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Wanfo Pagoda
Release date:2016-03-24  Source::亳州外事办  Views:1205

Located southeast of the seat of Mengcheng County, Bozhou, Wanfo Pagoda is originally named Chahua Pagoda and commonly known as Mengcheng Brick Pagoda. It is a famous Buddhist architecture in northern Anhui Province. In September 1981, it was listed as a key cultural relic protection unit by the people's government of Anhui Province. Over eight thousand figures of Buddha were inlaid inside and outside the pagoda, so it was named Wanfo Pagoda (literally meaning Ten Thousand Buddha Pagoda). The pagoda belonged to Xinghua Temple in the Song Dynasty and belonged to Cishi Temple in the Ming Dynasty, so it was also known as Xinghua Temple Pagoda or Cishi Temple Pagoda.

 

The pagoda is a 13-floor brick pagoda in an octagonal pavilion style, standing 42.6 meters high. Below the pagoda is a square dungeon, with a corbel roof. On the walls are inlaid with stone carvings of Buddhist stories. Viewed from the carving techniques, they display the style of Wei and Tang Dynasties. Inferred from its changes in structural forms, the existing Wanfo Pagoda should have been completed in several times.

 

The body of the pagoda is built by laying black bricks, with inner and outer walls inlaid with glazed face bricks of three colors, brown, yellow and green. On the bricks are three figures of Buddha, with Tathagata sitting at the middle, Mahakasyapa standing at the left and Ananda standing at the right. Some of them were original objects dating to the Song Dynasty and some were added by later generations. Inside the pagoda are a few brick carvings of figures of Buddha. On each brick one or three figures of Buddha are carved. The inner space of the 4th floor is commonly known as "Small Temple", which used to enshrine three statues, Guan Yu, Guan Ping and Zhou Cang. These statues were ruined at the beginning of 1950s. At the top of the pagoda are five layers of Sourin wheels, a canopy and a treasured vase each, and at the eave corner of each floor hangs a wind chime.

 

There are three editions of inference on the year of construction of the pagoda. According to the record of the Annals of Mengcheng County in the Qing Dynasty, "Chahua Pagoda is situated in Cishi Temple in the town, which was built in the Song Dynasty". Inside the pagoda are now preserved three stone tablets dating to the Song Dynasty recording the building of the pagoda. One is on the western wall of the inner space of the 4th floor, which is inscribed, "In the Wanshan town, Mengcheng County, Bozhou, the Song Dynasty...the fourth floor of Xinghua Temple Pagoda was built..on March 15, the first year of Chongning (1102)". One is on the 8th floor of the pagoda, which is inscribed with "The Song Dynasty...the eighth floor of Xinghua Temple Pagoda was built...in the fifth year of Chongning". The other is on the 9th floor, which was inscribed with "The Song Dynasty...Renhe...the 11th floor of Xinghua Temple Pagoda was built...the 5th year of Chongning". Inferred from the intervals of the time recorded on the three stone tablets, an interval of four years spanned from 4th floor to the 11th floor, and the pagoda consists of 13 floors. According to the second edition of inference, the pagoda should have been built in the Tang Dynasty. According to the records of the Pagoda of Mengcheng County, "The pagoda of Mengcheng is situated in the south of the county, which was said to be the stupa built by Yuchi in the Tang Dynasty". On the wall on the left of the staircase on the 10th floor of Wanfo Pagoda, there was originally an inion recording the construction of the pagoda in the Tang Dynasty, which was inscribed with characters meaning "the construction supervised by Yuchi Jingde in the 3rd year of Zhenguan in the Tang Dynasty (629 AD)". The inion was still there in the 1950s, which has been lost today, but the brick hole used for inlaying the tablet is still there. The third edition of inference argues that the pagoda dated back to the Tianjian reigning period of Emperor Wu of Liang Dynasty in the Southern Dynasties (502-519). It was built by Emperor Wu of Liang Dynasty for releasing the soul of his loved concubine Queen Xi from purgatory. The records of Biography of Queen Xi in the History of Southern Dynasties are basically consistent with this edition of inference. Analyzed based on these inferences, there might have been a pagoda in the Tang Dynasty or earlier, which was ruined later. And Wanfo Pagoda was built on the former site in the Song Dynasty.

 

Wanfo Pagoda is full of trauma after withstanding the rains and winds for nine centuries. In 1938, some figures of Buddha of the pagoda were stolen by the Japanese invaders, and more figures were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Part of its footing has collapsed after suffering the corrosion of rain water for a long time, as a result of which the body of the pagoda has leaned. From 1977, the department of cultural heritage carried out a comprehensive maintenance on the pagoda by strengthening its footing, filling up the crevices and re-inlaying the ruined bricks carved with figures of Buddha. After a renovation following the style of the Song Dynasty, Wanfo Pagoda has restored its splendor of the past and become a wonderful visual feast.

 

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