Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Bells But No Whistles

One of the best kept little secrets in Beijing is an obscure tourist spot right on the third ring road. It is a place that I had been curious about all year, since we had passed it so many times without knowing what is inside. Featuring the largest bell in all of China, this truly deserted but remarkably well kept series of buildings, courtyards, and, of course, a temple was a real treat.

I didn't even know that I liked bells. But as I walked among these beauties I was struck (sorry for the pun!) by both their ages and the detail in their designs. While there were many varieties, top billing undoubtedly goes to the Yongle Bell, which was cast in 1403 to 1424 by Emperor Zhudi during the Ming Dynasty. At 67.5 meters in height, 3.3 meters in diameter, and 46, 500 kilograms in weight, the Yongle Bell is truly massive and bends the 200-year old wooden beams from which it hangs. Inscribed on the outside and inside of the bell are over 230,000 Chinese characters, which are almost dizzying to the eyes. It is enclosed within its own beautifully crafted imperial building and worth a peek to the Beijing rare finds aficionado.

Once again, living in Beijing for an entire cycle of seasons has enabled us to delve beneath the surface of the top-tier tourist traps and into the next tier of tourist treasures. Devoid of crowds, but full of history, places like Dazhong Si are just great for a pop-in visit.



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