Friday, May 01, 2009

This Tiger Doesn't Roar

But it had no trouble getting our attention!

One of the more famous sights in Suzhou is not a garden at all, but rather a beautiful tower called Yúnyán Tǎ (Cloud Rock Pagoda) built on a hill known in Chinese as Qiū Shān (Tiger Hill). It was built over 1000 years ago as the pagoda of the Yúnyán temple. Over seven stories tall, its first noticeable feature is its tilt. Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this structure is slowly on its way to becoming horizontal, although it has been shored up in recent times. No matter, the beauty of its architecture and color scheme, while really simple by Chinese standards, make it stand out amongst so many of the other religious structures we've seen.

As we stood on the hill absorbing its qi, we couldn't help thinking about the pagoda's former and current uses. In the past, we were told, it was used to house ancient religious books. It is supposedly atop the tomb of King He Lu, who was buried there by his son in 496 BC. Legend has it that a few days after his burial, a white tiger came and sat on the hill. Hence its name. Today, it is perhaps the world's most elaborate bird house. With a backdrop of bright blue sky and tall, green deciduous trees, it is an amusing site to see small birds playfully darting in and out of the windows. These little winged friends have found some high priced real estate to call their own, as this Suzhou setting is difficult to top.



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