Jingci temple(静慈寺) is right across the road from the Leifeng Pagoda. Jingci Temple may not be a well known attraction, but the bell within the temple is more widely known poetically as “Evening Bell at Nanping ” (南屏晚钟) among the Ten Classic Scenes of West Lake. There is even a song from the 80’s in Mandarin with the same name.
Shallow me. I always thought the bell was literally about the bell itself. Before coming to Hanzhou, I imagined a huge and solemn bell housed in a pavilion perched on a hill top, with an old monk wearing orange kashaya robe, chiming the bell dutifully and punctually. It wasn’t anything like it. Not even close. I explored curiously and instead of an old monk chiming the bell, there was an old lady guarding the bell, speaking a Chinese dialect which I could not fathom, waiting to collect a fee from people who would like to chime the bell. That really broke my fantasized imagination.
However, I’ve never chimed a bell so huge so I paid RMB 5 to chime it. It was then I realized it wasn’t about the bell at all. It never was despite the bell being grand, solemn and housed in a dedicated 3 story bell tower. It is about the sound of the bell. The sound is strikingly powerful as you can imagine how much resonance the bell is giving out, yet the sound is soothing, relaxing and you feel so much at ease. It’s a moment of tranquility within yourself. It is the comfort you feel when you hear the bell that makes it one of the Ten Classic Scenes of West Lake.
The originally temple was build more than 1000 years ago during the Southern Song Dynasty that still has a few things that survived from then though most of it has been destroyed during wars and rebuilt again in the 80’s.
These columns were once part o f the Ji Gong Temple that was built after his death in Jingci Temple in the Southern Song Dynasty. Ji Gong, a mad monk who drank alcohol, ate meat (dog meat even) and did all sorts of things despised by his fellow monks, and with his special powers he had made his way into Chinese popular folklore ever since.
The well in Jinci temple is known as the “miraculous well that once delivered timbre” (运木古井) in Chinese folklore. During one occasion, Jingci Temple was burnt after a visit from the fire goddess. Ji Gong managed to get hold of 100 pieces of timbre for the temple’s recostruction and he transported them back on a boat via river. A corrupted government official wanted to tax him for the timbre and Ji Gong managed to escape by sinking all the timbre underneath the river. Few days later, the timbre reappeared, resurfacing from the well. When the workers were lifting the 99th piece of timbre out, someone said “that’s enough”, and the last piece of timbre could never resurface and remained in the well forever. Well I couldn’t see any timbre in the well but I thought that’s a pretty entertaining story!
More Info on Jingci Temple
Address: No.56 Nanshan Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou 310007, China
Opening Hours: Daily 8 am – 5.30pm
Entrance Fee: RMB 10