Home to the biggest bell in China, the Great Bell Temple (Dàzhōng Sì, 大钟寺) was built in 1733 during the Qing Dynasty. The bell itself, known as the "King of Bells," was cast in 1405 during the rule of the Ming Emperor Yongle. Covered with Buddhist writings in Chinese and Sanskrit, the bell weighs a hefty 46.5 tonnes (51 tons) and is 6.75 m (22 ft 2 in) tall. It's rung 108 times—a lucky number—on special occasions such as the Chinese New Year.
The legend behind this behemoth of a bell, tells that the emperor commissioned an old man to forge a huge bell. The man tried four times, but the mold cracked each time. At this point, the impatient emperor threatened to have the poor bell maker executed if he failed again. The bell maker's daughter, upon hearing this, did her filial duty and sacrificed herself for the good of her father (and, as it turned out, the future Chinese tourism industry): as the fifth and fatal bell was being cast, she hopped into the smelting pot, infusing the molten metal with her pure-hearted and virginal essence.
Despite his heartache, the old bell maker followed through with the casting and when the mold was broken, there it was: the Great Bell. To this very day, legend has it that the girl's final cries can be heard in the tones of the bell when it's rung. If you'd like a piece of the bell maker's luck you can get it with a far more modest sacrifice—from the circular hall above the bell, toss a few coins through the opening in the top of the Great Bell and good things will come your way.
The complex also houses a bell museum that showcases hundreds of bells from around China and the world. Most of these are beautifully inscribed with Chinese and Tibetan characters relating the wisdom of the Buddha.
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