Xi’an Great Ci’en Temple and Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Located in the southern suburbs of Xi’an, both the Great Ci’en Temple and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda are key historical sites and important landmarks of Xi’an.

Xi'an Great Ci'en Temple

The Great Ci’en Temple was built in AD 648 during the Tang Dynasty by Emperor Gao Zong in memory of his mother Empress Wende. It was the most famous and grandest Buddhist sanctuary in Chang’an (present Xi’an), the capital of the Tang Dynasty. The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower stand facing each other in the compound. The iron bell in the Bell Tower weighs 15 tons and is more than three meters high. In the main temple, three statues of Buddha are flanked by the 18 Arhats, or Luohan. Names of the scholars who had passed the imperial examinations for civil service in the Tang Dynasty would be inscribed on the lower part of the Ci’ensi Pagoda (present Big Wild Goose Pagoda). Many murals were drawn in the Great Ci’en Temple in the Tang Dynasty. It’s a pity they have long disappeared.

Pilgrims at the Great Ci'en Temple

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda in the Great Ci’en Temple was built in AD 652 to enshrine the Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit and portraits and relics brought back from India by the Eminent Buddha Monk Xuanzang after his 15-year pilgrimage to India. Xuanzang, whose adventures are recorded in the one of the best-known works of Chinese literature Journey to the West, spent the last 19 years of his life translating the Sanskrit sutras into Chinese with a crack team of linguist monks. Many of these translations are still used today.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of China’s best examples of a Tang-style pagoda (squarish rather than round). The original pagoda of five stories was destroyed. The reconstructed one had ten stories. The structure was rebuilt again in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty and its exterior brick facade was renovated during the Ming Dynasty. The present pagoda has seven stories and is 64 meters high. It is in the shape of a pyramid, filled with earth and lined with bricks. The wall of each story is covered with thin, long and flat pillars and has lintels of bricks. Each story has a door in the middle. The door lintels and doorframes are decorated with beautifully carved patterns in neat composition and powerful lines. They are important data for the study of architecture in ancient China.

Statue of Buddhist monk Xuanzang

A park and huge plaza surrounded the temple, and locals gather here after work to fly kites, stroll hand in hand, and practice calligraphy. In the evening, a popular water-fountain show synchronized to music is held on the square in front of the temple.

ADD: Yanta Nanlu, Xi’an

Admission: 50yuan, additional 30yuan is needed to climb the pagoda.

Opening hours: 08:00am – 17:00pm

Getting there: Take Subway Line 2 to Xiaozhai Station (Exit C) and walk forward to the North Square for 10 minutes. Take bus 5, 19, 21, 23, 24, 34, 41, 44, 224, 237, 242, 400, 408, 501, 521, 526, 527, 601, 606, 109, 701, or tourist Bus Line 6, Line 8 (610) or Line 9 and get off at the stop of Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

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