Small Wild Goose Pagoda

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is near the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in the south of the city, about one kilometer from the Xi’an City Wall. The pagoda was built in brick in the 8th century (707-709) by Empress Wu Zetian to protect the Buddhist scripture brought back from India via the Silk Road. Because it is similar in shape to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda but smaller than that, it got the name of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. In Chinese tradition, temples housed the sacred scriptures, but their construction was based on wooden structures, and they were often victims of fires. So, the choice of a brick pagoda responded to this desire for protection.

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda was erected within the grounds of Jianfu Temple, which was once one of the main centers for the translation of Buddhist scripture in the capital Chang’an (now called Xi’an). The completed scriptures need a safe place to be stored, so the construction of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda was perfect for this project.

This 15-story pagoda once stood 45 meters tall. Several earthquakes tested the building over the centuries. In 1556, the summit was destroyed and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda lost 2 meters in height (the earthquake, which measured 8.25 on the Richter scale and killed 450,000 people, is considered one of the worst in Chinese history). In the 17th century (1691), another earthquake opened a breach of 30 centimeters over the entire height of the pagoda. This crack was closed after the last earthquake, a century later (1721). Today, if you visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, you will guess the magical cracking and closing created by disasters through the latest restorations.

In front of the pagoda, crossing a shop, you will reach a pretty garden decorated with stone pillars surrounded by buildings that host temporary exhibitions. Not far around, we come across a pretty park, some of which are centuries-old trees dating from the building of the pagoda.

Useful information

Chinese Name: 小雁塔
Location: No.72 West Youyi Road, Beilin District, Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province
Opening hours: 09h00-16h00 (closed every Tuesday)
Admission: Free but special exhibitions require a ticket
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Subway: Line 2, get off at Nanshaomen 南稍门站

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