The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing was located down the southern side of the Yangtze River in Nanjing. It is also known as the Bao’ensi, which means “the temple of gratitude.” It was one of the youngest medieval wonders of the world. It was built in the 15th Century during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. However, it was destroyed during the course of the Taiping Rebellion. In the year 2010, a generous Chinese businessman donated $156 million for the reconstruction of the pagoda, making it the largest single donation in the history of China.
The construction of the building started in the early 15th century; right after the design was finalized. This was during the reign of Yongle Emperor. It was discovered by the western world when European travelers visited China. It was often regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, making it a national treasure. During the year 1801, it was struck by lightning and was severely damaged. It was reconstructed soon after and was again back to normal less than a decade after the incident. A book which was released in the 1840’s had a detailed description of the tower right before its destruction.
This pagoda was set apart from other structures because of its beauty. It was a tall tower which stood at 259 feet high with a base of 95 feet. Visitors would enter through the elaborate archways at the bottom of the tower into an octagonal shaped room that was filled with candles and oil-burning porcelain lamps. The porcelain bricks were used to build the pagoda so that it would illuminate in the sun. It was said to be most beautiful during dawn when the sun was just creeping from the horizon. About 140 porcelain lamps were used to light up the structure during the night. For some time, this tower was the tallest structure in China. There are 190 steps in the tower that lead to the top. Visitors would be able to visit each of the nine levels. The tower quickly became a national icon.
The 19th century was not a good time for the porcelain tower. After experiencing the bolt of lightning, it was still in use until the 1850’s. During the Taiping rebellion, the Christian rebels took hold of most of the city, destroying the Buddhist temples and surrounding areas of the tower. It was destroyed from the inside since the rebels did not want people using the tower. They feared that their plans can be seen from atop the structure. During 1986, American sailors who visited China reported that they still saw the tower standing. Not long after that, it was completely destroyed by the rebels who had superstitious beliefs about it.
The Tower Today
The porcelain tower only exists in paintings and illustrations. For a while, the rubble of the ruins remained untouched. However, just recently, the Chinese government decided to rebuild this medieval wonder. The rubble has now been cleared in order to make room for the new magnificent structure.