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Leifeng Pagoda (Chinese: 雷峰塔; pinyin: Léi Fēng Tǎ) is a five storey tall tower with eight sides, located on Sunset Hill south of West Lake in Hangzhou. Originally constructed in the year AD 975, it collapsed in 1924 but was rebuilt in 2002, since then it has been a popular tourist attraction.
The original pagoda was built in 975 AD, during Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, at the order of King Qian Chu (born Qian Hongchu) of Wuyue. It was built to celebrate the birth of Qian Chu's son, born to Huang Fei. The Leifeng Pagoda was an octagonal, five-storey structure built of brick and wood and with a base built out of bricks.
During the Ming dynasty, Japanese pirates attacked Hangzhou. Suspecting the pagoda contained weapons, they burned its wooden elements, leaving only the brick skeleton, as can be seen from Ming paintings of the West Lake.
Leifeng Pagoda was one of the ten sights of the West Lake because of the Legend of the White Snake.
Later, due to a superstition the bricks from the tower could repel illness or prevent miscarriage, many people stole bricks from the tower to grind into powder. On the afternoon of September 25, 1924, the pagoda finally collapsed due to disrepair.
As for whether there was a mausoleum below, this was debated for years until finally radar was used to investigate. On March 11, 2001 the mausoleum was excavated and many artifacts were found, most notably a gold and silver coated hair of the Buddha.
In October 1999, the provincial and municipal governments decided to rebuild Leifeng Pagoda on top of the ruins of the old one. The new pagoda opened on 25 October 2002. It is composed of a 1400 tonne steel structure with 200 tonnes of copper parts. It contains four sightseeing elevators, and modern amenities such as air conditioners, televisions and speakers. At the entrance of the pagoda there are two autonomous escalators to carry visitors to the base of the pagoda.
The original base of the pagoda is kept in good condition as well as the artefacts discovered in an underground chamber.
- "The king and the Buddhist pagoda". The missing ancient architectures. Episode 6. China Central Television. CCTV-9. http://english.cntv.cn/program/documentary/20110603/113515.shtml. (English subtitle)