Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda or Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda located in southern Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China. It was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty and originally had five stories, although the structure was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian and its exterior brick facade was renovated during the Ming Dynasty. One of the pagoda's many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang. Standing in the Da Ci'en Temple complex, it attracts numerous visitors for its fame in the Buddhist religion, its simple but appealing style of construction, and its new square in front of the temple. It is rated as a National Key Cultural Relic Preserve as well as an AAAA Tourist Attraction. As for the reason why it is called Big 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 it got the name 'Big Wild Goose Pagoda'. First built to a height of 60 meters (197 feet) with five stories, it is now 64.5 meters (211.6 feet) high with an additional two stories. It was said that after that addition came the saying-'Saving a life exceeds building a seven-storied pagoda'. Externally it 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 Xian 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.
North Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Surrounding Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the scenery is also quite charming, especially the square north of the Da Ci'en Temple. Covering about 110,000 square meters (131,563 square yards) plus 20,000 square meters (23,920.6 square yards) of water area, it holds many records: in Asia, it is the biggest Tang-culture square, the biggest musical fountain and waterscape square, and the largest-scale sculptures area. In the world, it has the most benches, the longest light-belt, and the largest-scale acoustic complex. The entire square is composed of waterscape fountains, a cultural square, gardens and tourist paths. There you can taste real Chinese culture and traditions and fully enjoy the truly attractive views. With reliefs on the theme of the prosperous Tang Dynasty, 200-meter-long (656-foot-long) sculpture groups, 8 groups of sculpted figures, 40 relievos on the land, and 22 styles of musical fountains, it has become a must-see when you visit Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
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The Great Mosque of Xi'an located near the Drum Tower (Gu Lou) on 30 Huajue Lane of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, is the oldest and one of the most renowned mosques in the country. The Great Mosque of Xi'an is a tranquil and historic mosque that has served Xian’s Muslim community for more than a millennium. The largest and best preserved of the ancient mosques of China, its buildings are a fascinating fusion of Chinese and Arabian styles. It was first built in the Tang Dynasty (reign of Emperor Xuanzong, 685-762), and renovated in later periods (especially during the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty). It remains a popular tourist site of Xi'an, and is still used by Chinese Muslims (mainly the Hui people) today as a place of worship. Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, the Great Mosque of Xi'an is completely Chinese in its construction and architectural style, except for some Arabic lettering and decorations, for the mosque has neither domes nor traditional-style minarets. The first courtyard contains an elaborate wooden arch nine meters high covered with glazed tiles that dates back to the 17th century. In the center of the second courtyard, a stone arch stands with two steles on both sides. On one stele is the script of a famous calligrapher named Mi Fu of the Song Dynasty; the other is from Dong Qichang, a calligrapher of the Ming Dynasty. Their calligraphy because of such elegant yet powerful characters is considered to be a great treasure in the art of handwriting. At the entrance to the third courtyard is a hall that contains many steles from ancient times. As visitors enter this courtyard, they will see the Xingxin Tower, a place where Muslims come to attend prayer services. A 'Phoenix' placed in the fourth courtyard, the principal pavilion of this great mosque complex, contains the Prayer Hall, the surrounding walls of which are covered with colored designs. This Hall can easily hold 1,000 people at a time and according to traditional custom, prayer services are held five times everyday respectively at dawn, noon, afternoon, dusk and night. Behind the prayer hall, accessed through two round moon gates, is the fifth courtyard. Here there are two small man-made hills used for the ceremonial viewing of the new moon. Inside the Great Mosque are such treasures as hand-copied Korans from the Ming dynasty and a calendar stone called "the Moon Tablet". Although there is no minaret, the "Introspection Tower", a two story pagoda, serves the same function.
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The Bell Tower of Xi'an, built in 1384 during the early Ming Dynasty, is a symbol of the city of Xi'an and one of the grandest of its kind in China. The Bell Tower also contains several large bronze-cast bells from the Tang Dynasty. The tower base is square and it covers an area of 1,377 square meters. The tower is a brick and timber structure and close to 40 meters high. The tower has three layers of eaves but only two stories. Inside, a staircase spirals up. The grey bricks of the square base, the dark green glazed tiles on the eaves, gold-plating on the roof and gilded color painting make the tower a colorful and dramatic masterpiece of Ming-style architecture. In addition to enhancing the beauty of the building, the three layers of eaves reduce the impact of rain on the building. On the second floor, a plaque set in the west wall records the relocation of the tower in 1582. When it was first built in 1384, it stood near the Drum Tower of Xian on the central axis of the city, and continued to mark the center of the city since Tang Dynasty and the following the Five Dynasties and the Song and Yuan Dynasties. As the city grew, however, the geographical center changed. Therefore, in 1582, the Tower was moved 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) east of the original site. Except for the base, all parts are original, and history tells us that the relocation was accomplished quickly and inexpensively, making it a truly notable achievement in the architectural history in China. Originally, the northwest corner of the tower housed the famous Jingyun Bell from the Tang Dynasty. Legend has it that although nothing had changed in the tower, the Jingyun Bell fell silent during the Ming Dynasty, so the current bell, a much smaller one weighing only 5 tons, was cast. The original Jingyun Bell can now be seen in Forest of Stone Steles Museum. A fenced-in area around the tower is planted with grass and flowers. In early spring, the tender plum blossoms and bright new grass surrounding the old tower provide a harmonious contrast. Not far from the Tower, modern shopping malls and a brightly decorated square reveal the prosperity of the city. When night falls, lanterns hung from the eaves illuminate the tower, making it even more enchanting.