Nanjing plans to rebuild old pagoda

China Daily, Dec 8, 2004

Nanjing, China -- The Dabao'ensi Pagoda, a 580-year-old relic destroyed in a war a century and a half ago, will be rebuilt. Preliminary work has been basically completed and the rebuilding will soon begin, sources say.

The Dabao'ensi (Big Gratitude Temple) Pagoda was originally located in the south of Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province about 150 years ago.

The pagoda was built by the Ming (1368-1644) Emperor Zhu Di, in 1421 in memory of his mother.

Historical documents record that the pagoda was about 80 metres high with nine storeys, eight sides, more than 150 wind bells and 140 oil lamps.

It took 100,000 workers almost 20 years to build it.

After standing in Nanjing for more than 400 years, the pagoda was destroyed in war during the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-1864), only ruins were left behind.

During an exhibition of city construction planning at the Nanjing Science Hall, two design plans of the pagoda and the park around it were displayed.

Both of them were put together by experts from Southeast University led by Pan Guxi, a well-known professor of ancient architecture.

Both experts and residents have discussed the two plans, said an executive surnamed Liu from Nanjing Jinling Dabao'ensi Development and Construction Corp Ltd.

"Most people prefer the first one," he said. "Experts suggest that some good ideas of the second plan be used for reference in the first one, and citizens gave many new ideas."

An expert form Southeast University, who asked to remain anonymous, explained why most people chose the first plan.

It includes details of an old town centre typical in ancient times. Civic buildings surround the temple and pagoda to form streets, squares and shops with a strong daily life atmosphere, he said.

"We are still in the progress of making the final design plan which will absorb good ideas of both the two plans. The end product will be different," Liu said.

Including the 200 million yuan (US$24 million) for the reconstruction of the pagoda, the whole project is expected to cost about 600 million yuan (US$72 million).

As early as the 1980s, officials began to consider rebuilding the pagoda.

In November last year, Nanjing Jinling Dabao'ensi Development and Construction Corp Ltd was formally founded with registered capital of 60 million yuan (US$ 7 million).

According to Liu, a lot of preparatory work has been done to rebuild the pagoda.

Buildings totalling tens of thousands of square metres have to be removed, including houses and commercial establishments. That is expected to cost more than 400 million yuan (US$ 48 million), according to insiders.