Xi’an: Big Swan Pagoda

De Wilde Gans Pagode, gebouwd in 648 na Christus, is opgericht in het midden van een groots tempelcomplex. De tempel bestaat uit 7 verdiepingen, allemaal toegankelijk voor bezoekers. De tempel werd gebouwd door de monnik Xuan Zhang om de boeddhisten vanuit India onderdak te geven. Deze monniken brachten Indische produkten met zich mee vanuit India en werden dan opgeslagen in de tempel.

De tempel heeft vele mooie tuinen en ontzagwekkende gebouwen. De tempel is gebouwd in de stijl van de Tang-dynastie. Destijds wilde elke geslaagde kandidaat voor het monnikschap de tempel beklimmen en gedichten graveren op de top. Vandaag de dag is de tempel het symbool van Xi’an en tevens het logo van de stad.

 

Originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Giant Wild Goose Pagoda functioned to collect Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the hierarch Xuanzang.

Xuanzang started off from Chang’an (the ancient Xi’an), along the Silk Road and through deserts, finally arriving in India, the cradle of Buddhism. Enduring 17 years and traversing 100 countries, he obtained Buddha figures, 657 kinds of sutras, and several Buddha relics. Having gotten the permission of Emperor Gaozong (628-683), Xuanzang, as the first abbot of Da Ci’en Temple, supervised the building of a pagoda inside it. With the support of royalty, he asked 50 hierarchs into the temple to translate Sanskrit in sutras into Chinese, totaling 1,335 volumes, which heralded a new era in the history of translation. Based on the journey to India, he also wrote a book entitled ‘Pilgrimage to the West’ in the Tang Dynasty, to which scholars attached great importance.

First built to a height of 60 meters (197 feet) with five storeys, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is now 64.5 meters (211.6 feet) high with an additional two storeys. It was said that after that addition came the saying-‘Saving a life exceeds building a seven-storey pagoda’. Externally Big Wild Goose Pagoda looks like a square cone, simple but grand and it is a masterpiece of Buddhist construction. Built of brick, its structure is very firm. Inside the pagoda, stairs twist up so that visitors can climb and overlook the panorama of the city from the arch-shaped doors on four sides of each storey. On the walls are engraved fine statues of Buddha by the renowned artist Yan Liben of the Tang Dynasty. Steles by noted calligraphers also grace the pagoda.

As for the reason why it is called Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, there is a legend. According to ancient stories of Buddhists, there were two branches, for one of which eating meat was not a taboo. One day, they couldn’t find meat to buy. Upon seeing a group of big wild geese flying by, a monk said to himself: ‘Today we have no meat. I hope the merciful Bodhisattva will give us some.’ At that very moment, the leading wild goose broke its wings and fell to the ground. All the monks were startled and believed that Bodhisattva showed his spirit to order them to be more pious. They established a pagoda where the wild goose fell and stopped eating meat. Hence its name.

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