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Hangzhou Baochu Pagoda Introduction


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Known as one of the most famous attractions in Hangzhou West Lake Scenic Area, Baochu Pagoda(保俶塔) is located on top of Baoshi Hill of northern side of Ge Ling(葛岭),which is also situated on the northern side of West Lake. When it was firstly constructed can not be confirmed, but according to the historical records, Baochu Pagoda was built in Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). The name of pagoda is connected with Qian Chu(钱俶, 929—988), who was a noted figure and Buddhist pilgrim in history of Song Dynasty and the highly-respected historic character in Hangzhou. This pagoda was destroyed but reconstructed for many times. The current pagoda is 45.3 meters high and has six sides as well as seven stories. It is made of the bricks following the original style of the pagoda in Ming Dynasty. The pagoda was a reconstructed one completed in 1933.

History of Baochu Pagoda

When Hangzhou was under the administration of Wuyue Kingdom(吴越国, 907-978), King Qian Chu was deeply supported by people. The mass worried the duration of Wuyue Kingdom could not be forever, and then built a pagoda on Baoshi Hill to protect(which in Chinese is Bao, 保) Wuyue Kingdom and Qian Chu, hence this pagoda was finally named Baochu Pagoda(which literally means The Pagoda of Protecting Qian Chu), and why did they build a Buddhist pagoda rather than other themed styles of buildings like Taoist buildings?Historically, Qian Chu was a famous Buddhist believer and for pleasing him, people and builders surely constructed a Buddhism-themed building on top of hill. This is an influential story about the name origin of Baochu Pagoda. However, there was another story concerned. Many people said that this pagoda was built by Qian Chu’s elder brother’s wife, who was a widow later. In order to pray for safety for Qian Chu, she built this pagoda, hence in folk society, this pagoda is also called Bao Shu Ta(保叔塔, Pagoda of Protecting Husband’s Young Brother). And the third related story is that this pagoda was built by Wu Yanshuang(吴延爽, the Uncle of Qian Chu and the Premier of Wuyue Kingdom). In 968, King Qian Chu was summoned to Kaifeng(开封), anciently also called Biao Liang(汴梁), by Emperor Zhao Kuangyin(赵匡胤, 927-976, the founder of Northern Song Dynasty) when central government of Northern Song Dynasty was just established and Wuyue Kingdom was peacefully subjected to Northern Song Dynasty. Many officials and local scholars knew Zhao Kuangyin was not an honest figure and suggested seriously Qian Chu not to go Kaifeng. But Qian Chu eventually went northwardly and stayed in Kaifeng for a long time unexpectedly. Many people began to worry about the safety of Qian Chu. And this pagoda was particularly built by his uncle in order to pray that Qian Chu could be safe to go and return. Also, someone once wrote an article that Qian Liu(钱镠,852-932), the founder of Wuyue Kingdom, titled Baoshi Hill to be Shou Xing(The Star of Longevity) and Luo Yin(罗隐, 833-909)who was a famous poet and scholar before Song Dynasty specially wrote a prose for the construction of Baochu Pagoda, but Luo Yin also named it Baosuo Pagoda(宝所塔), which is the another name of Baochu Pagoda. And this can be another story about the origin of Baochu Pagoda.

Originally, the pagoda had nine floors, but as the time went, this pagoda was destroyed and reconstructed for many times, at last, the reconstructed one just has seven floors. During the time from 1314 to 1566, Baochu Pagoda was destroyed and reconstructed for many time. In 1579, it was officially reestablished by Ming Dynasty Government. The rebuilt pagoda was seven floors. In 1924, the pagoda was leaning and it was rebuilt again. 1996, the tip of pagoda(塔刹) was changed. Today, the original pagoda tip made of iron was set near to Pagoda, which currently is a part of Baochu Pagoda Scenic Spot.

Baochu Pagoda is a key cultural site under the provincial-level protection of Zhejiang Province, located on the top of Baoshi Hill nearby The West Lake; it is the perfect place to have a bird’s eye view of the whole Hangzhou city, which is magnificent. Standing on top of hill alone and keeping silent to see the sky, water, city and inner heart, we could get a lot! Just like what is said in sutra, the earthly world does be the western paradise if you go through all changing phenomena and keep far away from sorrow, hatred, inquietude and profit and in and so on. This indeed deserves the crown of Southeast China’s Buddhism World. Besides, it is a tranquil area in downtown Hangzhou and facilitated with perfect infrastructure. Every morning, many old people climb up to Baochu Pagoda to happily shout and sing aloud there to welcome the sunrise of Hangzhou from east. Truly, a lot of old people have a good health; their speed is faster than young people. The fresh air, the tranquil hill, the ancient sites, the long history, the hospitable descendants of Qian Chu and the picturesque landscape of Hangzhou neighboring to the downtown indeed glorify this ancient pagoda. It is not only a Buddhist pagoda but a symbol of humanity of Hangzhou. As a classical image of West Lake, Baochu Pagoda opposite to Leifeng Pagoda, standing on the other side of West Lake, is just like an elegant beauty standing in brilliance of Buddha.

What is Ta Cha

Ta Cha in English roughly means the tip of pagoda. It is the decoration of the top of Buddhist Pagoda. Ta Cha is set on the top of Pagoda and the most remarkable part of the pagoda. The word source of Cha(刹) is from Sanskrit(梵语, Sanskrit was spoken in India roughly 1200–400 BC, and the Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems are written and many northern Indian languages are derived from it. Later it was used as a language of religion and scholarship. It is written from left to right in the Devanagari script. The suggestion by Sir William Jones (1746–94) of its common origin with Latin and Greek was a major advance in the development of historical linguistics.) and means the state, and in Buddhism, it means the World of Buddhism. The pagodas with diversity of style have their own Ta Cha. Chinese Buddhist architecture is the combination of ancient Indian Buddhist building and Chinese traditional architecture. During this mixture and oneness, the tip part of pagoda gradually became the obvious part of pagoda. In the aspect of structure, Ta Cha itself is an entire ancient pagoda, and it is generally comprised of base, body, pole and top. Located on the top, the shape of Ta Cha can be like honeysuckle and lotus. Some of the Ta Cha also played the important role of preserving She Li(舍利), Buddha Statues, Buddhist Sutras and other treasures.

Laifeng Pavilion (Phoenix-Coming Pavilion)

Laifeng Pavilion(来凤亭) is located nearby Baochu Pagoda, and traditionally it is famous as one of Top 18 Scenes of West Lake in Qing Dynasty. Baoshi Hill on the whole looks like a flying phoenix, and Baochu Pagoda built on the east peak is like the head of phoenix. The Laifeng Pavilion is built on a huge rock on the west side of Baochu Pagoda. Hence it is named Lai Feng. In book titled Hu Shan Bian Lan (湖山便览), a book written in Qing Dynasty, Laifeng Pavilion was built by Li Wei(李卫,1687-1738, who acted as the governor of Zhejiang and took charge of compiling Xi Hu Zhi, or Records of the West Lake, which is a book named 西湖志 in Chinese and the most authoritative book introducing the history, culture and custom of West Lake) in the ninth year of Emperor Yongzheng of Qing Dynasty. Used to known as Bao Shi Feng Ting(宝石凤亭, The Phoenix Pavilion of Baoshi Hill), one of top 18 scenes of West Lake, this pavilion after several reconstructions today becomes an important part of Scene named Bao Shi Liu Xia(宝石流霞, Precious stone hill floating in rosy clouds), one of Top New Eight Classic Scenes of West Lake named by local people of Hangzhou in the 21st century.

Chun Zhen Nian Dai(纯真年代, Period of Naivete)

It is a club for reading and amusing near to Baochu Pagoda, Chinese literature lovers can go there for enjoying a kind of elegant, slow and leisure life for a second. Living in this hustle and bustle urban world, individual is unavoidably stressful and flippant and easily inclined to getting lost. Coming here for a rest could relieve your soul and spirit and give you the insight and rationality for future you walk towards. Why? Because it is closest to Baochu Pagoda and Buddha.

Pictures shown below are themed with Laifeng Pavilion and Baochu Pagoda, and hope it is useful for your further reading on Baochu Pagoda as well as the Scenes of West Lake in Hangzhou. Pagoda is a special view of Chinese attractions, especially in the historic and cultural attractions. Deeply influenced by Buddhism and the core of Taoism---Oneness of Heaven and Human, Chinese attractions mostly are humanized or reshaped to some degree by culture and spirituality of China. In other words, majority of Chinese so-called natural landscapes are not the pure landscapes of nature. They are spiritualized and humanized, so Taoist temples, Buddhist temples and pagodas as well as Confucian schools used to be built in natural scenery, which surely adds the humanity to the nature, and meanwhile reduces the purity of natural scenes. In China, visitors hardly find a purely natural lanscape except some virgins land and forests. In this way, Hangzhou West Lake Scenic Area is the typical representative of Chinese attractions. It is the real cultural and natural attraction featured with Chinese style.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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