Small Wild Goose Pagoda

Home>>China Cities>>Xi'an City Guide>> Small Wild Goose Pagoda

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda, sometimes Little Wild Goose Pagoda, is one of two significant pagodas in the city of Xi'an, China, the site of the old Han and Tang capital Chang'an. The other notable pagoda is the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, originally built in 652 and restored in 704.

Interested in China?  Browse our Top China Tours!

Small Wild Goose Pagoda
Small Wild Goose Pagoda

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda was built between 707-709, during the Tang Dynasty under Emperor Zhongzong of Tang (705-710). The pagoda stood 45 m (147 ft) until the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake. The earthquake shook the pagoda and damaged it so that it now stands at a height of 43 m (141 ft) with fifteen levels of tiers. The pagoda has a brick frame built around a hollow interior, and its square base and shape reflect the building style of other pagodas from the era.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda
Small Wild Goose Pagoda

During the Tang Dynasty, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda stood across a street from its mother temple, the Dajianfu Temple. Pilgrims brought sacred Buddhist writings to the temple and pagoda from India, as the temple was one of the main centers in Chang'an for translating Buddhist texts. The temple was older than the pagoda, since it was founded in 684, exactly 100 days after the death of Emperor Gaozong of Tang (649ĘC683). Emperor Zhongzong had donated his residence to the building of a new temple here, maintaining the temple for 200 monks in honor of his deceased father Gaozong. The temple was originally called the Daxianfusi or Great Monastery of Offered Blessings by Zhongzong, until it was renamed Dajianfusi by Empress Wu Zetian in 690.

Features of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda

Small Wild Goose Pagoda is a multi-eave, square, brick structure of fifteen storeys. Originally it was 46 meters high, but now it is 43.3 meters high, because its steeple was destroyed. It has a square pedestal and a huge first storey, whose sides measure 11.38 meters long each. Doors on the north and south sides of the first storey have frames built of black stone. Carved on the lintel are images of arhats and designs of grasses, their excellent workmanship reflecting the artistic style of the early Tang Dynasty. The pagoda has fifteen pent roofs. Each storey is very low with small windows only on the south and north sides to let in light and air.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda
Small Wild Goose Pagoda

They do not correspond to the floors inside. The eaves are formed by designs in the shape of chevrons and fifteen tiers of overlapping bricks, each tier wider than the one below, thus making the eaves curve inward, a characteristic of multi-eave pagodas in the Tang Dynasty. The exterior of the pagoda tapers gradually from the bottom. From the first to the fifth storey it tapers very little, but from the sixth storey up, it reduces drastically, giving the pagoda a smooth curved contour. The tubular interior of the pagoda has wooden flooring and a winding flight of wooden steps leading to other storeys, but there is little space and it is rather dark inside the pagoda. Since people cannot look at the view from the top of the pagoda, it was not built for people to climb up.

The shape and structure of the pagoda are typical of early multi-eave pagodas and influenced many brick and stone rnulti-eave pagodas built later in other parts of the country.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, an early attempt at such pagodas, has certain structural weaknesses. Most notable are the small windows on the north and south sides of all storeys, reducing the buildings firmness. That defect later caused the pagoda to split vertically into two parts in an earthquake. This weakness was eliminated in other pagodas by avoiding doors and windows on the same sides on all storeys.

Interested in China?  Browse our Top China Tours!

11