As the existing largest and oldest wooden pagoda structure in China, Yingxian Wooden Pagoda is also known as Sakyamuni Pagoda, for it has two tooth relics of Sakyamuni stored in it. Located in Fogong Temple of Yingxian County, Shanxi Province, it is 76km south of Datong City (about one hour’s drive). The pagoda was built in 1056 (under the reign of Liao Dynasty), and during its nearly 1000 years history, the pagoda has survived several large earthquakes (that’s really amazing considering the whole pagoda is built of wood). It highly represents the ancient architecture art of the ancient China.
Sitting on a 4 meters tall stone platform, the pagoda is 67.31 meters in height, which is higher than a 20-storey building in modern times. The base floor of the pagoda is 30.27 meters in diameter, and the whole pagoda weighs about 7400 metric tons.
The pagoda appears to be five storeys from the outside, however, it has nine storeys, and there are four blindstories inside the pagoda. On each storey, there are two circles of wooden pillars to support the upper storey, and the outside circle has 24 wooden pillars while the inside circle has 8 wooden pillars. Among the pillars, there are also many diagonal bracings and short columns to enhance the stability and shock resistance of the pagoda.
A lot of Dougongs (a system of brackets in Chinese building, wooden square blocks inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam) were used in the building, which are the connections between various pillars and crossbeams. The most magical part of the pagoda is that there is no iron nail used at all, and the connection works were completed through Chinese mortise and tenon joint structure. The Chinese mortise and tenon joint structure can bear large load and it allows certain deformation, thus, it can reduce the influence of earthquake, and this structure is the main reason why the pagoda has survived numerous earthquakes through nearly a thousand year.
There are two doors in the south and north direction of the first storey, and from the second to fifth storey (the visible storeys), there are four doors in each storey, and there are wooden staircases connecting every two storeys. The first storey holds an 11 meters high Sakyamuni statue, sitting under a delicate caisson ceiling. From second storey to fifth storey, there are also various Buddha statues and Bodhisattva statues.
Yingxian Wooden Pagoda is situated at Yingxian County, Shuozhou City, Shanxi Province, and it’s rather close to Datong City, only about 76km from it.
From Datong to Yingxian County: traveler can take bus 19, 28 and 30 in the city center to Xinnan Bus Station to transfer coach to Yingxian County. This will spend about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Of course, traveler can take private car from Datong to Yignxian Wooden Pagoda, and it’s only about 1 hour.
From Yingxian County to Yingxian Wooden Pagoda: take bus 8 from Yingxian Bus Station to Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, it’s only about 10 minutes. Or traveler can take taxi or tricycle to it.
At present, the pagoda is leaning towards the north at an angle over 15°, and some wooden pillars and beams are decayed. To protect the pagoda, tourists are only allowed to ascend to the second floor. Please protect the pagoda in your visit.
Best time to visit is from May to October. The winter in Shuozhou is very long, and it’s very cold and dry, while the spring has a big temperature difference between day and night, and it’s windy and sandy. So the best time to visit is summer and autumn. Shuozhou’s summer is short, yet hot and rainy. Autumn here is the most comfortable season among the four seasons, it’s short yet mild.
Tourists can visit Yingxian Wooden Pagoda and Hanging Temple in the same day. Start from Datong City, first visit the Hanging Temple in Hunyuan County, then visit Yingxian Wooden Pagoda in Yingxian County, and come back to Datong City after the tour. This is a popular one day route.
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