Jun 28, 2011
7 Wonders of the Medieval World - Part V
The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing no longer exists, but it was located on the south bank of the Yangtze River in Nanjing Territory in China. Also known as Bao'ensi (meaning "Temple of Gratitude”) or the Porcelain Pagoda, the tower is one of the most notable archaeological and historical sites in China.
It was constructed by a Chinese Emperor by name Yung le in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty as a Buddhist place of worship.
The tower was octagonal with a base of about 97 feet (30 m) in diameter. When it was built, the tower was one of the tallest buildings in China, rising up to a height of 260 feet (79 m) with nine stories and a staircase in the middle of the pagoda, which spiralled upwards for 184 steps. The top of the roof was marked by a golden pineapple.
What set the Porcelain Tower apart was its exquisite beauty. The tower was covered with superior quality white and shining porcelain bricks interlaid with coloured stones. The entire area reflected 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 tower was also decorated with numerous Buddhist images.
In 1801, the tower was struck by lightning and the top three stories were knocked off. This was repaired, but the Taiping Revolution marked its end. The rebels who took control of the area (1840-1850) smashed the Buddhist images and destroyed the inner staircase to deny the Qing enemy an observation platform. Some American sailors visited the area and reported to have seen a hollow structure. In 1856, the Taiping destroyed the tower in order to prevent a hostile faction from using it to observe and shell the city. After this point, the tower's remnants were forgotten and it lay dormant until a recent surge to try to rebuild the landmark.
For a long time the rubble and ruins remained at the site where it once stood on the bank of the river Yangtze, but the Chinese Government finally decided to reconstruct this medieval wonder of the world and that rubble has been cleared.
In November of 2010, philanthropist Wang Jianlin donated 1 billion yuan ($15.3 million in U.S. dollars) to the reconstruction of Nanjing's Porcelain Tower. Wang said his donation is out of respect toward traditional Chinese culture, even though he is not a Buddhist.
Until the reconstruction is finished, you can still see some of the original blocks of the Nanjing Tower's arched door, now pieced back together and on display at the Nanjing Museum.