After we finished with the Terracotta Army, we exited the site via a designated route through lanes after lanes of souvenir shops, restaurants and theme-park like tourist traps. Prominent national treasures have once again fallen victims to mass tourism and consumerism in today’s highly commercialized China. At the parking lot, we took one of the many buses returning to Xian Railway Station. At the station, we had a late noodle lunch at one of the basic eateries right next to the station plaza. After a forgettable bowl of noodles, we flagged down a taxi and headed south to our next place to visit, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔).
Xian, formerly known as Changan (長安), was the national capital during the Qin and Han Dynasties, as well as the Tang Dynasty during China’s golden age. Other than artefacts in the museums, not many traces of Tang Dynasty remained in the city, except two well-known pagodas that had dominated the city’s skyline for over a millennium, namely the Big Wild Goose and Small Wild Goose Pagoda. The original Big Goose Pagoda and the entire Ci En Buddhist Temple complex (慈恩寺) were built in the Tang Dynasty at AD 652. The complex was built to store the relics and Buddhist texts that Buddhist monk Xuanzang (玄奘) brought back from India. Xuanzang, the famous traveler, translator and Buddhist master who inspired Ming author Wu Cheng En (吳承恩) on writing the epic novel Journey to the West (西遊記), left Tang China for India in AD 629 and returned to Changan in AD 645. Not only did Xuanzang enhanced his Buddhist studies from a number of famous Indian masters, he also wrote a magnificent travelogue that depicted his 16-year journey throughout Central Asia, brought back hundreds of Sanskrit texts on Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism, and returned with many sarira relics. At the original Ci En Temple, Xuanzang spent the remaining 19 years of his life translating the Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Chinese. His translation efforts helped to spread and consolidate Buddhism in East Asia.
The original rammed earth pagoda built in Xuanzang’s time collapsed a few decades after it was built. The Tang Dynasty rebuilt a taller pagoda in AD 704. The top three levels couldn’t withstand an earthquake in 1556 and reduced to the present height of 64m. It was a little crowded up the wooden stair inside the pagoda. Scaffolding was up at the lower two levels, reminding us that the Big Wild Goose Pagoda had gone through a series of extensive repair works, one during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) and one in 1964. Apart from the pagoda, other buildings in the complex of Da Ci En Temple (大慈恩寺) couldn’t survive. The buildings that we visited nowadays dated back to the Qing Dyansty (AD 1644-1912), and occupied roughly one seventh the area of the original Tang complex.
After seeing the pagoda, we walked across the street to the nearby Westin Hotel. Designed by the emerging architectural office in Shanghai, Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, the design of the Westin Hotel revealed a clever interplay of contrasting colours and variation of materials to express a minimalist interpretation of traditional Chinese architecture.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Da Ci En Temple.
Golden Buddha at the main hall of Da Ci En Temple.
Outside the main hall of Da Ci En Temple.
Worshiper outside of another prayer hall at Ci En Temple.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda from below.
View of public plaza and urban axis from the top of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
View of traditional architecture below the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
Staircase inside the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
Urban parks surrounded the Big Wild Goose Pagoda from all four sides.
Statue of Xuanzang in front of Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
A museum attached to the Westin Hotel designed by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office.
Atrium inside the Westin Hotel.
A interior courtyard at the Westin Hotel.
Reception lobby of the Westin Hotel.
By the time we left the Westin Hotel flood lights had already lit up at the pagoda.
Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:
DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China