This page last updated 05/16/10

Zhenguo Temple and Pagoda

Zhènguó sìtǎ = 镇国寺塔 Say "juhn-gwoh sih-tah"

Zhenguoshi Temple The Zhenguo Temple. C. Day photo. Click photo for Zhenguo Slideshow

The Zhenguo Temple & Pagoda were built during the reign of Emperor Xizong (AD 873-889) in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The six-story brick tower stands 25 meters (82 ft) high. Originally, there were nine levels, but during repairs to the pagoda in 1906, it was reduced to six. The Pagoda is in the pavilion style, square, with a base 8.6 meters (28 ft) across and a circumference of 34.4 meters (113 ft). It has been given the compliment of being described as "the Dayanta Pagoda of the South" (the Dayanta or Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a famous pagoda in Xi’an).

The Temple & Pagoda are located on a small island, southwest of downtown, on the west (far) side of the Grand Canal. The island the pagoda is on was once part of the city. When the Grand Canal was rebuilt, and widened, in 1958, the pagoda was preserved on the island in the canal

While the pagoda is original, and in very poor repair, the temple complex has been rebuilt in the last few years. The temple is active, serving the local Buddhist community, and is very interesting to walk through. It is possible to hear chants and music coming from temple as you walked along the dike on the Gaoyou side of the Grand Canal.

Tourist Notes

To visit the Temple you may walk, or drive, over the 2nd Grand Canal Bridge, and travel south along the dike to the site. It is a long walk, so unless you have a lot of time it would be better to have your driver take you there. A new bridge provides access to the temple and pagoda. There are no fees or admission charges.

Origins of the Pagoda

The tower-like Pagodas (塔tǎ;or宝塔baǒ; tǎ) were built by Buddhists as part of a temple compound. The characters used in the names of the Gaoyou Pagodas, (寺sì 塔tǎ) translate as “temple tower”. The function of the pagoda was to store Buddhist manuscripts and other sacred objects. The architecture of the Chinese pagoda is derived from the stupas that Buddhists in India also used to store sacred objects. The design has changed with influences from the traditional Chinese pavilion and towers. The term “pagoda” is often misused to describe a pavilion, which may appear similar but is not part of a Buddhist temple.

There are thousands of pagodas in China, although the decline of Buddhism has left many in poor repair. Many pagodas were built of wood, but few of those survive. Most of the remaining pagodas are built of stone or brick, like the pagodas at Gaoyou.

Resources for “The Zhenguo Temple Pagoda”

A book available for purchase at the China Post office in Gaoyou, Gaoyou - A Famous Historical and Cultural City Author and publisher unknown.

The Zhenguo Temple Pagoda page on the website

A page with information on several Gaoyou sites on the website (12/05 Note: The Gaoyou Government website has changed since this page was written and this link is no longer valid. A new link will be posted here when, and if the replacement page is found)

Resource for “Origin of the Pagoda”

Dorothy Perkins, Encyclopedia of China (Checkmark Books, 2000) Pg 375-376

Copyright 2009 - Charles Day