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Jiaxing's Dongta Temple showcases Northern Song Dynasty architectural genius

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated : May 16, 2024


A view of the structure of the Dongta Temple's foundation. [Photo/WeChat account: jxfabu]

In a significant archaeological forum held recently, Professor Hang Kan from Peking University announced a groundbreaking discovery: the Dongta Temple site in Jiaxing is the first fully revealed pagoda foundation of its kind in China. It showcases the most sophisticated structural treatment and represents the zenith of architectural foundation techniques in the Jiangnan region during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

The Dongta Temple has been confirmed to originate from the Northern Song period, as evidenced by coins and ceramic shards unearthed within the rammed earth layers.

The initial clue to this significant find came in 2019 when ancient architectural components were spotted amidst the ruins of demolished houses in the Dongta Temple area. This prompted a thorough investigation and excavation by cultural heritage authorities and archaeologists in September 2023.

The foundation's design is a marvel of ancient engineering, featuring a triple-layered wooden frame with cypress wood that has miraculously survived 1,000 years. The structure's resilience is attributed to its unique construction, which includes 52 large ceramic jars within the foundation–a technique also observed in Shanghai's Longping Temple but on a much smaller scale.

This ingenious design was a solution to the challenges posed by the region's soft soil, which is prone to sinking and water seepage that often led to structural collapses. Despite the pagoda's multiple reconstructions over 800 years, the foundation remained unchanged–a testament to the architectural prowess of the era.

The findings at Dongta Temple are not just relics. They are indeed a gateway to understanding the Song Dynasty's cultural and religious influences in the region. Jiaxing plans to continue exploring the site, hoping to reconstruct the temple's history and architecture. The Dongta Temple, once lost to time, may soon be resurrected, offering a glimpse into the past for future generations.