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The Pagoda of the Fogong Temple

The Pagoda of the Fogong Temple is a wooden Chinese pagoda built in 1056 during the Liao Dynasty, 80 km away from Datong.The pagoda is the oldest existing fully wooden pagoda still standing in China,and at 67m,it is the tallest as well.Along with the Tower of Pisa and Eiffel tower,the pagoda is one of three miracle towers in the world.The real name of the pagoda, located in Fogong (Buddha's Palace) Temple in the northwestern corner of the county town of Yingxian, is Sakyamuni Pagoda. Since it was built completely of timber, it has been known popularly as the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County. Standing 67.31 meters high, it is the only extant large wooden pagoda in China and also the tallest among ancient wooden buildings of the world.

The pagoda was constructed in 1056 during the Liao Dynasty. The pagoda was built on a stone platform four meters high. Around the upper edge and at the corners of the platform there are sculptures of crawling lions whose simple and unsophisticated style belongs to the Liao Dynasty. The exterior of the pagoda is divided into five levels, but there are actually nine levels in the interior, including four built-in storeys. The steeple of the pagoda is ten meters high; the whole pagoda, 67.31 meters. The diameter of the octagonal first storey is 30.27 meters, the longest among ancient pagodas. The ground storey has two tiers of eaves and steps attached to it. When people enter the southern door of the pagoda, they see a statue of Sakyamuni about ten meters high. The caisson ceiling is refined and beautifully structured. On the inner walls are six pictures of Tathagata in different poses. On the walls of the doorway are mural paintings of warrior attendants, heavenly kings, and Buddhist disciples. A painting of three female devotees on the wall above the door is especially exquisite. All the statues and murals have Liao Dynasty characteristics.At the southwestern corner of the ground floor a wooden staircase leads up to the second storey. From the second storey up, each storey has windows facing in eight directions, so people can have a clear view. There are also wide balconies with banisters around each storey so people can enjoy a panoramic view of Yingxian County Town, Mount Hengshan and the Songgan River.For nearly a thousand years the wooden pagoda has withstood numerous strong earthquakes. According to historical records, during a severe earthquake lasting seven days during the reign of Emperor Shun of the Yuan Dynasty the pagoda stood firm. Though the Yingxian County area was affected by the big earthquakes in Xingtai and Tangshan of Hebei Province and in Helinger of Inner Mongolia in recent years, the wooden pagoda did not suffer any damage. Tire pagoda's antiseismic strength, proved by these earthquakes, demonstrated the achievement of wooden structures in ancient China.

Since the founding of New China in 1949 the government has dispatched many survey groups to look after the pagoda and great efforts have been made to repair and reinforce the structure. During a repair project in 1974 a number of important and valuable cultural relics were found in the pagoda, including a picture of medicinal herbs and Buddhist scriptures, all belonging to the Liao Dynasty. Scripture scrolls include both hand-written and block-printed ones; some of them are more than thirty meters long when spread out and date back to as early as 990, 1003 or 1071. They are regarded as rare treasures both at home and abroad and provide important data not only for the collating of Buddhist scriptures but also for research of the development of printing technology and cultural exchange between different nationalities in China.
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