Yingxian Wooden Pagoda

Last updated by drwi at 2017/5/15

Yingxian Muta, or Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, built in 1056 during the Liao (CE 916-1125) Dynasty, is located in the village of Yinxian in Shanxi Province, about 70 kilometers south of the old Liao Dynasty capital city of Datong. Yingxian Muta is the oldest all-wood pagoda in China, and the highest all-wood pagoda in the world, standing at 67.31 meters and with a base diameter of 30.27 meters. By comparison, Yingxian Muta is some 30 meters higher than the famous White Pagoda in Beijing's Beihai Park, and almost 3½ meters higher than the Big Goose Pagoda in Xi’an (formerly Chang'an, the imperial city where China's first emperor, Emperor Shi Huang of the Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty, had a Terracotta Army constructed to guard his mausoleum).

A a masterpiece of Chinese timber construction, Yingxian Muta, octagonal in shape, is built without the help of a single nail, screw, or bolt. Its unique construction employs fifty-four different kinds of duogong, or bracket arms, one of the most complex examples of roof construction in China, and, indeed, in the world, and certainly the most complex example of roof construction of any building constructed during the Liao Dynasty.

Its all-wood (of course) interior staircase reveals nine floors, although the pagoda's exterior leads the viewer to expect only five floors. In the center of the ground floor is an 11-meter high statue of sitting Sakyamuni, plump and amiable, yet exuding dignity and surrounded by six brightly colored pictures of Buddha. On the second floor is a statue of Buddha and four Bodhisattvas, while on the third floor is a statue of Buddha with four faces, each face with a piercing gaze. The four-faceted Buddha symbolizes the infinite knowledge and wisdom of Buddha, whose gaze can pierce any object, or "see through" appearances to the core, as it were. On the fourth floor is a statue of Buddha, two statues of Bodhisattva and two statues of lesser aspirants. On the fifth floor is another statue of a plump, sociable sitting Sakyamuni surrounded by four differently shaped, but exquisitely formed, Buddha statues.

There are windows on all eight sides of the pagoda, offering excellent views of the surrounding countryside, especially in good weather, including views of Mt. Hengshan and the nearby Songgan River.


Solo Adventure Tips:


How to Get There?

From Datong Railway Station, you can take a one-day touring minibus to the pagoda. The minibus departs at 7:30 AM. The fare depends on the demand on any given day, so the potential for price haggling exists, while the normal fare is 40 yuan per person, round trip.

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More Tips:

Both Yingxian Muta and the Hanging Monastery of Hunyuan County can be visited in a single day if you take a rented car, or if you can arrange for group travel in a minibus. Here is the recommended route: Leaving Datong behind you, visit first the Hanging Monastery in Hunyuan County, then proceed on to Yingxian Muta before returning to Datong. By regular tour bus, each of these sites would normally require an entire day to view.

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