Where We Be
Big Wild Goose Pagoda -- Xi'an, China
Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a seven-story-tall
pagoda originally built in 652 AD during the
Tang Dynasty. It is a holy place for Buddhists,
built to hold sacred texts and relics brought all
the way from India by China’s most intrepid
early traveler, Xuanzang. This incredible man
started from Xi’an and traveled through deserts
and forbidden western regions along the Silk
Road to India, cradle of Buddhism. His aim was
to go to the source and retrieve accurate texts
to resolve all the conflicting Buddhist texts in
China. All told, he traveled some 10,000 miles
over three of the tallest mountain ranges in
Asia. A mere 17 years later -- and long since
presumed dead -- he brought back 657 sutras
(important Buddhist texts) and relics.To say the
least, he was the talk of the dynasty. Xuanzang
finished up by writing a book about his journey
and persuading the emperor to build the Wild
Goose Pagoda to house his scriptures.

Our visit here is made memorable by the
Buddhist monks with shaved heads and orange
robes chanting inside the pagoda. Seated in
rows with books before them on dark wooden
tables, they all repeat a text together in a
monotone, as a group. Tom-tom-like drums play
rapidly and lightly to keep everyone at the
same rhythm. Incense burns. The inside of the
pagoda is rich with gold-leaf decoration and
Buddha statues. It’s shadowy and dark inside
as we peer in from the sunny portico. Chinese
and foreign tourists alike crane their necks to
see through the open windows and doorways,
snapping photos and murmuring among
themselves, but if any of this is a bother to the
chanting monks inside, they don’t let on.
An enormous “incense candle tree” sits in the middle of the sunny portico where
Buddhists (or anyone, for that matter) can light an incense candle and add it to the tree
We watch as a father shows his delighted young daughter how to light her first candle from another already-lit candle and add it to the tree
Hearing the Buddhist monks chant their prayers in unison is like entering a mystical world very different from our own
Tom-tom-like drums play rapidly and lightly to keep everyone at the same rhythm
The inside of the pagoda is rich with gold-leaf decoration, Buddha statues, and the smell of burning incense
Outside the pagoda is a little nature preserve bursting with springtime blooms
Immersing ourselves in all things China, from spring blossoms to dragons
The seven-story Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in all of China
Both this lovely ornamental screen and this bike parked beneath bamboo subtly hint that we are in China