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Temple First Bell Tower

The Temple Bell is found on the second floor of the Bell Tower, to the right of the mountain gate. The Temple Bell is one of the most important musical instruments in a temple; listening to the sounds produced by the bell is said to give you a clear mind, improve your wisdom, avoid future disasters and receive blessings. Tolling the Bell is one of the ways to welcome the Chinese New Year and wish for good fortune.

Bell Tower and Bell in BTRTM

Description

Measuring roughly 211 cm (height) × 136 cm (diameter), our temple bell, with an inverted ‘U’-shaped body, is a prime example of a traditional life-sized chinese zhong or bell.

Surmounted by a handle in the form of a double-headed dragon facing opposite directions but gazing up and back towards the centre, its body is segregated into six distinct sections from top to bottom (see diagram above). The upper and lower sections (1) are borders rimmed with an ornate floral pattern.

Below the upper decorative rim is a section (2) consisting of twenty eight (seven columns by four rows) raised bosses (round ornamental protuberances or studs). This portion is divided cardinally into four. Separating these are four long panels, two of which are undecorated panels with a single middle dividing vertical line (3) whilst two on opposite sides (facing South-West and North-East) contain vertical Li Shu-styled (隶书) calligraphy. The South-West panel (4) spells out the name of our temple together with the date of construction while the North-East panel has names of sponsors followed by the name of the bell foundry at the bottom. Directly below the temple’s name panel, located approximately two thirds down, is a circular disk (5) (diameter: 21 cm) enclosing an eight-petalled lotus motif which marks the spot where the gong stick should strike. A similar disk is found below the sponsors’ names’ panel.

Encircling the bell horizontally and connecting with the two disks are four parallel straight lines with the middle two closer to each other (6). Where these four lines meet the blank panels, their top and bottom lines converge towards and meet the middle two lines, forming an ‘X’ (7).
About Temple Bell Tower and Bell

Our bronze temple bell weighs 3 tons, according to the Tang dynasty design, with an antique look. Its sound is melodious and so touching. Each toll of the bell lasts 2 minutes as the deep resonating sound refuses to fade. It is inscribed with the Temple’s name and the names of the sponsors.A bell tower (also belfry) is a tower which contains one or more bells, or which is designed to hold bells, even if it has none.

Bell towers (Chinese: Zhonglou, Japanese: Shōrō) are common in China and the countries of the related cultures. They may appear both as part of a temple complex or as an independent civic building, often paired with a drum tower, as well as in local church buildings. Among the best known examples are the Bell Tower (Zhonglou) of Beijing and the Bell Tower of Xi’an.

 

In the Eastern world, the traditional forms of bells are temple and palace bells, the small ones being rung by a sharp rap with a stick, and very large ones rung by a blow from the outside by a large swinging beam.

The bell is rung to signal the time, to call people to worship, for special events such as weddings and funerals, or historically to sound a civil defense or fire alarm.

 

Bells and drums were musical instruments in ancient China. Later they were used by government and common people as timepieces. The Bell and Drum towers were the center of Chinese chronology during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. In more recent times, the top of bells in China was usually decorated with a small dragon, known as pulao; the figure of the dragon served as a hook for hanging the bell. According to Chinese legends, dragon gave birth to nine sons, and pulao was the fourth. He stayed at the seaside and was very afraid of whales. When attacked by a whale, the small dragon would scream out of fear. Because of this tale, pulao became part of a bell. The beam used to hit the bell was also carved into the shape of a whale. People believed that, by doing so, it would help the sound of bell to become larger.

The introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the mid-6th century led to the development of large hanging bronze bells without a clapper rung with a mallet or hanging beam. They are generally suspended in dedicated bell towers or shōrō. The oldest extant of these bells date back to the late-7th century and have been designated as National Treasures. The bells were either engraved or cast in relief, with outer surfaces showing vertical and horizontal relief bands, a boss ornament on the upper wall that sometimes included text, and handles typically shaped in a dragon motif.

Bells intended to be rung are usually made by casting bell metal (a high-copper bronze alloy) of a size appropriate for the pitch the bell is intended to produce. Fine tuning of metal bells is achieved on a lathe where a precise amount of material is removed from the inside of the bell in order to produce a true tone with correct harmonics. Bells are used often to play a chime sequence and so must be well tuned in order to produce a correct scale of musical notes.
Development of BTRTM Temple Bell

After an exhaustive search of the numerous bell foundries, Ven Shi Fa Zhao awarded the construction of our Temple bell to the Wuhu Shipyard of the China State Shipbuilding (Group) Corporation, Wuhu (along the Yangtze River), China, which produced the best and most melodic temple bells in China. The Tang inspired design Temple Bell was cast in the Wuhu factory on 24th June 2006, following a blessing ceremony, together with the sponsors.

It was shipped to BTRTM and placed in the Bell Tower. It was consecrated in a blessing ceremony on 28 April 2007.

Bell ritual takes place at bell tower during the morning opening ceremony and evening closing ceremony.
Bibliography:

  1. Japanese Architecture and Gardens, Hirotaro Ota, Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, 1966, page 90

Websites:

  1. Bell tower – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Shōrō – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Bell (instrument) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  4. JAANUS / shourou 鐘楼
  5. Bellfounding – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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