Tengwang Pavilion, one of the Four Great Towers of China*, is located in the northwest quadrant of the city of Nanchang (formerly Hongzhou), in Jiangxi Province. The towering pavilion is situated on the east bank of the Gan River, which empties into the Yangtze River via China's largest freshwater lake, Lake Poyang, about 40 kilometers north of Nanchang.
The pavilion was built in CE 653 during the fourth year of the Yonghui (CE 650-655) Reign of Emperor Taizong of the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty for the emperor's younger brother, Prince Teng Li Yuanying (sometimes called King ("Wang") Teng, hence the name of the pavilion). Tengwang Pavilion was so distinctive in its architectural style that it, together with the much older (CE 223, circa) Yellow Crane Pavilion of the Three Kingdoms (CE 220-280) Period, was imitated by the architect of the Forbidden City, who used the pavilions as models for the corner towers of the Forbidden City complex (the Forbidden City was constructed in the years CE 1406-1420, i.e., during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty).
Tengwang Pavilion was constructed while Prince Teng served as the provincial governor of Nanchang. Almost immediately after its construction, the pavilion was immortalized, as it were, in a poem by the famous Tang Dynasty poet, Wang Bo (NB: "Wang" is the most common surname in China), who, in CE 675, wrote the classic, Tengwang Ge Xu ("Preface to a farewell feast atop Prince Teng's Pavilion in autumn", or "Preface to Prince Teng's Pavilion", for short), one of whose most memorable lines reads:
the rosy clouds of sunset and a solitary wild duck fly together,
the colors of the autumn lake and the vast sky above it merge into the same tone.**
Covering an area of some 4 hectares and standing more than 57 meters in height, the nine-storeyed pavilion and its auxilliary structures were damaged or destroyed as many as 29 times, though the complex was restored each time. The most recent restoration of the main pavilion occurred in October of 1989, and was done in a faux-Song-Dynasty style (eg., behind the facades the pavilion is made with reinforced concrete).*** There are two smaller, subsidiary pavilions in the complex, one in the north and another in the south, which are connected by cloisters. Some of the best views of the main pavilion can be had at Nanfu Garden, facing Mount Xi.
Tengwang Pavilion, prized for its breadth, its height, and its distinctive architecture - and imitated, as indicated, by the architect of the Forbidden City - is the defining landmark of the city of Nanchang.
* Since ancient times, Tengwang Pavilion has been regarded as one of China's Four Famous Towers. The other three are Huanghe Lou ("Yellow Crane") Pavilion, Yueyang Pavilion and Penglai Pavilion.
** It was the tradition at the time for the literati/ members of the intelligentsia to commemorate buildings which were constructed either by colleagues, or by government officials who were especially generous toward the literati. One is tempted to compare this relationship to the relationship between European artists and their patrons during the Renaissance, though the Chinese artists seem to have been shown greater respect/ admiration during their lifetimes than the artists of the Renaissance, who received their greatest appreciation posthumously.
*** The reason for the imitation Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty reconstruction of Tengwang Pavilion, rather than relying on an original Tang Dynasty construction style, is apparently due to the fact that the only known image of the pavilion dates from a Song Dynasty painting in which both pavilions - the Tengwang Pavilion and the much older Three-Kingdoms-Period Yellow Crane Pavilion - reflect a Song Dynasty architectural style (in fact, the Song Dynasty artist seems to have rendered the two pavilions almost identical). Tengwang Pavilion, as it stand to day, is therefore as much an hommage to the Song Dynasty painting as it is to the original Tang Dynasty construction of the pavilion. Curiously, Wang Bo and his fellow poets and artists who commemorated the original pavilion in their art works would surely have approved of this nod to a later colleague, even though it contains an element of the anachronistic.