The Newly-Built Leifeng Pagoda

An ancient underground palace was exhumed on March 11, 2001 on top of Leifeng Mountain near the West Lake in Hangzhou. The underground palace lies about 2.6 meters below the foundation of Leifeng Pagoda. A stone tablet covering the entrance of the underground palace was exposed after a huge stone weighing more than 760 kilograms was lifted away. Once the tablet was removed, the shaft-like underground palace was revealed. A Buddhist statue, several bronze mirrors, dozens of coins, a rusty iron case believed to contain Buddhist relics and other items of historical and cultural value were found at the initial uncovering of the palace. According to an inscription on a stone tablet uncovered early 2001, the iron case in the underground palace contains the hair of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism. An archaeological team under the Cultural Relics Archaeological Study Institute of Zhejiang Province conducted the excavation of the underground palace.

Construction of the original Leifeng Pagoda began in 972 and was completed in 976 during the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). On September 25, 1924, the pagoda collapsed due to long-term neglect and damage inflicted by superstitious residents who removed bricks from the base as it was believed they would bring luck and great fortune to those who owned a piece of pagoda. However, they hardly reached the underground palace. Hangzhou municipal government decided to restore the pagoda in October 1999 following decades of debate about the future of the site. A restoration plan proposed by Guo Daiheng, an architect from Qinghua University, was approved. The rebuilding of the pagoda signifies the restoration of one of the five most important scenic spots of West Lake. The pagoda’s history has been recorded in a well-known Chinese legend, the “White Snake.” During the reconstruction of Leifeng Pagoda, 280 tons of copper were used. All the copper carving was done by Zhu Bingren, reputed as king of copper carving. In late October 2002, a ceremony was held to mark the occasion by the provincial government and the municipal government in the city known for its scenic West Lake, one of the major tourism attractions in Zhejiang Province. China boasts 3,421 pagodas of various types.

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