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The Buddhist Relics Brought By Xuanzang

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The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is closely associated to the Buddhist relics. In the 3rd year of the reign of Yonghui (652 A.D), Master Xuanzang built this pagoda to house the Buddhist scriptures and the Buddhist relics he brought back from India. According to THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE MASTER OF BUDDHISM, Master Xuanzang brought back 150 relics of the flesh and a box of relics of the bone, the number of which was not specified. In the description of the construction of the pagoda in this book, it is said that every story of the pagoda housed about either 1,000, or 2,000, or 10,000 Buddhist relics at its center. Later during the reign of Chang'an by Empress Wu Zetian, she had the pagoda reconstructed and the whereabouts of the relics were not mentioned in any of the historical records. In spite of the effort of Master Xuanzang to get the Buddhist relics to China, whether they were put away somewhere or whether they were lost remains a mystery in the history forever.

Relics (Sheli in Chinese) is the transliteration of “SHE LI LO” or “SHI LI LO” in Sanskrit, meaning “the remains”. They were the remains of the cremation of the body of the Buddha after his nirvana. The legend has it that the relics of the Buddha were divided among eight kings. In light of the Buddhist theory, relics were the manifestations of the achievements of the Buddha or other accomplished monks. They were the crystallization of the conversion of religious discipline, cultivation and meditation, and wisdom. Relics are virtually the crystal of the remains after the cremation. They fall into different kinds. The white ones are the relics of the bone. The pinkish ones are the relics of the flesh while the gray ones are the relics of the hair. Relics of bones such as Buddha's teeth, Buddha's skull, and Buddha's fingers are often though to be even more precious, sacred and mysterious.

Where are the Buddhist relics brought back by Master Xuanzang? Are they in the underground palace or somewhere in the pagoda? This mystery remains unknown and it might be uncovered one day by the future excavation.

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Poems praising the Big Wild Goose Pagoda

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Many poets in Tang Dynasty such as Cen Sen, Du Fu and Gao Shi used to express their strong emotions by writing poems on the pagoda.

The poem written by Cen Sen reads :“As if spouted out of the ground. The pagoda towers high alone. Emerging above the common world. The sheer steps have wound and flown. Dominating the country around. Awesome like the work of a demon. Its four corners screen the sun. Its seventh storey touches heaven. Bellow, the soaring birds we hear. Bellow, the scary wind we hear.”

The poem written by Li Bai reads :“Standing on the top of the pagoda, which shoots into the sky. For hundreds of meters high, I can almost reach the stars and the moon. With the stretched hands of mine. For fear of awaking people in the heaven, I dare not speak loud at night?”

The poem written by Gao Shi reads :“mounting the pagoda, I am astonished by the height. With the wind blowing around me. I enjoy the view in delight. All the palaces appear in front of me, and all the mountains and rivers within my sight.”

The poem written by Chu Guangxi reads :“I am surpassing the gate of the Heaven, with geese flying under me. The mountains waving up and low, and so small the palaces seem to be.”

Du Fu excelled all his companions. He recited his poem that marvels others. It reads :“Higher up I am flying across the heaven with the howling wind passing along. I can see the dipper stars in the north, and the Milk Way in the west flowing with a song. I feel as if were Xi He driving the sun a whip in hand, and Shao Hao traveling in the clear autumn I felt so strong. All of a sudden, the Qinling Mountains are out of my sight, and Jing, Wei Rivers are cut out before long. With everything merging together in the bird's view, how can I distinguish the capital town?”

Edit by: Ada
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