As the symbol of the old-line Xian, Da Ci’en Temple is a well-preserved ancient building and a holy place for Buddhists. It is located in the southern suburb of Xian City, about 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) from the downtown of the city. Standing in the Da Ci’en Temple complex, it attracts numerous visitors for its fame in the Buddhist religion, its simple but appealing style of construction, and its new square in front of the temple. It is rated as a National Key Cultural Relic Preserve as well as an AAAA Tourist Attraction.
This attraction can be divided into three parts: the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Da Ci’en Temple, and the North Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
Da Ci’en Temple: Da Ci’en Temple is the home of Big Wild Goose Pagoda. In 648, to commemorate the dead virtuous queen, royalty ordered the building of a temple named ‘Ci’en’ (Mercy and Kindness), for which the status and scale far exceeded all others. Today, with an area of 32,314 square meters (38,648.5 square yards), one seventh of the original area, it still retains its grandeur. Before the temple, there stands a statue of hierarch Xuanzang, the meritorious hierarch. Walking on and across a small bridge, visitors will see the gates of the temple. With guarding lions, the temple seems stately for lions were said to function as talismans. Entering the temple you will see two buildings-Bell Tower in the east and Drum Tower in the west. Inside the Bell Tower hangs an iron bell 15 tons (14.76 gross tons) in weight. It was molded in 1548 in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Along the central axis are arranged the Hall of Mahavira, Sermon Hall, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Hall of Xuanzang Sanzang. In the Hall of Mahavira are three carved statues of Sakyamuni, and 18 arhats as well as Xuanzang. The Sermon Hall is where Buddhist disciples would listen to a sermon. A bronze statue of Amitabha is dedicated and a Buddha statue is collected by Xuanzang as oblation. The Hall of Xuanzang Sanzang is north of Big Wild Goose Pagoda. In this hall are Xuanzang’s relic and a bronze statue of a seated Xuanzang. The inner wall is chiseled with murals depicting this hierarch’s story. Renowned as the contemporary Dunhuang Buddhist storehouse praised by UNESCO, it is the biggest memorial of Xuanzang.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda: Situated in the Da Ci’en Temple, about four kilometers from the urban center, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China. The Pagoda was built in the Tang Dynasty to collect Buddhist scriptures. Although it is worn by wind and rain, the architecture is well preserved. Originally built in 589 A.D. in the Sui Dynasty, Da Ci’en temple was named Wu Lou Si Temple. It was not until 648 A.D. when Emperor Li Zhi, then still a crown prince, sponsored a repair project on the temple. This was a symbol of thanksgiving to his mother for her kindness, after she had suffered an early death. The temple then assumed the present name Temple of Thanksgiving. The Emperor Gaozong was said to pay homage to the temple twice a day by looking in its direction from the Hanyuan Palace. The temple, with 13 separate courtyards, contained 1,879 magnificent-looking rooms altogether and was a place of grand extent in the Tang Dynasty. However, it went into gradual decay after the downfall of the Tang Dynasty. The halls and rooms that have survived the ages are structures that were built in the Ming Dynasty. The Tang Regime gave orders to build a chamber for the translation of Buddhist scriptures in an effort to have the then widely renowned Master Xuanzang (Monk Tripitaka) agree to be the head of the temple. The Wild Goose Pagoda was finished in 652 A.D. Its five stories are 60 meters in height. The decay of the earth-cored pagoda caused the new construction of a 10-storey pagoda from 701 to 704. However, the winds of war in the years to come reduced the pagoda almost to ruins, which in turn resulted in the construction of a 7-stored, 64-meter-high structure today. The storied pagoda was an architectural marvel. It was built with layers of bricks but without any cement in between. The bracket style in traditional Chinese architecture was also used in the construction of the pagoda. The seams between each layer of bricks and the ” prisms’ on each side of the pagoda are clearly visible. The grand body of the pagoda with its solemn appearance, simple style and high structure, is indeed a good example of Chinese traditional architecture.