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Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Tourist Advice

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

The Big Goose Pagoda (Dayan Ta), perhaps the most beautiful building left in Xi'an today, is one of the city's most distinctive and outstanding landmarks. The adjacent Da Ci'en Temple is the city's best-preserved Buddhist temple complex. Situated four kilometres (two-and-a-half miles) south of the walled city at the end of Yanta Lu, or Goose Pagoda Road, the temple and pagoda are on the sites of earlier Sui temple. Da Ci'en Temple was established in 647 CE by Li Zhi (who became Emperor Tang Gaozong in 649 CE) in memory of his mother Empress Wende.

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Completed in 652 CE, the pagoda was built at the request of the Tang monk, Xuan Zang, whose pilgrimage to India is immortalized in the 16th-century Chinese novel Pilgrimage to the West or Monkey. Xuan Zang asked Emperor Gaozong to build a large stone stupa like those he had seen on his travels. The emperor offered a compromise brick structure of five storeys, about 53 metres (174 feet) high, which was completed in 652 CE. Originally called the Scripture Pagoda, it is said to be where Xuan Zang translated into Chinese the Buddhist scriptures he brought back from India. Its present name, Big Goose Pagoda, has never been satisfactorily explained.

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Between 701 and 704 CE, at the end of the reign of Empress Wu, five more storeys were added to the pagoda, giving a sharper, more pointed form than it has today. Later damage, probably by fire, reduced it to the seven storeys it now has. It is a simple, powerful, harmonious structure, although ironically not how Xuan Zang wanted it to be.

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

The pagoda rises 64 metres (210 feet) to the north of the other temple buildings, and is the only remaining Tang building in the complex. On the pedestal, at the entrance to the first storey, are some rather faded photographs providing a useful and fascinating survey of other famous pagodas in China as well as a number of Tang inscriptions and engravings set in the base of the pagoda. There are some delightful tendril designs in bas-relief on the borders of the tablets and at the top of the tablets some exquisite coiling dragons and singing angels.

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

At the southern entrance of the pagoda are copies of the Emperors Taizong and Gaozong's prefaces to the translations of Xuan Zang. Over the lintel of the western entrance is an engraving of Sakyamuni and other Buddhist figures. Some tablets, inscribed during the Ming (1368-1644), recount the exploits of the Tang monk. On a fine day, climb up inside the internal wooden staircase to the top of the pagoda for a panoramic view.

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

During the Tang, Da Ci'en Temple was a considerable establishment. There were about 300 resident monks and no fewer than 1,897 rooms around 13 courtyards. It contained paintings by the leading artists of the day, and had the finest peony garden in the capital.

Although the temple was one of four to continue functioning after the great persecution of Buddhism in the middle of the ninth century, it was destroyed at the end of the Tang (907 CE). Since then it has been ruined and restored several times, but on a diminished scale. The last major restoration occurred in 1954, when the pagoda pedestal was widened.


Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

The temple entrance is on the south side. Inside, to the right and left, are the Bell and Drum Towers, and a path leading to the Great Hall. This contains three statues of Buddhas, surrounded by 18 clay figures of Sakyamuni Buddha's disciples. Both the building and the statues inside are said to date from 1466. In front of the Scripture Library is a stone lamp from the Japanese city of Kyoto. To the east of the Great Hall are several small stone pagodas marking the remains of monks of the Qing period (1644-1911). Some new temple buildings are being constructed behind the pagoda.

Built in Tang style around a courtyard, they will serve as a monument to Xuan Zang and house Buddhist scriptures and details of his life and achievements.

The temple is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. Just around the corner is the Tang Dynasty Arts Museum.


Terracotta Warriors

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Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Xi'an, Chinese History