A 73-meter-high boulder has four flat and smooth walls that look like a huge jade seal. It lies on the north bank of the Yangtze River, 32 kilometers downstream from Zhong County. In addition, the spectacular 12-story tower-shaped pavilion locates on the side near to the river of the boulder. The pavilion sits on the cliff, equipped with green tiles, red walls, and overhanging eaves. Meanwhile, emperor Temple on the top of the cliff dotted with Buddhist temple and curved roof adds a bit of mystery. This is the Shibaozhai Temple in Zhong County that enjoys tremendous popularity in the world.
Shibaozhai Temple was built in the Ming Dynasty, i.e. 1572 A.D., more than 400 years ago. It is the highest existing timber architecture in China that integrates the natural landscape and human landscape. Shibaozhai is a miracle among the folk architectures in southern China.
Construction of the Pavilion
Shibaozhai Temple consists of three parts—gate, tower, an ancient temple. The gate shapes like an archway with about 8m high, building in masonry structure with gabled and hipped roof. It is higher in the middle and lower on the ends. Moreover, horizontal written words on the head are “straight up a long ladder to the top”. It means that climbing the ladder to reach the sky.
The 12-story tower-shaped pavilion with wooden structure is up to 56 meters with 2 parts: upper and lower. The lower part that nears to the cliff comprises 9 floors, implied the meaning of Nine Heavens. The multiple floors integrated wood with stone connects tightly with each other. On the other hand, the upper one is narrower than the lower one.
Furthermore, it is hard to find a wood plug at the connection parts of the columns at each level. Visitors cannot find a nail on the overhanging eaves neither, presenting the astonishing ancient building craft. There are wooden ladders in the building for visitors to climb to the top of the Shibaozhai Temple. On each stone wall, stone carvings present different ages or portraits and statues of famous celebrities in Zhong County. The upper 3 floors are slightly receded, supported on the top of the stone platform, and the top is straight into the sky, known as the “Kuixing Pavilion.”
Looking from the front, 12 layers of double eaves are wider on the bottom and narrower on the top, forming three sides of walls. The lofty pagodas on overhanging eaves of four corners at each layer are blended naturally into the boulder, shaping strange and magnificent appearance.
Inner Viewing of the Pavilion
After entering the gate, between the courtyard and the first floor, there are two inscriptions of the Qing Dynasty. The inscriptions record the beginning and end of the construction of Shibaozhai Temple. It is recorded with the different history and relevant stories at each floor of the tower. Additionally, there is a small door at the south end of the seventh floor, and the outside is the chain path.
Visitors can go straight through the wooden ladder in the building to the Kuixing Pavilion. Likewise, visitors can pass through the chain path from the small door to pick up the stairs along the iron chain and climb to the top platform through Wangjiang Platform to enter the Kuixing Pavilion. In front of the tower, the chain path is the only passage for mountaineering.
The flat platform on the top of the boulder, with an area of about 1,200 square meters is the location of Emperor Temple. The stretching Emperor Temple echoes with the cloud-capped towers and pavilions, constituting the unique appearance of the unified pattern of Shibaozhai Temple.