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Why Is It Called Big Wild Goose Pagoda?

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a famous tourist attraction in Xi’an. It was built in 652 AD by Xuanzang to hide the classics. The tower has seven floors and is 64.5 meters in height. It is regarded as a symbol of the ancient capital of Xi’an. There are quite a few interesting legends about the origin of the name of Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

One is related to the monks’ abstinence from meat: In the biography of the Venerable Tripitaka of Daci’en Temple, it was read that: Indian Buddhism was divided into two major schools, Mahayana and Hinayana, and the Mahayana school did not eat meat, while the Hinayana school ate meat. One day a Buddhist temple of the Hinayana school could not buy meat, and the monk who was cooking was very anxious. At that moment he saw a flock of geese flying in the sky and joked to the geese, “Today there is no meat in the monk’s room, the bodhisattva should know.” Just as the words fell, the leading goose suddenly broke its wings and fell down, landing on the ground and dying. All the monks in the temple were shocked and thought that the dead goose was changed by the Bodhisattva and no one dared to eat it. They built a tower at the place where the goose fell and buried the body under the tower, so they called it the Goose Tower. The monks in the temple also stopped eating meat from then on.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

There is also a legend that Master Xuanzang was stuck in the desert on his way to get scriptures in the West. When he was sitting on the beach and worried about running out of food and water, suddenly two geese came flying, one large and one small. “If the geese can lead me out of the gourd beach, I will return to Chang’an to build a pagoda to thank you.” Master Xuanzang said. The two geese nodded their heads and led Master Xuan Zang out of the gourd beach. After successfully returning to Chang’an from the Buddhist scriptures, Master Xuanzang repaid the geese for their kindness by building this tower.

The third story is read in the book of “Tianzhu” which is in a temple in the western country of Dajin, “five layers of pagodas were made of stone, and the bottom layer was made in the shape of a goose, called the Goose Pagoda”. The records here are somewhat similar to Xuanzang’s tower-built plan. But now one can not see the bottom layer of the tower is the shape of the geese.

Why is the Wild Goose Pagoda named like this? Since a smaller pagoda was later built in Chang’an Jianfu Temple, Cien Temple Pagoda was called Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Jianfu Temple Pagoda was called Small Wild Goose Pagoda, so the name has been passed down to this day.