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 Essential Architecture-  Peking

Great Bell Temple




on the western outskirts of Beijing in Beisanhuan Xilu (western section of the North 3rd Ring Road)




Qing Dynasty




Great Bell Temple
(dazhong si)

The Great Bell Temple is located on the western outskirts of Beijing. The temple houses China's largest bell made in 1406 under the reign of emperor Yongle in the Ming dynasty. The bell is 7 meters (23ft) high, 3 meters (10ft) in diameter and 46.5 tons in weight. 17 Buddhist scriptures are inscribed on the entire surface of the Bell both inside and out, totaling 227,000 Chinese characters.

It is said that when the bell is struck, its toll can be heard several kilometers away. 31 other bronze bells from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties are on display in the courtyard.


Ancient Bells Museum at the Great Bell Temple

The Ancient Bells Museum at the Great Bell Temple, a specialized museum in China, is located on the northern side of the Great Bell Temple in Beisanhuan Xilu (western section of the North 3rd Ring Road). The temple was first built in the 11th year (1733) during the Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and was one of the rain-praying places of the Qing emperors. In March 1980, the Storage Bureau of the Cultural Relics of the Great Bell Temple was set up. In October 1985, the Ancient Bells Museum at the Great Bell Temple was built.

The museum houses more than 400 Chinese bells, including Yue Bell (chime), Chao Bell (bell set in the imperial court), Fo Bell (bell set in Buddhist temples), Dao Bell (bell set in Taoist temples) and Jingang Bell (Tibetan Bell). Among the bells, six belong to the Class One collections, and the highest is about 7 meters and the smallest is just the size of the palm. The most precious one is Yongle Big Bell, which was cast around 1420 during the Yongle reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and is 6.75 meters in height and 3.3 meters in diameter. Its weight is approximately 46.5 tons.

Yongle Big Bell is reputed as the "King Bell" for the following five excellences:

1. It is the oldest bell in the world;

2. More than 100 kinds of Buddhist Inscriptions are cast tidily on the outside and inside body of the bell with more than 230,000 words in total;

3. The ring of bell can be heard 40 to 50 kilometers away. The sound is very melodious and euphonious. Its acoustic performance is quite good;

4. The mechanical construction of the big bell is very scientific;

5. Its casting is fine and the craftsmanship is excellent.

The museum has a space of 25,000 square meters for exhibitions. The basic displays in the museum include the Display of the History of the Great Bell Temple, the Display of the Brief History of Ancient Bells, the Display of Bell Casting Techniques, the Display of Inscriptions on the King Bell, and so on. The museum also arranges some serial bells, Fo Bell, etc., for visitors to ring and entertain themselves. It has published the Culture of Ancient Bells, a book in series.