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Jingci Temple

Jingci Temple (jìng cí sì 净慈寺) , or Monastery of Pure Benevolence , is noted for its Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill , one of the traditional “Top Ten ”of West Lake . As a matter of fact , Jingci Temple itself became well-known as early as the Southern Song Dynasty , when it was regarded as ong of the four famous Buddhist temples at West Lake . Even Nanping Hill , which stands behind the temple , was called “the Hill of Buddhist Kingdom”.
Dating back to 954 , Jingci Temple has been built and rebuilt several times since the Southern Song dynasty . With its back towards Nanping Hill in the north , the temple faces the south shore of West Lake . It is more favorably sited than Lingyin Temple in terms of fen shui.
Off Nanshan Road, built in 954, Jingci Temple has a huge 10-ton bell inside. Located on Nanping Road, they ring the bell 108 times here to ring in Chinese New Year. It is also rung every evening for much fewer times. Jingci Temple is the site of the legend of the miraculous well, which can be seen on the grounds of the temple.
Now the temple consists of three big halls respectively in the front, middle and back. The Main Shrine Hall  is in the middle. In the west of the Main Shrine Hall is Jizu Hall  in front of which there is a Wood - Carrying Ancient Well The well is a special attraction in the temple. A large piece of wood floating on the surface of the water in the well. It was allegedly left by Master Ji (jì gōng 济公) when he used his superhuman power to carry wood through the well to build the temple. According to record of Ci Si Zhi Master Ji entered into religion in the Lingyin Temple, later he moved to Jingci Temple and lived there in his rest life.

There is a stele pavilion inscribed with four big characters “Nan Ping Wan Zhong” on the right side of the temple’s gate. The Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill is striked here. The bell has a long standing reputation in the history. The poet Zhang Dai in Tang Dynasty described bell like this, "The night air is in the Nanping Hill, the wind is as thin as paper, the bell ring emerged from the top, the night air crossing the river." Ming Taizu Hongwu  Period (1368 - 1398), a huge bell was casted, the bell weighs about 20,000 Jin . When evening comes, the sun falls to the west, the bell echoed in the mountains and clear blue sky. As there are many grotesque caves and stones in Nanping Hill, the echo of the bell resounded back to the rocks, so the bell ring can spread to more than 10 miles away.

It is said that Emperor Kangxi  had visited to the top ten views in West Lake. He built many pavilions, including the stele pavilion of Nan Ping Wan Zhong. Unfortunately, in the late Qing dynasty, the bronze bell has disappeared in the chaos of war, so people could not hear the ring. Until October 1984, the bronze bell had been recasted under the help of Buddhist circles in Japan. In recently years, when New Year’s Eve comes, personages of all circles in Hang Zhou, foreign guests, oversea Chinese and visitors will gather in and outside the bell tower of Jingci Temple to strike the bell. When the 108 bell rang, it is just the time of New Year. This event symbolizes peace, happiness, stability and unity, it pours new meanings and charms to the ancient Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill.

You could live here for years and never visit this place. A temple is a temple, right? But, what makes Jingci Temple such a draw to pilgrims from all around is the famous rebel monk Ji Gong (a.k.a. Crazy Ji) who lived here during the Southern Song Dynasty. People like this monk because of his flagrant disregard for decorum and monastic rules. He ate meat. He drank wine. He was arrogant. He didn't have proper summer or winter clothes. He was a scruffy drunk who could always be seen carrying an old fan and a gourd of wine, and any extra money he had went towards replenishing his wine supply. (Is it possible that our head is Ji Gong incarnate?) Yet, he was compassionate, generous, upright and honest. He gave to the poor and supposedly had magical powers to heal them. And he was a fantastic poet (OK, the Ed. isn't exactly like Old Crazy). Check out the smiling visage of Ji Gong at the rear of the main hall. He's small, but definitely one of the happier buddhas you'll see. Jingci is no Lingyin (which is coincidentally where Ji Gong was ordained), but it does bare some historical significance. The 'Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill' is one of the Ten Views of West Lake. Traditionally, it's where the old year is rung out and the new year rung in. Make a half day tour of this side of the lake by checking out Leifeng Pagoda, throwing some food to the turtles in the pond, and then crossing the street to pay a visit to the 'Living Buddha' Ji Gong. Afterwards, you can have a nice vegetarian meal at Jing Lian Ju Vegetarian Restaurant and walk it off on the Su Causeway. Not a bad day at all.
Address: No. 56 Nanshan Road (nán shān 南山路), West Lake District (xī hú qū 西湖区), HangZhou City, Zhejiang Province
Admission fee: RMB 10
Opening hours: 7:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Bus: No. K4, 504, Y1, 2, 3, Holiday 5, or 7

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