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Small Wild Goose Pagoda

                       Small Wild Goose Pagoda Scenic Area

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda Scenic Area is located in the south of Xi'an, about 2 kilometers to the south of ancient City Wall. Covering an area of 16.3 hectares (40.4 acres), it consists of Xi'an Museum, the ancient Jianfu Temple and the famous Small Wild Goose Pagoda.
In this big complex area, Xi'an Museum is in the west. In the central axis, from the north to the south, there erects the White-Clothing Pavilion, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, the Sutra Depository, the Mahavira Hall, the Maitreya Pavilion, with Bell and Drum Towers to its east and west. Verdant and aged Chinese scholar trees proudly stand, lawn space is distributed evenly and colorful peony flowers bloom during their seasons throughout this time-honored complex. Moreover, to the west of the pagoda sits an artificial lake with two stone arch bridges and circular walking lanes, which decorate those old buildings with vitality and tenderness.
First of all, here comes the briefing on the Jianfu Temple since the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Xi’an Museum are both actually located at the site of the translation complex of Jianfu Temple in the Tang Dynasty.
Jianfu Temple was built in 684AD by the order of Empress Wu Zetian in order to offer blessings to the dead Emperor Gaozong (her husband) on the 100th day after his death. That is why it was first called Xianfu temple. Jianfu Temple had been the residence of Crown Prince Li Xian and converted to the temple, which is located to the north of today’s Small Wild Goose Pagoda Scenic Area, on the northern side of You Yi Road.
As a royal temple, and also with the Buddhism promotion by both Empress Wu Zetian and Emperor Zhongzong(Li Xian), Jianfu Temple became magnificent, prosperous and attracted many famous Buddhist monks. Among many of them, Tripitaka Master Yijing (one of the four great Buddhist translators of Tang) stayed there for 8 years and translated 67 Buddhist scriptures which had been carried back from his Indian pilgrimage. Jianfu Temple Pagoda (the Small Wild Goose Pagoda) was built during 707-709 at the site of translation complex of Jianfu Temple at the reign of Emperor Zhongzong.
At the late Tang, due to Zhuwen's rebellion war, Jianfu Temple was destroyed to ruins. It was never rebuilt at its original site later and moved to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda courtyard after Tang Dynasty was over.
Jianfu Temple still kept as a national one during Song, Ming and Qing Dynasties and saw large-scale renovations during Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The eastern stele among the four, standing to the north of the Mahavira Hall, carved in 1449 (Ming Dynasty) was unearthed in 1980, on which with the inscription of a temple renovation. It says: Monk Shao Siji, the head of Janfu temple felt sad about the temple decadence and started to renovate the temple buildings in 1432 by beg alms. However, Emperor Yingzong was upset with his project work, since the building- roofs were covered by green-glazed tiles, which had broken the Ming’s architect rules that regulated only imperial buildings being covered by green-glazed tiles. Monk Shao Siji explained that Jianfu Temple was a royal one built by Empress Wu Zetian with green-glazed tiles on the top of all the buildings in Tang. He begged alms and resurfaced the roofs by the left green-glazed tiles from the past, not done by his own will. Emperor Yingzong changed his mind and rewrote "royally bestowed Jianfu Temple". This wooden board with this inscription is still hanging outside of today’s Maitreya Pavilion.
On the back side of the stele, is a carving picture of Jianfu temple renovation. It shows: The Small Wild Goose Pagoda was date-pit shaped, the upper and lower parts contracted, the middle part widened. The top of the pagoda was quite similar to that of the big wild goose pagoda. This precious stele may have given us the idea about the true face of this 1300- year- old pagoda in the Tang Dynasty since it was carved before two big earthquakes occurred in 1487 and 1556 during which the pagoda was damaged badly.
One large-scale renovation happened at the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1583-1590). The outside of the first story of the pagoda was covered by bricks during this repair, made it much wider than before. It results to the fact that the pagoda became the one we see today, bigger on the lower part, smaller on the upper.
In 1592, Jianfu temple got another big renovation, with 9 main buildings arrayed along the central axis. Today’s Jianfu temple complex generally presents this repair layout.
The stone gate, at the stairs way on the southern side of the pagoda base, was built during the reign of Emperor Guangxu, in 1905.
After the briefing on Jianfu temple and its renovations, next let’s come into the temple complex through the north gate, to look at the buildings, pagoda, pavilions according to priority.
The first big structure facing to us is White-Clothing Pavilion with corridors around upstairs. The White-Clothing Goddess is actually the Goddess of Mercy. So the White-Clothing Pavilion is the Buddhist rites where Guanxin resides. Two merchants from Shanxi Province donated and built it during Ming Dynasty. Another two Shanxi merchants renovated it in Qing Dynasty. These donations and contributions were carved on steles that are standing to the north of White-Clothing Pavilion today.
The Small Wild Goose Pagoda (the Jianfu Temple Pagoda) was built in the year 707-709 A.D during the reign of Emperor Zhongzong to store the Buddhist relics and figures of Buddha carried back by Tripitaka Master Yijing. As it is newer and smaller than the Big Wild Goose Pagoda the name was given to distinguish the two in the Ming Dynasty. Unlike the grand Big Wild Goose Pagoda, it is dainty and exquisite in its appearance with multi-dense-eave structure. Well, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is grand and magnificent with traditional Chinese multi-storied-tower structure. Both these two pagodas were the highest buildings in the great Tang Dynasty. Moreover they are important cultural relics and remaining symbols of ancient Chang'an (the name of Xian in the Tang Dynasty).
This multi-eave brick pagoda is 11- meter-wide at the bottom, thirteen stories tall, reaching 43.38 meters (142 feet) high, standing on the bricks base, 21-meter-wide, 3-meter-high. It is square on plane and rises skyward in an elegant spindle shape. Above the ground floor, the height of each storey diminishes and gradually getting smaller to the top, rendering a graceful curve to the contour. Multi-eaves are made by overlapping bricks which curve outward first and contract inward. The ground floor has arched doors facing north and south; the other floors have arched windows instead. The fine linear drawings of Apsaras, flowers and plants on the north door frame are of line fluency and vigor, reflecting the artistic style prevailing in the early Tang Dynasty. Inside, a narrow stairway winds its way to the top of the pagoda. However, one is standing on the 13th floor without roof on since the 14th and 15th stories were destroyed during earthquakes in 1556.
The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is regarded as “a magic pagoda.” The inscriptions on the northern stone door frame tell some interesting stories: A magnitude 6's earthquake occurred in the year of 1487 and a big crack appeared on the body. Later the earthquakes in 1521 made the crack healed. In 1556, the magnitude 8's earthquakes in Hua County, 130 kilometers away from Xi’an, shocked China. The pagoda was split to two halves and the two upper stories collapsed. But the 1563-year-earthquakes incredibly healed the split pagoda. The similar splitting and healing occurred once more in 1691 and 1721. 
Until to 1965 when a renovation was going on, we got the answer to the wonder.
The pagoda base is made from packed earth in the shape of a half hemisphere. With the diameter of 70 meters at the pagoda bottom, the packed earth base stretches down to 30 meters in radius. In the center of the packed earth, hard stone blocks are laying and lining up first, on which the underground palace was built at the depth of 3.7 meters from the ground. Then on this firm foundation the three-meter-high, 21-meter-wide bricks base of the pagoda is located. Ultimately the Small Wild Goose Pagoda stands on its bricks base and connects with its underground palace. In case of an earthquake, the quake pressure on the body of the pagoda can be evenly divided, thus remarkably, it has been standing proudly like a “tumbler”, and cracks in the pagoda which have occurred during the last earthquake are healed by quakes that come later. The pagoda has remained standing after over seventy earthquakes, all over 4 magnitudes, with only the pinnacle and the two upper floors damaged. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda built in the Tang Dynasty is absolutely a wonder of architectural construction.
To the south of the pagoda are the Sutra Depository and the Mahavira Hall. However those buildings have no more Buddhist functions and serve as exhibition halls of fine Chinese art.
Tall and old Chinese scholar trees of the Tang Dynasty are still growing in the courtyard outside of Mahavira Hall. They are the witness of the past of the ancient temple and pagoda. Those four big stone tablets erecting there are of great values with inscriptions on the construction and renovations.
In the courtyard to the east and west of Mahavira Hall, there erects many old stone hitching posts of various figures collected from northern parts of Shaanxi Province. Some are also lining up along walking lanes as stone guards.
Stone hitching posts prevailed in the Qing Dynasty. They are regarded as “the ornamental columns owned by country people”. The figures on the top of hitching posts are various, mainly including human and animal figures. Lion figures cover 70% of the total number since they were the epitome of giant stone lions erecting outside of office and rich family buildings in old China. Heads of Human figures are made strong and exaggerated big which embodies the folk characteristic: big in size is a kind of beauty. Those hitching posts are full of vitality and country life.
Cishi GE, to the south of Mahavira Hall, is actually Maitreya Pavilion. Cishi is the Indian transliteration of Maitreya. Empress Wu Zetian considered herself as the reincarnated Maitreya in order to ascend the throng of a female emperor. That is the reason why there were both Maitreya Hall and Maitreya Pavilion in the ancient Jianfu Temple.
A giant iron bell 3.5 meters (11.4 feet) in height and about 10 tons in weight resides in the Bell Tower to the east of Maitreya Pavilion today. It was cast in Jin time (1113-1234), made a magnificent clear sound that could be heard more than three miles away in the Qing Dynasty. The elegant pagoda along with the fair-sounding bell chimes is known as “the Morning Bell Chimes of the Pagoda” and is considered one of the eight major cultural sites in the province from then on.
The giant bell was unfortunately exploded by warlord soldiers for weapon materials in 1926. After the explosion, a seven- meter- long crack appeared on the bell. After repairing in 1990s, it can sound again. For better protection, it is stored in the Bell Tower. The iron bell outside the bell tower is a copy of the original one.
The last structure is the entrance gate in the south, the first gate of Jianfu Temple in the past, built in the Qing Dynasty.
By now, we can realize that this is not a true Buddhist temple, but a complex of buildings of Jianfu temple in Ming and Qing dynasties. We enter it by the north gate, the original back gate. That’s why the order of those temple buildings we have visited here is just reverse from the general order of the other Buddhist temples. (Written by Angela Zhangyue)


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Attractions of Xian

  1. Foping Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas
  2. Xian Ox Culture and Ceramics Museum
  3. North Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  4. Changqing Nature Reserve
  5. Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
  6. Chenlu Ancient Town
  7. Maoxian
  8. Xian
  9. Zhaoling Mausoleum
  10. Yong Le Gong Temple
  11. Qianling Mausoleum
  12. Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor
  13. Han Yangling Mausoleum
  14. Shaanxi Foping National Reserve
  15. Famen Temple
  16. Xian Ancient City Wall
  17. Shaanxi History Museum-II
  18. Bell & Drum Towers
  19. Banpo Museum
  20. Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses
  21. Shaanxi Grand Theater
  22. Peasant Painting Exhibition Hall in Huxian
  23. Huxian Farmer's painting
  24. Tang Dynasty Art Museum
  25. Great Mosque
  26. Hui Nationality
  27. Islamic Religion
  28. Qianling Mausoleum
  29. Hukou Waterfalls
  30. Yan'an Pagoda
  31. Shaanxi Delicacy
  32. City God Temple in Sanyuan
  33. Xingqing Palace
  34. Daming Palace
  35. Blue Dragon Temple
  36. Feiyuan Museum
  37. Mount Hua
  38. Shaanxi History Museum
  39. Anwu Village
  40. Welcome Ceremony at the Ancient City Wall
  41. Luoguantai Shrine
  42. Han Maoling Mausoleum
  43. Han Yangling Tomb
  44. Yao Zhou Kiln Museum
  45. Qujiang Pool
  46. Xian Museum
  47. Xian High Tech Industries Development Zone
  48. The Silk Road
  49. Small Wild Goose Pagoda
  50. Forest of Stone Tablets
  51. Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi
  52. Xianyang
  53. Fuping Ceramic Art Village and Fule International Ceramic Art Museum
  54. Huaqing Hot Springs
  55. Banpo Village Museum
  56. Han Changling Mausoleum
  57. Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  58. Daming Palace National Heritage Park
  59. All Day Mall of the Great Tang Dynasty
  60. International Horticulture Exposition 2011 Xian
  61. Drum Tower
  62. Bell Tower
  63. Xingjiao Temple
  64. Bell Tower
  65. Mt.Hua
  66. Pit No.3 of Terra Cotta Army
  67. Pit No.2 of Terra Cotta Army
  68. Pit No.1 of Terra Cotta Army
  69. Dim Sum Delicacy
  70. Tomb of Princess Yongtai
  71. Bronze Chariots and Horses
  72. Tang Paradise

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