Big Wild Goose Pagoda
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the famous Buddhist pagodas in China. It is situated in the Da Ci'en Temple, about four kilometres away from the urban centre of Xian.
Da Ci'en Temple was built in 648 AD by Tang emperor Gaozong as an act of filial piety to honour his mother. The temple, with 13 separate courtyards, contained 1,879 magnificent-looking rooms and was a place of excellence in the Tang dynasty (618 - 907 AD). However, it went into gradual decay after the downfall of the Tang dynasty. The halls and rooms that have survived the age are structures that were built in the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644).
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is regarded by locals as a symbol of the city. Initially built in 652 AD, the pagoda has a 5m-high square base and reaches 64.5m in height. It was built to house and protect Buddhist scriptures collected by Xuan Zang, a Chinese monk who spent an epic 17 years travelling to India and back to collect the scriptures and an equal amount of time translating them. His journey has been immortalized in the novel ‘Journey to the West’, one of China's most important literary works.
Pictures of the Heavenly King and of Buddha are on the door frames and horizontal bars on four sides of the pagoda's base. These stone sculptures display peak workmanship, and show vivid shapes and smooth lines. They now serve as an important source of material for the study of painting and sculpture of the Tang dynasty. Out of these artistic works, the one on the horizontal bar of the west door is the most precious. It is a rare piece of art, now used for the study of the Tang architecture.
Inside the temple where the pagoda is situated, there are two small buildings: the one on the east side is home to a bell and the one on the west side a drum. The bell, an iron cast from the Ming dynasty, weighs 15 tons. Together with the drum, the bell was used to announce the time for the monks in the temple.
Inside the Great Hall of the Buddha in the temple there are three incarnations of Sakyamuni. The one in the middle is called Dharmakaya. The one on the west side is called Bao Shen Buddha, and the one on the opposite side is called Ying Shen Buddha.
In the Doctrine Chamber stands the Amitabha Buddha. On the wall at the east side of the chamber, there are three rubbings. The one in the middle is called Xuanzang (Monk Tripitaka) and carries the Scriptures to Chang'an.
In the Tang dynasty, every successful candidate who passed the imperial examinations would have to climb up the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and write poems and inscriptions there. This ritual would symbolise a soaring career in the future. The tradition of writing poems and leaving inscriptions on the horizontal bars over different doors and stone frame-works by the successful candidates of the imperial examinations went on as far as the Ming dynasty. These sand inscribed poems have survived till this day and serve as a fine mirror to the city's past.