Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Maiden's Ghostly Bell

Frommer's describes the great bell in Da Zhongsi as a bell so vast and beautiful it could "bring out the hunchback" in anyone.  The temple that was once called the Awakened Life Temple is located just outside of Beijing.  Since 1743, the temple has taken a new name.  It has become know as Da Zhongsi or The Great Bell Temple.  The Great Bell that resides in this temple is carved with over 200,000 characters in Chinese and Sanskrit and weighs more than 47 tons.  The bell is a huge attraction and is the 2nd largest bell in the world.  It is rung only once a year at New Years and is also said to be haunted.

According to Lafcadio Hearn, there is an old story attached to this bell that goes back over 500 years.    During this time the Great Emperor Yongluo who was said to be the son of heaven, from the Ming Dynasty, commissioned the construction of a great bell.  He ordered the bell be made of brass, gold, and silver so that when it rang it could be heard for over a hundred miles.  He commissioned the work from a master bell maker and  the work began.  Sadly, the construction of this bell seemed to be an impossible labor.  The bell maker worked night and day  and hired all the master molders of the empire to create this goliath creation.  Yet despite the most brilliant artisans and the best materials, the metals rebelled against each other and would not mingle.  Twice the master bell smith tried to make the great bell and twice he failed.

Yongluo heard of the bell smith's failure and grew angry.  He send him a letter that said:

      "From the Mighty Yongluo, the Sublime Taizong, the Celestial and August -whose reign is called "Ming"- to Guanyu the Fuyin:  twice thous hast betrayed the trust we have deigned graciously to place in thee.  If thous fail a third time in fulfilling our command, thy head shall be severed from thy neck.  Tremble, and obey."

The bell maker had a beautiful daughter, Ge-ai,  who he loved above all other things in the world and she heard of the words the emperor had sent to her father.  She loved her father greatly and set out to save his life.   She went to a fortune teller to see if there was anything she could do to save her father's life.   The fortune teller told her that the gold and brass in the bell would never meet in wedlock unless it was bound by the blood of a virgin.  Ge-ai didn't think long on this, but she went straight to her father's foundry.  There she found him preparing to cast the third bell.  As the metal poured, she leaped into the liquefied metal and vanished.  As she fell she cried out to her father that she died for love of him.   Ge-ai's father tried to leap in after his beloved daughter, but he was held back and all stood speechless.   Nothing of Ge-ai remained but a single red slipper.

The bell was cast and never had there been a bell of such beauty and size.   When it rang, it could be heard for more than a hundred miles and people said that in its ring they could hear the sound of  Ge-ai crying out.  She cried out for her lost life and  for her single, lost slipper.


5 comments:

Jeffery said...

Nice one Jess! Resonance and Ghosts seem to go together! I toured the Bell Towers at Notre Dame while it was being restored back in the early 90's and there's a few grim tales that surround them too!..Cheers!

Adsila said...

You seem to find the most fascinating stories. This one was a bit sad and sweet as well.

Jessica Penot said...

Jeffrey... I just went to the Notre Dame Towers and I don't remember those stories. I remember the Louvre ghost stories and Chenenceau. I guess I need to get out my old albums and review.

Adsila.. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jeffery said...

Here's a morsel to get the curiosity flowing...

http://www.oldandsold.com/articles04/paris8.shtml

Cheers!

Courtney Mroch said...

I send Adsila's comment!