Yongning Pagoda in Northern Wei Dynasty of Luoyang: the skyscraper tower in ancient times

Through the tunnel of Mangshan Mountain, enter the territory of Yanshi, Luoyang. There are many grassy mounds on both sides of the road, many of which are the tombs of emperors and generals.

Ten thousand rooms in the palace have been built. Luoyang City of Han and Wei dynasties, like its founder, is buried under the green wheat fields. Maybe it’s a joke of time. Yongning Temple Tower in Luoyang of Northern Wei Dynasty, the highest wooden tower in the city, was also buried in the tomb.

Today, the Taiji site close to the Longhai railway, before being excavated by modern archaeology, has been a mound for thousands of years. Such a mound is so common in Luoyang that people who live in the land have hardly noticed it. In the Qianlong period of Qing Dynasty, Gong Songlin, the county magistrate of Luoyang, even casually named it “jingling”, the emperor of Han Dynasty.

It is this inconspicuous earth mound sealed up that makes the Yongning Temple Pagoda site, which is “dedicated to civil engineering and skillful in poor modeling”, remain to this day.

Bodhi Dharma praises “real is divine skill”

In the first year of Xiping (516 A.D.), the emperor Xiaoming, who was only 6 years old, took the throne. His mother, the Empress Dowager Hu, actually controlled the Northern Wei regime. At that time, in the frenzy of princes and nobles competing for Buddha worship, she initiated the creation of a grand royal temple Yongning Temple.

It is the record of Luoyang Jialan that brings us back to Yongning Temple. This masterpiece of the Northern Dynasty was written by Fu Jun, Sima Yang Xuan, who traveled to Luoyang more than ten years after moving to Yecheng, the capital of the Eastern Wei Dynasty. The first one is Yongning Temple.

The temple site is only a mile away from the front gate of palace city and tongtuo street, the central axis of Luoyang City, to the East. The landmark building in the temple is the nine story Yongning Temple Tower. “It’s made of wood. It’s ninety feet high. The Golden Temple is ten feet high. It’s a thousand feet high. It’s a hundred miles away from the capital.”.

There are different records about the height of the tower. According to the records and excavation data, some researchers speculate that it is about 136.7 meters. The highest existing wooden tower in China, Yingxian County, Shanxi Province, is 67.31 meters high. Yongning Temple Tower is not only 500 years earlier than it, but also twice as high.

To build such a magnificent building naturally attracts opposition and discussion. It is hard not to fail that the Empress Dowager Hu, who is good at playing with politics, is very good at playing with politics. Yang xuanzhi wrote: “from the beginning of digging the foundation to the bottom of the yellow spring, the Empress Dowager got thirty golden statues. She thought that the crusade of believing in the Dharma was to build too much.” Digging the foundation, getting the golden image, in today’s view, it is likely that this is a means for her to use the theory of “augury life sign” and “Providence” to quell the people’s resentment.

As the Empress Dowager Hu hoped, Yongning Temple Tower stands on Luoyang City, the eastern starting point of the Silk Road, Han and Wei dynasties, which is the infinite vision of future generations. The pagoda is hung with gold-plated copper duo, a total of 130 pieces. The wind is high all night, “the harmony and clang of Baoduo are heard for more than ten li.”.

At that time, Samana of the western regions and Bodhidharma, the first ancestor of Zen, came to Luoyang and saw the golden plate of Yongning Temple, shining on the cloud table, singing and praising “it’s really divine skill”. He said he lived 150 years and traveled all over the world. He never lived in the realm of extreme Buddha.

In the second year of Xiping (A.D. 517), after the completion of the wooden tower, the Empress Dowager Ling and the emperor Xiaoming ascended the tower to look out, and found that “the view of the palace is like the palm, the view of the capital is like the family”, and ordered that ordinary people be forbidden to climb. However, Yang xuanzhi was lucky enough to climb the top of the tower accompanied by Yin Hu Xiaoshi of Henan Province. He looked down and exclaimed: “it’s not false that it’s going to rain under the clouds!”

Barometer of the Northern Wei Dynasty

In February of the third year of Yongxi in the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 534), the wooden tower was struck by thunder and lightning. It was first lit from the eighth floor, and the fire was fierce when the sky was just light. “Common people’s way and customs, salty to watch the fire, the voice of sorrow, vibration of the capital”, and even three monks died on the spot. Emperor Xiao Wudi sent thousands of soldiers to fight the fire, which was still useless. After three months of fire, there was still smoke on the anniversary.

This ancient wooden structure is the best, only existed for 18 years.

Yongning Temple seems to be a barometer of the Northern Wei Dynasty, a symbol of the glory of the dynasty when it prospered, and a witness to the sway of the regime when it declined

In AD.528, first empress Hu poisoned and killed emperor Yuanxu, the filial emperor of Ming Dynasty, and then the powerful minister Erzhu Rongxing attacked Luo and drowned empress Hu and the young emperor Yuanzhao in Heyin (now Xingyang). In this “change of river Yin”, erzhurong stationed troops in Yongning Temple.

In AD.530, Emperor Xiaozhuang was dissatisfied with erzhurong’s dictatorship and designed to kill erzhurong. Erzhuzhao, erzhurong’s nephew, attacked Luoyang and captured emperor Xiaozhuang. The emperor was locked in the gate of Yongning Temple for public display.

In AD.533, Gao Huan, another powerful minister, came on the stage to eliminate the influence of Erzhu family and kill Yang Ji, an important official of the Northern Wei Dynasty, at Yongning Temple. Later, he became the founder of the Northern Qi Dynasty.

In the October of the year when Yongning Temple was burned down, “the capital moved to Ye”, the Northern Wei regime was then destroyed.

Yongning Temple Tower is undoubtedly the highlight time of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Although it is short, it has left a thousand years of regret. Standing on the site of Yongning Temple Tower, touching the remaining rammed earth platform base and the sintered red rammed earth block, I can’t help but read Sima Guang’s eternal lament: “if you want to ask about the revival of the past and the present, please only look at Luoyang City.”

The collapse was similar to the attack on the world trade center in the United States.

What kind of structure does Yongning Pagoda depend on? It could be built to more than 100 meters high 1500 years ago? Yongning Temple Pagoda site, where the sky is shining again, remains of the tower base. Through exploration and excavation, archaeologists have uncovered the code of high tower construction.

Wang Ge, deputy director of the site management office of the ancient city of Han and Wei in Luoyang, said that the wooden tower was originally built on a rammed earth foundation about 100 meters square, with a square base, 38.2 meters long and wide, and 2.2 meters high. The inside is rammed earth, and the four walls are inlaid with bluestone. From the outside, it looks like a bluestone platform base. All sides of the platform base are equipped with “mandao” for people to go up and down.

The bottom layer of the wooden tower is composed of 124 square columns, which are generally 0.5m square, arranged in five circles to form a square column network. Under the square column are all bedded with foundation stones, mainly three stacked foundation stones, with a total thickness of 1.8m, greatly enhancing the stability. The outer ring is “eave column”, 10 on each side, 40 in total. There is a 1.1m thick wall built between eave columns. According to the current situation of the residual wall and the white ash floor, the setting of “three doors and six windows” in the literature is also found. In the fourth circle, the “open pillars” are built with adobe, forming a solid body of adobe and wooden columns. “Eaves column” and “Ming column” constitute a corridor style palace. The solid surface is 20 meters wide and the existing residual height is 3.7 meters. Five arc niches are built on the three adobe walls in the southeast and west of the solid body. The inner circle is “central column”, 16 in total, four in a group, forming a solid central column network.

After understanding the structure of Yongning Temple Tower, Tang Keyang, a design doctor and architect of Harvard University, said in Luoyang in the last days that technically, the collapse of Yongning Temple Tower may be similar to the collapse of the World Trade Center attacked in the “9.11” incident in the United States:

The rammed earth that makes up the tower’s core pillar can’t burn itself, but the wooden pillar in the civil mixed mechanism is carbonized under high temperature and loses its supporting role, just as the melting of the steel structure of the world trade center can no longer support the original still solid floor grid frame, “collapse and collapse”.

A number of fine painted clay sculptures have also been found. Fortunately, due to the baking of the fire, some of them have been properly preserved up to now. These clay sculptures are gentle, smiling, elegant and quiet. This kind of smile, which is born from the heart, is clean and speechless, gives people a strong visual impact and soul shock, and makes people calm and detached.

One of the incomplete clay sculptures of the Northern Wei Dynasty, Buddha’s face, was not long ago named one of the nine “treasures of the town capital” of Luoyang. The eyebrows and cheeks are missing, but her plump and fresh face, straight and tall nose, clear and soft lips, vaguely reveal the tranquility, grace and kindness, which make people think endlessly and have the reputation of “the Mona Lisa of the East”.

Incomplete Buddha statue, incomplete Yongning Temple Tower, incomplete Luoyang City in Han and Wei dynasties Maybe history is doomed to be incomplete, but the smile on the corner of the mouth still warms today’s people, which is a beautiful hope for “Yongning” across ancient and modern times.

Guta name card

Yongning Temple Tower was built in the first year of Xiping, Emperor Xiaoming of the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 516). According to records, it is a square tower with wood structure, nine stories high, and can be seen from a hundred miles away. The site is located in the ancient city of Luoyang in the Han and Wei dynasties, and there are still remains of the tower base.

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