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White Pagoda Temple
    2008-07-29 15:39:31     CRIENGLISH.com

Built more than 700 years ago by Yuan Dynasty emperor Kublai Khan, the White Pagoda is the biggest and oldest preserved Tibetan Buddhist pagoda in China. It played an important role in the lives of locals in old Beijing.

After consistent renovation efforts, the pagoda is expected to receive more tourists from the world during the upcoming Olympic Games.

Our reporter Xu Weiyi has the details.


The White Pagoda [photo source: ce.cn]

 
Located in the western part of downtown Beijing, the White Pagoda Temple, or Baita Si, is one of the most famous structures in the city.

"The White Pagoda Temple is a symbol of old Beijing, so the bus station near the temple is named after it."

"I know the White Pagoda Temple. As soon as I arrived in Beijing, I heard its name."

The White Pagoda Temple was one of the most important projects when Kublai Khan, the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, established his capital at Dadu, now Beijing, some 700 years ago.

The pagoda was designed by Nepalese architect Araniko to commemorate the Buddhist relics of Sakyamuni and to symbolize the magical powers of the deity as well as the emperor.

Originally known as Miao Ying Si, the temple was later renamed the White Pagoda Temple because of the white pagoda inside. The White Pagoda, designed in the shape of an inverted alms bowl, is now the biggest and oldest preserved Tibetan Buddhist pagoda in China.

Longtime Beijing resident Bai Zhuo witnessed the most prosperous days of the temple.

"There were many temples near the white pagoda, and a regular temple fair was held there every ten days. At that time, the White Pagoda Temple was always full of people who came to buy daily essentials. My friends and I used to visit it often. Though we did not need to buy anything, we liked to go there and enjoy the festive atmosphere of the temple fair."

In the old days, the White Pagoda Temple fair was one of the most important events in residents' daily lives. Even today, many Beijing natives still have clear memories of it. Quan Jinghe has lived in the neighborhood near the temple for over forty years.

"You could find various kinds of goods at the temple fair, including food, clothes, furniture - almost everything you needed. Stalls behind the pagoda which sold snacks were the children's favorites, especially those selling typical Beijing snacks. Adults enjoyed the different performances put on in the middle part of the temple, such as Peking Opera and acrobatics."

Quan's wife smilingly recalls a story from her childhood.

"I saw a group of children peeping though the gate of the temple, so I did the same thing out of curiosity. What did I see? I saw the statue of Zhou Cang, a strong, legendary warrior with a dark face and a wiry beard. It looked horrible in the dark. I was scared by the scene and refused to go to the temple fair for a long time afterwards."

Temple fairs in the White Pagoda Temple ceased after the 1950s. The longtime residents love the temple and don't want to leave it, so they remain in their old houses near the temple, hidden from the bustling metropolis that is modern Beijing.

In the past years, the temple and its nearby neighborhood have been shot in many popular TV series as a scene to indicate Old Beijing and the traditional Beijing life. For old Beijing natives like Quan Jinghe and his neighbors, the White Pagoda Temple is not only a symbol of the old city, but also a vital part of their lives.

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