My Giant Wild Goose Chase

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the iconic images of the city of Xi’an, and over the years it has survived regular seismic activity, civil wars…and falling wildfowl!

The waterfall entrance to the Pagoda
The waterfall entrance to the Pagoda

A Buddhist place of worship, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was erected in the year 652 during the Tang Dynasty, and at the time had only 5 stories to its design. Half a century later, this design collapsed and was eventually rebuilt with an extra 5 stories, making 10 in total. Yet a huge earthquake in Xi’an in 1556 caused extensive damage to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the top 3 tiers of the pagoda were completely eradicated. During the Ming Dynasty, its brick façade was renovated and kept at 7 stories, which is what you see before you today. One of the pagoda’s original purposes was to contain figurines of Buddha, which were brought to China from India by the travelling Monk Xuanzang.

Watch out overhead!
Watch out overhead!

But from where does the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda get its name? Well, legend has it that a group of monks were starving had ran out of meat and had nothing to eat. They prayed to Bodhisattva and in so doing a huge goose that was flying overhead suddenly broke its wings and fell to the ground, exactly where the pagoda is built today (are you rolling your eyes yet?). After this, it is said that the monks decided enough was enough, and not only named their new pagoda after it, but gave up eating meat altogether, in honour of the fallen goose.



As well as the pagoda itself, there is a working Buddhist temple and monastery (collectively known as Da Ci’en Temple), and I saw lots of monks going about their business, but I didn’t want to disturb them. As you would expect at such a place of importance in Xi’an, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was extremely busy with both domestic and international tourists, many of whom were burning incense and praying, but the grounds of this complex are very spacious and at no time did I feel overwhelmed, like perhaps I did when viewing the Terracotta Army the day before.


At a height of 210ft, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda offers amazing views over Xi’an, and at CNY40 it is good value considering the views. I found climbing the narrow wooden staircase of this pagoda a great experience, and some say it is similar to climbing up inside a lighthouse! There are four viewing areas in the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, each facing in a different direction, so you can really get an all-encompassing view of the surroundings down below.


While some temples are merely ruins in the middle of desolated locales, the surroundings of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda are very scenic and there is an amazing musical fountain show to the north, which at night can give you amazing glimpses of the fully-lit pagoda behind the water features (last show seems to be 20.30hrs). You can really see why this place has recently attained UNESCO World Heritage Site status!

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda has an admission fee of CNY50 and as stated before an additional CNY40 is required if you want to ascend the wooden stairs of the pagoda itself (highly recommended). The musical fountain show is free.

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