The real name of the Wooden Pagoda in Yingxian County, located in Fogong Temple in the northwestern corner of the county town of Yingxian, is Sakyamuni Pagoda. Since it was built completely of timber, it has been known popularly as the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County. It is the oldest wooden structure extant in China, and also the tallest among the ancient wooden buildings of the world.
The pagoda was constructed during the Liao Dynasty. The wooden Pagoda, nearly 70 meters high, is 30 meters in diameter and weights over 2600 tons. Made up of at least 3,500 cubic meters of wood, the pagoda is octagonal in shape and contains nine floors, with four built-in stories not apparent from the outside.
Built without the use of nails, the entire structure is solid, imposing, and elegant. Although built entirely with timber, the pagoda has weathered over 900 years of wind and rain, and withstood numerous strong earthquakes and wars. It’s been recorded that there had occurred a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale 30 years after the pagoda was built. All the buildings around collapsed but the quake merely shook out some singles from the pagoda’s eaves. All this is due to its unique structure. The pagoda’s multi-storey structure has given it the kind of stability resembling those in the modern buildings. Its wood texture is very soft, which won’t easily twist under the outside pressure. The many layers also reinforce the pagoda.
Since the founding of New China in 1949, the government has dispatched many survey groups to conduct an on-site investigation into the pagoda and great efforts have been made to repair and reinforce the structure. During a repair project in 1974 a number of important and valuable cultural relics were found in the pagoda, including a picture of medicinal herbs and some Buddhist scriptures, all belonging to the Liao Dynasty. The scripture scrolls include both hand-written and block-printed ones. Some of which are more than thirty meters long when spread out and can date back to as early as the year 990, 1003 or 1071. They are regarded as rare treasures both at home and abroad, and provide important data not only for the collating of the Buddhist scriptures but also for the research of development of the printing technology and cultural exchanges among different nationalities in China. The temple is also widely extolled as an outstanding example of Chinese architecture.