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Yunyan Temple Pagoda in Suzhou


The Yunyan Temple Pagoda is situated at the top of the Tiger Hill, outside of Changmen Gate in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province.
The Yunyan Temple Pagoda in Suzhou is also called as the Tiger Hill Pagoda, a symbol of the ancient city of Suzhou. The location of the Yunyan Temple was originally the villa of the local official Wang Xun and his younger brother Wang Min in the Jin Dynasty (265-420). It was submontane at the first beginning, and then it was moved up to the hill and combined with the upper one after it was destroyed. In the Zhidao reign (995-997) in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the temple was destroyed and abandoned again. It was rebuilt in the Dazhong Xiangfu reign (1008-1016) and changed to the name of the Yuanyan Buddhist Temple. The pagoda was named after the temple. It was first started in the 6thyear (959) of the Zhou Xiande reign after the Five Dynasties (907-960) and completed in the 2ndyear (961) of the Jianlong reign of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1126). According to the historical documents, the Yunyan Temple Pagoda was burned down many times. The extant scale is the result of several repairs.

The Yunyan Temple Pagoda is a brick pavilion with an artificial wooden structure. It has an eight-square plane and seven stages shrinking with a little arc from lower to higher layer. The total height is 47.5 meters. Its body has a flat seat, middle eaves, roof pillar, pendentive, doors and windows. On the middle of each side of the eight, there is a kettle-shaped door. Inside the pagoda, there is an outer wall, a cloister and center (chamber). A wooden stair was built in the cloister, separating the center from the outer wall. The style is rarely seen in the designs of the pagodas in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Entering the cloister and center of each stage, one can see finely structured pendentives and sunk panels everywhere. In addition, there are many patterns piled and sculptured with lime. Among them more than ten pieces of peony sketches are particularly outstanding. With the typical painting characteristics of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), various peonies are displaying supreme elegance, which has a fairly high value for the research on the ancient decoration art.

During the reinforcement in 1957, many cultural relics of the Five Dynasties (907-960) and the North Song Period (960-1126) were discovered between the second and third layers in the Yuanyan Temple Pagoda. Among them there were celadon bowls which were produced in the Yue State and glittering and translucent like jades, exquisite sandalwood shrines containing Buddhist pictures and boxes for sutras as well as gold-plated pagodas, bronze figures of Buddha, bronze mirrors, beautiful brocade sutra volumes and etc. Some of them have titles numbering the years, which not only have very high historic and artistic values, but also prove the established year of the pagoda.

The pagoda has been tilting since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). After reinforcement, the foundation is fixed now and it won't tilt further. This is the extant ancient pagoda with the biggest tilting degree in China, a hundred years older than the world famous Pisa Pagoda. With the reinforcement measures, it will stand towering for long and become a miracle.

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