Last month we traveled around the World Wide Web, peeking at various weird places on the internet. We were treated to some pretty bizarre stuff and frankly… we barely scratched the surface. There is a cornucopia of weirdness out there just waiting for cyber explorers to drop by.
This month, I thought we would climb out of the internet and drop in on some of the weird places this rock we call Earth has to offer. While researching the weirdness I was presented with a dilemma of vast proportions. With as much weird as the planet has to offer, which one comes first.
The “Hanging Monastery” of Datong, China, built more than 1,500 years ago is attached to a precipice high above the wooded Golden Dragon River (Jinlong he). Its Chinese name is Xuankong Si, sometimes written as Xuan Kong Si, which literally translates as the Monastery in Mid Air.
The cliff-side structures were built in 491 AD using architectural techniques way ahead of its time. Horizontal shafts were bored into the side of the mountain to serve as anchor points. Large wooden dowels were cut from single trees and then driven into the holes. The depth of the holes and the hardness of the rock provided a strong cantilevered base to build on.
The reason Xuankong Si was built so high above the ground may be one of practicality – defense against marauders or protection from floods. The more romantic version is that the Monks were dedicated to silence and so high above the ground they might achieve this ideal. It is said that they were forbidden to hear the barking of dog, the wailing of a child or even the sound of a rooster crowing as it welcomed the dawn. It is now largely a tourist attraction but caretakers are said to still live in its caves and halls.