The Tower of Buddhist Incense (佛香閣 Foxiang Ge) sits atop Longevity hill in the Summer Palace, overlooking Kunming Lake. Like a lot of historical sites in China, it went through cycles of construction and destruction. It was first built by Emperor Qianlong during the 1700’s, destroyed by the Anglo-French allied Forces in 1860 and rebuilt again during Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1875 – 1908).
Urban legend has it that Emperor Qianlong originally wanted to use this piece of land to create a garden. During the construction, a tomb of an imperial concubine from the Ming Dynasty was uncovered. As if knowing someone might come and dismantle her tomb, it was written on the concubine’s tomb door “I will not disturb you if I am left undisturbed”. In the end, Emperor Qianlong built a religious tower – the Buddhist Incense Tower on top of the tomb, hoping to subdue the spirit.
At the base of the Tower of Buddhist Incense is where the Hall of Dispelling Clouds (排雲殿 Paiyun Dian) is. The original hall too was burnt down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces and reconstructed again in 1886 to celebrate Empress Dowager Cixi’s birthday. The hall still has a lot of the Empress birthday presents displayed though they are kept behind glasses so it was quite difficult to see the presents.
Since the tower sits on Longevity Hill, a lot of climbing is involved before reaching the Hall of Virtuous Splendor (德輝殿 Dehui Dian).
The hall originally served as a place for Emperor Dowager Cixi’s to change her clothes before making her way up to the Tower of Buddhist Incense to do the prayers. Today, the hall displays all sorts of eaves-tiles made with various materials including clay, glaze and metal.
The eaves-tiles although are tiny bits on the roof but they carry a great amount of intricate details where different patterns symbolize different things with most of them along the lines of longevity, prosperity and good blessing.
The dragon is thought of as an auspicious animal that brings wealth and abundance to the people.
The Tower of the Buddhist Incense houses the Thousand Hand Guanyin Buddha which was made in 1574. The Guanyin Buddha looks time-worn but I guess it’s still in fairly good shape considering it’s almost 450 years old!
The Guanyin Buddha stands atop a lotus flower made of 999 petals.
Do note that a separate admission ticket is required for entry into Tower of Buddhist Incense (RMB 10). Enjoy a few more photos below 🙂
Summer Palace Official Website
- Suzhou Street @ Summer Palace, Beijing China (alwaystravelicious.com)
- The Garden of Virtue & Harmony @ Summer Palace , Beijing (alwaystravelicious.com)