Temple of Heavenly Peace

temple of heavenly peaceThe Temple of Heavenly Peace (Tianningsi) is located on Guang' anmenwai Street in the southwestern part of Beijing. In the time of Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (late fifth century), a Buddhist temple stood on this spot. A stone pagoda was added in 602 and the name of the temple changed. In the Tang Dynasty, it was rebuilt and repaired on several occasions. In the early Ming period it fell into temporary disuse, but its present name, Tianningsi, was adopted in 1404. The pagoda at the temple is now the oldest extant building in Beijing. According to historical records, there was a pagoda dates from the Liao Dynasty, thought some of its superficial decorations were added in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The octagonal pagoda rests on a large square platform ands is clearly divided into three sections: the base, the body and the 13-story tower. The pagoda is exactly 57.8 meters high and is ornamented with a single band of relief-carved arched niches. Above them is a platform with its perimeter decorated with a series of balusters. This in turn supports three rows of lotus petals and the body of the pagoda itself. The lower part of the pagoda is decorated with wide arched openings and numerous relief carvings. Above this, the 13 levels rise in a slightly bowed profile. Bells hanging from each story tinkle pleasantly in the wind. The uppermost level is surmounted by a pearl-shaped symbol, which represents the Buddhist faith.

In Liao Dynasty, the temple stood in the most flourishing market district of the imperial city; thus one can imagine the important role it played in embellishing the skyline of ancient Beijing. Today it is an integral part of the city plan, and the recently built Tianningsi Road, which runs opposite the old monument, provides a fine view of the site.