Big Wild Goose Pagoda

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

Xuanzang started off from Chang’an (the ancient Xian), 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 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.

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’.

 

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.

Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists immediately. They came to Xian in droves to study and to extend the digs. They had established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).

The State Council authorized to build a museum on site in 1975. When completed, people from far and near came to visit. Xian and the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses have become landmarks on all travelers’ itinerary.

Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.

The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters, divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively.

They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China’s National Day, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back.

No. 2 Pit, found in 1976, is 20 meters northeast of No. 1 Pit. It contained over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. It was unveiled to the public in 1994.Archeologists came upon No. 3 Pit also in 1976, 25 meters northwest of No. 1 Pit. It looked like to be the command center of the armed forces. It went on display in 1989, with 68 warriors, a war chariot and four horses.

Altogether over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons have been unearthed from these pits. Most of them have been restored to their former grandeur.

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses is a sensational archeological find of all times. It has put Xian on the map for tourists. It was listed by UNESCO in 1987 as one of the world cultural heritages

Bell Tower

The Bell Tower, is a stately traditional building, that marks the geographical center of the ancient capital. From this important landmark extend East, South, West and North Streets, connecting the Tower to the East, South, West and North Gates of the City wall of the Ming Dynasty.
The wooden tower, which is the largest and best-preserved of its kind in China, is 36 meters (118 feet) high. It stands on a brick base 35.5 meters (116.4 feet) long and 8.6 meters (28.2 feet) high on each side. During the Ming Dynasty, Xian was an important military town in Northwest China, a fact that is reflected in the size and historic significance of its tower.
The tower was built in 1384 by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as a way to dominate the surrounding countryside and provide early warning of attack by rival rulers.
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.
The engravings on the doors of the Tower reflect the decorative fashion of Ming and Qing Dynasties, recounting popular stories of ancient China.
On each side of the base, there is an arched door 6 meters (19.6feet) high. In the past, vehicles were allowed to pass through the arches and under the tower, but as the city has grown the volume of traffic has become too great, so a bright, spacious pedestrian subway has been constructed under the tower. The entrance to the tower is from this subway.
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.
The Bell Tower definitely deserves a visit on your trip to Xian.

Forest of Stone Steles Museum

Once the site of the Temple of Confucius during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), the Forest of Stone Steles Museum is situated on Sanxue Street, near the south gate of Xian City Wall. It was initially established in 1087A.D.. when some precious stone steles were moved here for safe keeping, including the ‘Classic on Filial Piety’ written by Emperor Xuanzong in 745A.D. and ‘the Kaicheng Stone Steles’ carved in 837A.D.. With an area of 31,000 square meters, the Forest of Stone Steles used to be the principal museum for Shaanxi Province since 1944. Then because of the large number of stone steles, it was officially named as the Forest of Stone Steles Museum in 1992.

With 900 years of history, this treasure house holds a large collection of the earliest stone steles of different periods, from the Han Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. All together, there are 3,000 steles and the museum is divided into seven exhibitions halls, which mainly display the works of calligraphy, painting and historical records. All of these record some achievements in the development of the Chinese culture and reflect the historical facts of the cultural exchanges between China and other countries

Tang Paradise

Near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Tang Paradise is located in the Qujiang Resort, southeast of the Xian City, Shaanxi Province. It is a newly opened tourist attraction in April, 2005. Tang Paradise covers a total area of 1000 mu (about 165 acres) and of which 300 mu (about 49 acres) is water. This tourist attraction not only claims to be the biggest cultural theme park in the northwest region of China but also the first royal-garden-like park to give a full display of the Tang Dynasty’s (618-907) culture. Altogether, twelve scenic regions are distributed throughout Tang Paradise to provide visitors with the enjoyment of twelve cultural themes and a perfect exhibition of the grandness, prosperity and brilliance of the culture of the Tang Dynasty.

What makes Tang Paradise incredible is that it is no longer the garden mode of only water and mountains in the Chinese traditional sense. The outstanding designers of the magnificent Tang Paradise have integrated almost everything representative of the Tang Dynasty, such as the poetry, the songs and dance, the marketplaces, the food, the women’s lifestyles, and science into every site using cultural themes, thus endowing every place with its own story and its own place in the tapestry of Tang Dynasty culture.

In the large number of buildings at Tang Paradise, one may see almost all architectural types of characteristic of the Tang Dynasty. In addition there are establishments for relaxing and song and dance shows about the civilization of the Tang Dynasty. Strolling in Tang Paradise, you are assured to get a full enjoyment, making you feel as if you were in a fairyland.

Many firsts are created here: the first and largest scale of buildings modeled on the Tang style in China, the first and most considerable groups of sculptures to show the poetic culture in the Tang Dynasty in China, the first and biggest single architecture modeled on the Tang style throughout China, the first theme park in China to cater to the five sense (vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste), the grandest fragrant project of the outdoors in the world, and the most spectacular water film on earth. Tang Paradise is praised as ‘Garden of History’, ‘Garden of Spirit’, ‘Garden of Nature’, ‘Garden of Human Culture’ and ‘Garden of Art’.

The most special and amazing feast in Tang Paradise is taste. The word ‘taste’ here does not refer to the delicious smell of food, but means that the whole Tang Paradise, like a fair lady, is full of aroma. Unbelievable, isn’t it? But definitely true! You may wonder why. The secret is that there are incense burners here. Every few meters on both sides of the paths in Tang Paradise, there is an incense burner which looks like a street lamp. It is only 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) tall with incense coils burning inside. It is this fragrance that makes the whole place seem like mysterious Xanadu. Thus wherever you walk in Tang Paradise, assuredly, you can be embraced by its faint redolence.

In Tang Paradise, another surprising man-made wonder is the water film which claims to be the foremost in the whole world. The screen of the movie is a film of water; thus it can create a special kind of optical effect which makes the frame tridimensional. When watching the movie, you can witness that the beautiful night and the fan-like water surface become an ingenious integration. Every time the figures in the movie appear on the screen, it seems that they are flying to the sky or coming down from the heaven which throws you into a wonderful and illusory feeling that you were personally on the scene. Splendid, indeed!

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