The Leaning Tower of China
Symbol of Suzhou City
Tiger Hill Pagoda or Yunyan Pagoda is a Chinese pagoda built during the Northern Song dynasty from 959 – 961. It is one of the most famous sight of Suzhou, with beautiful old trees and cultural relics everywhere – the Broken Beam Hall, the Sword Testing Stone, the Sword Pond, the Thousand Men Rock etc.
The pagoda has seven stories and eight sides, it is made of bricks and is 48 meters high. Chinese engineers estimate that this structure weighs around 6,000 tons. It leans to the north almost imperceptibly by 3.5 degrees. This pagoda is situated at Changmen in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. Its other name includes ‘Leaning Tower of China’. Since this is the oldest pagoda in the vicinity of Suzhou, the tower has come to be a symbol of the city.
Like many pagodas of early Song and Tang periods, it is a stone imitation of earlier wooden pagodas. The “lintels” and “brackets” carved on its surface are decorative and not structural. Since this is clearly an imitation of wooden designs, Yunyan or Tiger Hill pagoda (or also known as Huqiu Tower) preserves an important and valuable record of how wooden pagodas of that area must have been constructed.
Tiger Hill Pagoda stands on top of the Tiger Hill where it is also a part of the popular Yunyan Temple. This is the smallest garden in Suzhou, only about one tenth the size of Zhou Cheng Yuan. It is 36 m high and it is set in a 20-hectare park. Because it is so small, many people often think that Tiger Hill is actually an artificial hill. Near the top of this hill is the burial place of King He Lu, the founding father of Suzhou who died in 600 BC. According to the story, a white tiger occasionally appeared on the hill to guard the tomb – hence the name for the hill.Another interesting thing to see there is the Sword Testing Stone. It has a split within it and it is believed to be cracked by the king He Lu who tested his swords on the stone. The legend also tells that the king was buried with 3,000 swords and 1,000 builders were then killed after building the tomb so that they would never reveal the secret of the swords.
The building is supported by internal brick columns and there is no internal stairway for people to climb to the different levels. If people want to climb to upper stories, they need to use movable ladders. In more than a thousand years, this pagoda has gradually slanted due to forces of nature. The tower leans because its foundation is originally from half rock and the other half is on soil.
In order to avoid further leaning, efforts were made to stabilize this Chinese pagoda in 1957. Concrete was also pumped into the soil to form a stronger foundation. A stone casket containing Buddhist scriptures were found during the reinforcement process. The tower was also partially repaired by the local government in 1981. Today, the Tiger Hill Pagoda is listed as one of the Chinese special historical sites under State protection.
Pagoda in feng shui is used to enhance children's education luck and prosperity