The Mystery of the World’s Tallest Wooden Tower

Doubtful life experience

  The wooden pagoda in Yingxian County, Shanxi Province is 67.31 meters high. The entire pagoda, except for the platform base with a height of more than four meters, the inner and outer walls of the first floor and the iron pagoda brake, is a wooden structure without using a single iron nail. Its platform base is square, and the tower body is octagonal. Since the bottom of the tower is a double-eave corridor, from the outside, the wooden tower is five stories high, but has six layers of eaves.
  There are two doors in the north and south on the bottom floor of the wooden pagoda. There are stairs on each floor in the pagoda, which can be climbed step by step to reach the top of the tower. There are wind chimes under the eaves of each floor. At the same time, there are vivid statues and paintings in the tower, such as Buddha statues and murals of King Kong, Tianwang, and disciples. The top of the fifth floor is also painted with exquisite and gorgeous caisson patterns, with fine craftsmanship and high artistic value.
  However, the exact construction time of the Yingxian wooden pagoda is not mentioned in the official history. According to the records of the “Yingzhou Chronicle” in the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty, the Yingxian wooden pagoda was built in the second year of Qingning in Liaoning (1056). It is also said that the tower was built in the Later Jin Dynasty, rebuilt in the Liao Dynasty, and repaired many times in the following years.
  Based on the overall architectural style of the wooden pagoda, the experts confirmed that the wooden pagoda in Yingxian County should be a Liao pagoda, and the academic community currently recognizes that it was built in the second year of Qingning (1056) in the Liao Dynasty, but the Liao Dynasty only completed the main body of the wooden pagoda. The structure, many colored paintings and sculptures on the tower body were gradually supplemented and perfected after the Jin Dynasty.
  As for the reason for the construction of the wooden pagoda, some scholars believe that the empress Xiao of Liao Shengzong was from Yingzhou (now Yingxian), so the Liao rulers built the pagoda here to promote Buddhism. But scholars also speculate on a more important factor. During the Liao and Jin Dynasties, Yingzhou was located at the intersection of the Great Wall and the junction of various political regimes. The military fort represented by the town, the Jin Dynasty poet Yuan Haowen once sighed: “The north, south, east and west are famous, three gangs and four towns protect the golden city. In ancient times, the frontier land was dangerously blocked, and the Qiang Hu in Weizhen was shocked.” (“Three gangs and four towns” ) shows the important military status of the Three Gangs and Four Towns. The commanding heights of Yingzhou is the Shakyamuni, its importance is self-evident.
  Because the wooden pagoda in Yingxian County is so majestic and magnificent, many folklore related to it were born, such as “Luban built the pagoda”. In Ying County, there is a legend that the originator of the carpenter, Lu Ban, built the Shakyamuni, because people believe that only Lu Ban can create this fantastic giant pagoda with his uncanny craftsmanship.

54 kinds of bucket arches with different shapes and functions were used in the construction of the wooden pagoda.

  Of course, the legend is just a legend. The Spring and Autumn Period when Luban lived and the Liao Dynasty were separated by more than 1,500 years. Naturally, the wooden pagoda in Yingxian County could not have been created by Luban. The Shakyamuni Pagoda is a huge project, and it must require collective wisdom to build it. The reason why this pagoda can stand for nearly a thousand years must have used many advanced technologies.
There is heaven and earth in the tower

  The biggest factor to be considered in the construction of Yingxian wooden pagoda is “shock resistance”. Ying County is located in the earthquake-prone area in the northern part of Shanxi Province. Since the completion of the wooden pagoda, there have been more than 40 earthquakes with great impact recorded, but the wooden pagoda has been able to stand to this day. inseparable.
  Someone once calculated that the construction of the Yingxian wooden pagoda requires about 3,000 cubic meters of Korean pine wood, which is more than 2,600 tons in weight. For such a behemoth to stand upright in an earthquake, it first needs a solid base. The Yingxian Wooden Pagoda has a masonry base that is more than four meters high, which is solid and stable and bears the weight of the entire tower. This design is conducive to resisting the twisting force generated by seismic waves.
  Yingxian Wooden Pagoda also adopts the “tube-in-tube” structure, which is also used in most modern skyscrapers, that is, the “inner tube” is used as the core tube, and stairs, elevators, etc. are set in between. Each floor of the Yingxian Wooden Pagoda is supported by two circles of wooden pillars inside and outside, forming an octagonal hollow part in the center of the tower, that is, the “inner cylinder”. During the reinforcement process of the past dynasties, people ingeniously erected many diagonal braces in the inner cylinder area, forming a double-layer compound beam structure layer in the tower, which provided strong support for the wooden tower. In this way, the wooden pagoda is five stories high at first glance, but with the addition of structural layers, it actually has nine stories. People enshrine Buddha statues in the inner hollow part of the wooden pagoda, while the outer trough serves as a spacious cloister for viewing the scenery.
  In addition, 54 kinds of dougongs with different shapes and functions were used in the construction of the wooden pagoda. People also call it the “Dougong Museum of Ancient Chinese Architecture”. Dougong can connect beams, fangs and columns into a whole, and can also split large structural components into different parts, which are connected by tenon and mortise. When an earthquake occurs, a whole structure may be destroyed instantly, and the bucket arch is composed of many small wooden blocks, and there are certain gaps between them, which can play a good buffering role, and the energy of the earthquake will be consumed during the conduction process.

The Tasha at the top of the wooden pagoda in Yingxian County

  The combination of bucket arches makes the eaves of each floor of the wooden tower extend beyond the beam frame, which has a good function of preventing rain and snow. The top of the wooden tower in Yingxian County is an iron tower brake, and the iron shaft in the middle of the tower brake is inserted into the beam. Inside the frame, the eight iron chains connected around it are respectively fixed to the ends of the vertical ridges of each eaves corner on the top of the tower. Some experts believe that this structure is like a complete set of lightning protection facilities, allowing the wooden tower to stand proudly after thousands of years of wind and rain.
  Due to the combination of rigidity and softness during the construction of the Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, some people call it the “architectural version of Taijiquan”. It can be said that the ancient Chinese architecture represented by Yingxian Wooden Pagoda not only shows strong functionality and practicality, but also shows the unique charm of Chinese architecture and Chinese culture.
The tallest wooden tower in the world

  Since the completion of the wooden pagoda in Yingxian County, it has become a local scenic spot. When literati and writers of all dynasties came to Yingxian County, they couldn’t help but climb the wooden pagoda, and even inscribed couplets and hung plaques. For example, during the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty, when Zhu Di, the ancestor of the Ming Dynasty, led his army on the northern expedition, he passed through Yingxian County. More than a hundred years later, Emperor Zhengde led the army to fight against the little Tartar prince in Yingxian area. He also climbed the Sakyamuni Pagoda and wrote in person: “A wonder of the world.”
  Of course, Yingxian Wooden Pagoda has experienced thousands of years. There have been many strong winds and waves. For example, during the reign of Emperor Shun of the Yuan Dynasty, there was a great earthquake in Yingzhou for the seventh day. Countless houses collapsed in the surrounding area, but the wooden pagoda remained motionless. In the Ming Dynasty, a strong earthquake of magnitude 9 occurred in Shanxi, but the wooden pagoda was damaged. In the “Yingzhou Chronicle” in the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty, it is clearly recorded: “From the Yuan Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty, there were seven major earthquakes, and the pagoda stood on the wall repeatedly.”
  In addition to natural disasters, Yingxian wooden pagoda has also been repeatedly harassed by wars. In the Beiyang period in 1926, Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan fought near Yingxian County. The wooden tower was shelled by more than 200 bullets, causing partial damage.
  After the founding of New China, the state carried out a comprehensive repair of the corresponding county wooden pagoda, making this ancient high-rise giant pagoda a new look. In 1961, the Buddha Palace Temple Sakyamuni was listed as a national key cultural relics protection unit. In addition, in the wooden pagoda of Yingxian County, archaeologists also discovered a number of extremely precious cultural relics of the Liao Dynasty, which provided valuable material materials for the study of the politics, economy and culture of the Liao Dynasty in my country.
  In 2016, Yingxian Wooden Pagoda was recognized by Guinness World Records as the tallest wooden pagoda in the world. In fact, a more comprehensive record of the wooden pagoda in Yingxian County should be: the oldest and tallest wooden pagoda in the world. The total height from the ground to the top of the tower is 67.31 meters, which is equivalent to a 22-story modern building. Even by current standards, the Yingxian Wooden Pagoda is definitely a high-rise building.
  The magical design of Yingxian wooden pagoda combining rigidity and softness is admirable, and the innovative wisdom and craftsmanship of the Chinese nation are displayed with pride.