Big Goose Pagoda

Top choice buddhist pagoda in Xi'an

Image by chuyu Getty

This pagoda, Xī’ān’s most famous landmark, 4km southeast of the South Gate and formerly within the old (and huge) Tang dynasty city wall, dominates the surrounding modern buildings. One of China’s best examples of a Tang-style pagoda (squarish rather than round), it was completed in AD 652 to house Buddhist sutras brought back from India by the monk Xuan Zang. His travels inspired one of the best-known works of Chinese literature, Journey to the West.

Xuan spent the last 19 years of his life translating scriptures with a crack team of linguist monks; many of these translations are still used today.

The brick Tang pagoda style is not seen in many parts of China, although other examples do exist, in Héběi province's Zhèngdìng, for example. Surrounding the Big Goose Pagoda is Dà Cí’ēn Temple (大慈恩寺, Dàcí’ēn Sì), one of the largest temples in Tang dynasty Cháng’ān. The buildings today date from the Qing dynasty. To the south of the pagoda is an open-air mall of shops, galleries, restaurants and public art; well worth a wander.

Bus 610 from the Bell Tower and bus 609 from the South Gate drop you at the pagoda square; the entrance is on the south side. An evening fountain show is held on the square.