Porcelain Tower of Nanjing

Porcelain Tower of Nanjing

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, part of the former Great Bao’en Temple, is a historic site located on the south bank of the external Qinhuai River in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China. This architectural masterpiece was designed during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (ruled 1402–1424 CE) and shortly after its construction began in the early 15th century. It was mostly destroyed in the 19th century during the Taiping Rebellion. 

The tower was octagonal with a base of about 97 feet in diameter. When it was built, the tower was one of the most significant buildings in China, rising to a height of 260 feet with nine stories and a staircase in the middle of the pagoda, which spiraled upwards for 184 steps. A golden pineapple marked the top of the roof. 

The tower was built with white porcelain bricks that were said to reflect the sun’s rays during the day, and at night as many as 140 lamps were hung from the building to illuminate the tower. Glazes and stoneware were worked into the porcelain and created a mixture of green, yellow, brown, and white designs on the sides of the tower, including animals, flowers, and landscapes. The building was also decorated with numerous Buddhist images.

Some of the original blocks of the tower’s arched door are now pieced back together and displayed at the Nanjing Museum. 

The Porcelain Tower was first discovered by the Western world when European travelers like Johan Nieuhof visited it, sometimes listing it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. After this exposure to the outside world, the tower was seen as a national treasure by locals and other cultures worldwide.

It’s worth mentioning that in 2010 Wang Jianlin, a Chinese businessman, donated a billion yuan (US$156 million) to the city of Nanjing for its reconstruction. This is the largest single personal donation ever made in China. In December 2015, the modern replica and surrounding park opened to the public. 

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