From my base in Shenzhen, over 11 years of travel across
the Middle Kingdom to find what's ancient in a modern land

(more about my travels in China)

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an, Shaanxi

Back in January, 2007, I took a flyer at a high-paying job with one of the most mismanaged companies conceivable. (I didn't know that when I signed up, though!)

The job lasted a month. Aside from a magnificent salary, I managed to get one trip out of it. On four consecutive nights, I slept in Wuhan, Xi'an, Chongqing, and Chengdu. Despite the whirlwind nature of the trip, I did manage to get in a little sightseeing, especially in Xi'an.

Here is one of the most famous sights in Xi'an, the Da Yan Ta or "Big Wild Goose Pagoda." It was first built in 652, when Xi'an (then called Chang'an) was the capital of Tang-Dynasty China. (What we see today is a Ming restoration of the tower that was built in 704.)

One of China's most famous monks was Xuanzang. In 629 he set out on a seventeen-year journey to India, where he learned Sanskrit and collected sutras and other artifacts. (The novel Journey to the West is a fictionalized version of that adventure.)

After returning to China in 645, many of the relics and other objects he brought were placed in the newly-built Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

The first time I saw the pagoda was at night, when my generous friend and colleague Brandon Plazier took me to a nearby Indian restaurant. It was a full moon, and I had my tripod. I still say "wow" when I see this.

The next day I returned; this is Xuanzang standing in front of the pagoda.

The pagoda now stands on the grounds of a temple; I didn't have time to enter, but had a nice walk around the outside.

Here's a shot of the pagoda's side, over the temple wall. It's even more imposing in person.

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