The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is located inside the Ci En Buddhist Temple to the south of Xian downtown. It is a live Buddhist temple still with many monks resides there. The temple was originally built in the Sui dynasty more than 1,500 years ago. And later in the Tang Dynasty, the emperor ordered the temple to be enlarged and make it the imperial shrine for his deceased empress mother. The Da Ci En Temple is an elegant complex, what makes the temple even more famous is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
Built in the Tang dynasty as well, the pagoda is a 7-storage bricks shrine and is 64.5 meters high. It used to be the highest monument in Xi'an.
On every level there are arched gates, visitors can climb the wood stairway inside the pagoda and enjoy a good view of the whole Xian city on the clear days. There are many wood bracket joints (also called as tenons and mortice) used between the rooms in the pagoda, which is a special structure character find in traditional Chinese architecture.
Walking into the temple, there are two small chambers, one on the east side houses a huge iron bell, this bell was cast in Ming Dynasty (1543A.D.) it weighs 15 tons. In the west chamber there is a huge drum, the monks in the temple used it together to strike time (They ring the Bell at six in the morning, and beat the drum at six in the evening).
The main prayer hall in the temple is called the Great Hall of Buddha. Inside there are three incarnations of Sakyamuni, the one in the middle is called Dharmakaya (an embodiment of truth and law). The one to the west called Bao Shen Buddha, and the one on the opposite side called Ying Shen Buddha. (They're believed to be the three Buddhas of three different lives)
The figure to the eastside of the three incarnations of the Buddha is Jia Ye, one of the ten great disciples of Sakyamuni. The one on the west is Arhan; he was believed to be Sakyamuni's cousin. Further along both sides are the eighteen arhats, also Sakyamuni's disciples. The second Hall behind is called the Chamber of Doctrines, in which stands the Amitabha Buddha; in charge of the ultimate Paradise.
Chinese Buddhists have the tradition to speak Amitabha's name when they are in trouble, and believing that the Buddha will come to rescue them out of the problems.
In the Tang Dynasty (618AD-907AD), every successful candidate who passed the imperial examinations would like to climb up The Big Wild Goose Pagoda and write poems and have it engraved there. This custom would symbolize a promising career in the future. The famous poet Bai Juyi (a very famous and influential Chinese official) once wrote "Here under the Ci En Pagoda, I inscribe my name as the youngest among the seventeen candidates", revealing his pride and happiness when he became successful at a very young age.
Today, this pagoda is the symbol of Xian City and the logo of Xian municipal government. One of China's four most popular novels-Pilgrims to the West, tells the adventures of Master Xuan Zang and his three disciples.
Originally built during the rein of Emperor Sui in 589A.D, the temple was then named "Wu Lou Si" ("Tight Temple"). It was not until the year 648 A.D in the Tang Dynasty, when Li Zhi, then still a prince, sponsored a repair project on the temple. This was to commemorate his mother for her kindness, and the suffering that she gone through on her early death. The temple later was renamed to the present name Da Ci'en Si ("Temple of Thanksgiving").
In the Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907A.D.) the emperor gave orders to build a chamber for the translation of Buddhist scriptures, Master Xuan Zang (Buddhist Monk) agreed to be the head of the temple. In 652A.D, Xuan Zang made a proposal to the imperial court to build a pagoda inside the temple, to store the scriptures and statues he had brought back from India.
Xuan Zang was very pleased when the emperor agreed his proposal. Not only design and supervise the construction of the pagoda, but Xuan Zang is said to have carried bricks personally. At that time, the goose inspires many Buddhist, for it is a symbol of "good omen carrier". Therefore, they named it Da Ci'en Temple ("Big Wild Goose Pagoda").
In the late Tang Dynasty, many temples were destroy by wars and burned to the ground, only Big Wild Goose Pagoda was unharmed. Later in Ming Dynasty (1386 ~ 1644 AD), an 8.0 earthquake stroke happened in the region. More than ninety percent of the buildings in the area were destroyed, yet only the top of the pagoda was damaged.
The damaged pagoda was later restored the current looks of the Da Ci'en Temple dates back in the Ming Dynasty, the great hall in the temple was constructed in Chianlung period of the Qing Dynasty (1736 ~ 1796A.D.).
Big Wild Goose Pagoda can be added on our Xian Day Tours or Xian City Tour.