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Tianfeng Pagoda
2016-09-07 17:22 Text Size: A A A

Tianfeng Pagoda is situated on Dashani Street of Ningbo and is near the Chenghuang Temple. Because it was built during the time when Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty was enthroned   (695-696), so it was called “Tianfeng Pagoda” (Tian means the God, Feng means enthrone). Legend goes that as the then Ningbo city, shaped like a boat floating between the Fenghua River and the Yuyao River was often flooded. So the pagoda was built in the center of the city like a mast set on the boat, thus the boat was controlled and flood no longer came. The pagoda is as tall as 54.5 meters, and is shaped hexagon with seven lighted storeys, seven dark storeys and four storeys underground. A famous nursery rhyme tells the role the Pagoda plays in the life of the People: “Ningbo Tianfeng Pagoda, eighteen storeys in the sky.” It is recorded that a great deal of silt was piled up to send bricks and stones up to the top when the pagoda was being built, and was sent away after the construction. The silt used in the construction of the Pagoda was so massive that two streets near the pagoda were named Dashani Street (Big Silt Street) and Xiaoshani Street (Small Silt Street), showing how difficult and enormous the construction project was. At that time, when climbing up to the top of the pagoda and looking far into the distance, one could see boundless clouds and all the surrounding countryside. Three rivers were like three flood dragons, converging on the east of the city and winding away through the Mount Zhaobao into the sea. One poem on this sight goes:

                                               The immense sky and the land are joined with the ocean miles away,

                                               Thundering tides come with waves one after another upon the city,

                                               At the top of the Pagoda you partner with heaven,

                                               Downlooking, you find scudding clouds flowing as currents.

As the symbol of Ningbo in ancient times, the Tianfeng Pagoda has long enjoyed a great reputation. It’s told from generation to generation that another aim for the construction of the tower is that people used it as a beacon tower. Both Tianfeng Pagoda and Zhenmang Pagoda on Xiaobai Hill of Dongxiang were built in the Tang Dynasty. The two towers overlook each other across a long distance. If intruders approached or wars broke out, smoke signals would be sent on the towers to call up surrounding garrison troops. While in peace time bright lights were hung on top of the towers as beacons. As Tianfeng Pagoda played such a great role in protecting the people, it was regarded as a treasure. But also because of this it once suffered unexpected calamity. In December 1129, the southward Jin troops lost a battle in chasing Emperor Kang, so they gave an order to burn the city before evacuating and the Tianfeng Pagoda was almost burned to ashes. Later, the eminent monk Zhengjue of the Song Dynasty managed to raise money for the repair of the tower in 1144. The reconstructed Tianfeng Pagoda was even more spectacular than before.

As an old pagoda of more than 1,000 years, Tianfeng Pagoda has experienced all kinds of hard weathers and war fires, and has been destroyed and rebuilt for countless times. Since 1949, the people’s government had taken many measures to protect the tower, but it still kept tilting, so the government decided to pull it down and rebuild it. When clearing the tower footing in 1982, people surprisingly found more than 150 cultural relics, among which there was a silver model of the underground vault of Tianfeng Pagoda with an inscription written in the 14th year of the Southern Song Dynasty, silver censors, the ancient “Mahayana Lotus Sutra” paper money of the Yuan Dynasty, stone caskets, Buddha statues and so on, providing mock-ups for the rebuilding and the Xieshan Roof style hall architectures, a typical Jiang’nan style building (Jiang’nan: regions south of Yangtze River) in Shaoxing Period of the Southern Song Dynasty.

As the tallest building of the city in old times, Tianfeng Pagoda enjoyed a high reputation in earlier times. It was a must-visit place for celebrities and literati of all dynasties and there are many poetic inscriptions about it. Li Tang of the Ming Dynasty wrote a poem for the pagoda, which reads:

                                               Up-pointing is a jade hairpin in the firmament,

                                               I step my foot on the entrance and go up to the pointing tower head.  

                                               The sun is near and the light dazzling,

                                               Mist waving, and under the eaves the green of trees creeps in.

                                               The wind blows cool and rustling,

                                               Flowers falling like sparse rain.

                                               I laugh to say the clouds are around and the stars are my reach within

The rebuilt Tianfeng Pagoda is at the original location and resembles the pagoda style of the Song Dynasty. Tianfeng Pagoda now still adds up much grace and charm to Ningbo.

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