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Discovering Beijing’s Hidden Gems: The Cishou Pagoda and Linglong Park

CultureDiscovering Beijing's Hidden Gems: The Cishou Pagoda and Linglong Park

Beijing’s rich historical heritage is often associated with the grand architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasties. However, the city’s visual history spans a much longer period, and evidence of this can still be seen in some lesser-known landmarks. One such example is the Cishou Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of Benevolence and Longevity, which can be found in Linglong Park. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the Cishousi subway station, the pagoda offers an opportunity to explore Beijing’s history beyond the widely represented eras.

Aside from the pagoda’s historical significance, the surrounding area offers a picturesque view of the nearby China Central Television tower. Visitors can also enjoy a peaceful pond that reflects the tower perfectly, creating an ideal backdrop for photographs. Moreover, the park features a decommissioned steam train that adds to the overall charm of the area.

Despite the park’s ordinary surroundings, the pagoda itself is a magnificent sight to behold. The seven-story tower stands tall and proud, with each story adorned with intricate carvings and decorations. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.

The Cishou Pagoda dates back to the Ming Dynasty, making it one of the oldest structures in Beijing. Initially constructed in 1576, it underwent significant restoration work during the Qing Dynasty. Today, it stands as a testament to the city’s long and varied history, reminding visitors that Beijing has much more to offer than just its grand imperial past.

while the Ming and Qing Dynasties are often associated with Beijing’s historical landmarks, the city’s visual history extends far beyond these eras. The Cishou Pagoda is an excellent example of this, offering visitors an opportunity to explore Beijing’s rich history beyond its more widely represented periods. With its beautiful surroundings and intricate architecture, the pagoda is a must-visit for anyone interested in exploring the city’s hidden gems.

When we think of Beijing’s historical sites, we typically picture the grand red walls and glazed tile roofs that represent the long imperial past of the capital, especially during the Ming and Qing dynasties. However, Beijing has a more extensive and diverse visual history than what is represented by these popular eras, and there are still places where we can see evidence of this.

One such site is the Cishou Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of Benevolence and Longevity, which can be found in Linglong Park, just a few minutes walk from the Cishousi subway station. While the surrounding park is unremarkable, the pagoda itself is an imposing sight, standing 50 meters tall with 13 tiers, an octagonal tower built in 1576 during the Ming Dynasty.

While the temple complex that would have once surrounded the pagoda is no longer standing, there is a small reconstruction at its base. The pagoda was modeled after an older pagoda, the Pagoda of Tianning Temple, which still stands in Beijing today. The two pagodas are almost identical, with the main difference being that the Cishou Pagoda sits within a park, while Tianning still retains its surrounding temple complex.

Unlike other well-known historical sites in Beijing such as the Forbidden City or Summer Palace, the Cishou Pagoda feels far more imposing. Its stone gray walls and carved reliefs of fearsome warriors and creatures on its facade give off a foreboding and almost sinister air. However, despite the hundreds of years of weather damage that have worn down their features and amputated many of their limbs, the carved reliefs are still strikingly impressive.

As I was walking around the pagoda, a man stopped me and informed me that I was walking in the wrong direction, pointing me in the right direction to walk clockwise around its base. I later learned that this gesture of respect is known as circumambulation, a practice of walking around an object of veneration or something that houses a holy relic in a clockwise direction for three or more times, keeping your right side to the object.

While the pagoda’s architecture offers a glimpse of a less well-known visual style of the capital, what stood out for me was realizing that it is more than just a tourist spot or landmark. It is still a place of prayer and worship for many, and its importance goes beyond it simply being a historical relic or curiosity. It is a spot that still has a purpose and place in modern Beijing, reminding us of the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.

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