hanging Temple was built here to facilitate people to go to the temple for worship. Moreover, at that time, there were often heavy rains and floods. People thought that the flood was caused by a golden dragon, so they wanted to build a temple to suppress it.

Secondly, in order to avoid the destruction of heavy rain and floods, the Hanging Temple was built on the cliff. The cliff peak is like an umbrella, which protects the temple from rain. Other people point out that the mountain here is like a hanging pot with a hollow in the middle. And the temple hangs at the bottom of the pot. This favorable position protects the temple from strong winds. And the mountain peak on top of the temple reduces the hours of sunlight.

  • How to Build the Hanging Temple

The whole temple is supported by only a dozen wooden pillars as thick as a bowl mouth. The whole temple is a wooden frame structure. The cantilever was half-inserted as the foundation in the steep cliff hole. The pavilions of the temple are interlinked by the plank road. The cross beam of construction is soaked in tung oil in advance, which plays a very good anti-corrosion role. The temple is not big but is spectacular with its back against a steep cliff.

  • The Architectural Characteristics of the Hanging Temple

These are the mysteries of how to build the hanging temple on the cliff.

The Hanging Temple shows the traditions and styles of Chinese architecture. And its architectural features can be summarized into three words "odd, hanging, and ingenious".


What is worthy of being "odd" is the design and location of the temple. Hanging Temple is located in a small basin in a deep mountain gorge, hung in the middle of a rock cliff.

"Hanging" is another characteristic of the Hanging Temple. The temple has 40 halls and pavilions.

The " ingenious " of the Hanging Temple is reflected in the adaptation to local conditions when the temple was built. Ancient craftsmen made full use of the natural state of the cliffs to lie out and construct various parts of the temple. And the design was very delicate.


History of the Hanging Temple

The Night Scene,The Hanging Temple
The Night Scene

Hanging Temple was built in 491. At that time, Pingcheng (now Datong city) was the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Kou Qianzhi, the chief Taoist priest of the Northern Wei Dynasty, left a message before his death: "Build a temple in the sky so that people can talk with the gods in the sky and leave the troubles in the world behind when they visit the temple. Later, his disciples raised funds in many ways and carefully selected the site and design the temple. They built the Hanging Temple in accordance with the thoughts of Taoism of "keep all noises away."

Because of the integration of the three religions in the Hanging Temple, the rulers of the past have protected it. On the stone wall of the Guanyin Hall in the Hanging Temple, there are two stone steles from the Jin Dynasty, with a history of more than 800 years. The inscription on the steles praised the different backgrounds and great achievements of the founders of the three religions. Based on the inscription, the later generations believe that the Hanging Temple is not a Buddhist temple but a temple including three religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism since the Jin Dynasty.

In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Hanging Temple was rebuilt.

In 2010, Hanging Temple was selected by Time magazine as one of the world's ten most endangered buildings.


Main Scenic Spots at the Hanging Temple

The South Pavilion

The South Pavilion,The Hanging Temple
The South Pavilion

The south pavilion has three floors, with a height of 8 meters and a width of 4 meters. In the south building, there are Chunyang Palace, Three Official Palace, and Leiyin Palace. Chunyang Palace is mainly dedicated to worship Lv Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals of Taoism.

The Three Official Palace is the largest one in the entire temple. The statues inside the palace are clay sculpture treasures of the Ming Dynasty. The name of the palace indicates three officials: a “heaven official” who gives people blessings, an “earth official” who pardons sins and a “water official” who drives the evils away. In this palace, the highest clay sculpture is about 2 meters, being the largest statue in Hanging Temple.

Leiyin Temple is a Buddhist temple that is located at the top of the South Pavilion. In Buddhism, when Buddha Sakyamuni preached Buddhist sutras, his voice was as loud as thunder. Therefore, it is called Lei yin Hall.

The North Pavilion

The North Pavilion,The Hanging Temple
The North Pavilion

The north building is about 7 meters high and 4 meters wide, with three floors. It includes Five Buddhas Palace, Guanyin Palace, and Three Religions Palace. The hall of the five Buddhas is located on the bottom floor. Because there are five Buddhas enshrined here, it is called Five Buddhas Palace. Guanyin Hall is on the middle floor. The last palace is a typical one that embodies the unity of the three Religions. It is located at the top of the North Pavilion.

In the Three Religions Palace, there are three sculptures representing three different religions. In the middle is Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism; on the left side is Confucius, the founder of Confucianism and on the right side is Laozi, the founder of Taoism. The three religions exist in one hall, which is very rare in temple buildings all over the country. The architecture of the Hanging Temple shows the integration and harmony of the Chinese nation.

The Long Bridge

The long bridge is located between the South Pavilion and the North Pavilion. It is about 10 meters long. The long bridge combines Buddhist temples, and other halls to form a fantastic landscape.


Story of Hanging Temple

There are two wells in the southeast corner of the Hanging Temple. The water in the wells is separately bitter and sweet. This is a strange phenomenon. Why does this phenomenon appear? This is closely related to the two monks of the Hanging Temple.

One day, the two monks went to the foot of Hengshan Mountain to carry water. But the mountain road is rugged and difficult to walk. They gasped for breath when they had reached halfway through the mountain. Therefore, they decided to start digging wells. They found a low and damp corner in the hill to dig a well. The rock was hard, so they worked hard for forty-nine days. When they dug to ten feet deep, water flow finally appeared in the narrow stone crevice. Two monks smiled joyfully and took the refreshing spring water in both hands and drank it. But it tasted bitter. Thus, the two monks dug a new well next to it. They worked for another forty-nine days and reached a depth of ten feet. Water again came out of a cleft in the rocks. But the water in this well was even more bitter.

Both of them were very tired, and they felt a little depressed. One monk wanted to give up digging the well. But the other monk still persevered. The two monks argued by the well. At last, one monk gave up digging and went away directly, but the other monk went on working. It took him a whole forty-nine days to dig down four feet and five inches. Suddenly, water appeared in the stone crevice unexpectedly. With all his strength, he dug seven more times. And there appeared a spring of freshwater. He scooped up a handful of water and this time it tasted as sweet as honey. From then on, there was sweet water on Hengshan.

Now tourists who visit the Heng Mountain will go to the side of the bitter and sweet well. People cannot help drinking sweet water, and give a disdainful look to the bitter well. To our surprise, there was still so much water in it as if it never dried up although so many people drank from the sweet well.


Our Suggested Route

a. Enter Mountain Hengshan→Golden Dragon Valley→"Hanging Temple scenic Spot" monument→The ticket hall in the scenic spot

b. The flagstone road of the "Hanging Temple" green Park→cable suspension bridge→The staircase corridor in front of the entrance of Hanging Temple

c. The second floor→The South Pavilion→The Long Bridge→The North Pavilion

  • Note: The passageways in the Hanging Temple are all one-way. Only one person can pass between the stairs and the passageways. Visitors must follow the marked route without turning back.


Ways to Get to the Hanging Temple

By Bus

Take a coach from Datong bus station or Xinnan bus station to Hunyuan country. And then you can take a taxi to the Hanging Temple. The price is around 50 yuan.

If you go to the Hanging Temple from the Datong railway station, take bus No. 30 to Xinnan Bus Station. Then take Hengan New District--Hunyuan No.2 line bus to Hunyuan bus station. Finally, you will walk 4 kilometers to reach the Hanging Temple. It's about three hours and forty minutes in all.

If you go to the Hanging Temple from Datong High-speed Railway Station (Datong South Railway Station), take bus No. 61 to Yuexing Household Station. Then transfer to the Datong-Xifutou bus at the same station to reach Xiaonantou Village. Then take Hengan New Area--Hunyuan Line 2 to Hunyuan Bus Station. Finally, you walk to the Hanging Temple. It's about three hours and forty minutes in total.

By Taxi

Chinese: 请带我去悬空寺。English: Please take me to the Hanging Temple.

If you go to the Hanging Temple from Yungang airport, it takes about 70 minutes. (about 178 yuan)

If you go to the Hanging Temple from the Datong High-speed Railway Station (Datong South Railway Station), it takes about 80 minutes. (about 150 yuan)

If you go to the Hanging Temple from the Datong Railway Station, it takes about 90 minutes. (about 200 yuan)


  • Note: There are very few taxis on the return journey.
    The Aerial View,The Hanging Temple
    The Aerial View

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