Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism had deeper roots in the culture since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.
Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight centuries after Buddhism and only a decade before Islam), when a Nestorian monk named Aluoben entered the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’ an.
Then in 629 AD, the Buddhist monk Xuanzang left Chang’ an against the emperor’s orders to travel the world in search of enlightenment. He went west toward India along the Silk Road with a goal to find original Buddhist scriptures. He traveled 10,000 miles over three of the highest mountain ranges in Asia and was gone 16 years.
When Xuanzang returned in 645 AD, he had 1,300 scrolls of Buddhist Sutras, and requested the building of a pagoda, which became the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda—nearly 65 meters tall (more than 213 feet). It was made of rammed earth, and the pagoda would collapse more than once and be rebuilt. No one knows exactly how the Tang Dynasty engineers managed to build a structure that tall of rammed earth.
Neville Gishford‘s Discovery Channel documentary, China’s Most Honourable City, reveals the answer to a mystery when a hidden crypt beneath the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is discovered using ground based radar. When The Tang Dynasty collapsed due to rebellion, the city was destroyed, but the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was left untouched.
Gishford reveals that even though Tang Chang’ an was destroyed, the city was copied throughout Asia and one city in Japan, Kyoto (formally the imperial capital of Japan – 794 to 1869 AD), was a scaled replica of Tang Chang’ an.
In fact, in 1974, the modern city of Xi’an and Kyoto formally established a sister-city relationship.
However, this was not the end of Chang’ an (Xi’an). It would be rebuilt a third time. In 1368, nearly five hundred years after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD) would rebuild the Great Wall in addition to Xi’an as a defense against the Mongols that had conquered and ruled China during the Yuan Dynasty (1277 – 1367 AD).
Continued on October 21, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 5 or return to Part 3
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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