Saturday, April 18: After leaving the Beilin Museum, I take a rickety three-wheeled taxi to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda outside of the Xi’an City Walls. It’s quite a long and bumpy ride, and my head is rattling when I step out of the taxi and walk through the pagoda entrance.
It’s still a dark and dreary day, but at least it’s stopped raining. I walk around the pagoda, admiring the views from different vantage points and angles.
The Xiaoyan Ta, or Small Wild Goose Pagoda, is a delicate 45-meter tall building constructed in 707, during the Tang Dynasty. It’s a Buddhist pagoda of the Jianfu Temple, one of the three Buddhist Sutra Translation Venues of Chang’an City that have been well-known in the history of Buddhist sutra translation in China. During the middle period of the Tang Dynasty, a cultural organization known as Buddhist Sutra Translation Institute was established here; it was directly managed by the imperial government. It attracted monks from different countries to translate Buddhist texts.
The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is an example of Buddhist architecture built during the heyday of the Silk Road as a witness to the history of Buddhism’s introduction to China by India. It was popular in Chang’an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty.
On one side of the pagoda are steps leading up, but first I have to buy a ticket to climb, which I do at the temple across the path.
The pagoda was originally fifteen stories, but the top two were damaged in an earthquake. I climb up to the thirteenth story where I then climb a ladder through a hole to the jagged rooftop. Here I find some wonderful views.
After exiting the pagoda, I take a stroll through the Jianfu Temple grounds. Jianfu Temple, or Felicity Temple, and the pagoda are rare cultural relics from the Tang Dynasty, regarded as the Golden Age in Chinese history with its capital Chang’an as the most majestic city in the world at that time, according to a placard at the temple. The temple complex was reconstructed in the Ming and Qing dynasty style and stands witness to the 1,000-year development of Xi’an City.
After leaving the pretty gardens of the temple, I walk around the rest of the complex, where I find a number of pavilions, a structure covered in red wishes, a bell and a Bell Tower.
Built in the Qing dynasty, the Bell Tower has a brick and wood structure, a multi-eaved hip-and-gable roof, and a giant iron bell that has been used for telling time and in Buddhist services. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the “bell chiming in the morning at the Small Wild Goose Pagoda” was one of the eight scenic attractions in the Guanzhong area.
I go out through the gate of a large wall, where I find interesting stone characters, cherry blossom trees, fountains, ponds, bridges, gardens and more views of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda.
Strolling these grounds, I run across the Xi’an Museum, but I have no intention of going here since it has stopped raining. I exit the pagoda grounds near the museum and head in a southerly direction. The map I have shows that if I walk several blocks south along Zhuque Dajie and cross a road called Nanerhuan Lu, I will find Daxingshan Si, another Buddhist temple, off a narrow market street.
Little do I know just how long this walk will be. Funny how things look so much smaller on maps!