The pagoda is also known as the Iron Pagoda in Kaifeng. Actually it is not made of iron, but of red, brown, blue and green glazed bricks. As the main hue is reddish brown, the pagoda looks like iron from afar and has thus been called the Iron Pagoda for hundreds of years.
Located in Iron Pagoda Park in the northeast part of the city, this structure was built in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD) at a time when Kaifeng was crowned as the capital of the country, and as such the pagoda was one of the most impressive of its time. The predecessor of the Iron Pagoda was a huge octagonal, thirteen-storeyed wooden pagoda called Lingwei. It was once very famous, but for a very short time. In 1044 during the Northern Song Dynasty the wooden pagoda was struck by lightning and burnt down. Five years after the wooden pagoda was burnt down, the emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty ordered another one built on the same site. This time it was built of fire-resistant glazed bricks that remain today. With a history of more than nine hundred years, it is one of the earliest constructions made of glazed bricks and tiles in China.
The temple was renamed several times in the successive periods and was finally pulled down during the Qing Dynasty.
This octagonal shaped pagoda presently has 13 floors and rises to a total height of 56 meters. The tiles that line the outside of the building are, despite the name, clay, but coloured and glazed to represent the colour of rusty iron. Although it was constructed of glazed bricks of different shapes and sizes, it looks very much like a huge wooden pillar, with carved patterns of Buddhas, flowers, human figures and legendary animals, all representing the highly developed workmanship of the Song Dynasty. The top of the pagoda affords a good view of the whole city of Kaifeng.
Under the main body is a high stone Sumeru pedestal that has been buried by mud because of frequent flooding by the overflowing Yellow River. The present pagoda has doors on four sides, but people can approach the pagoda only by the steps on the north side.
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