Hangzhou has loads of top attractions that are either on the West Lake itself or scattered around the city. Leifeng Pagoda is one of the West Lake attractions and well worth seeing. Before arriving in Hangzhou I had no plan to visit Leifeng Pagoda and did not even know it existed. My dorm mate in Hangzhou recommended it so I visited it on my first day in Hangzhou.
Background and History
Leifeng Pagoda is a Buddhist Pagoda built in 975 by the last King of Wuyue, Qian Chu who was a devoted Buddhist. The pagoda was seriously damaged by war in 1120 and was partially destroyed by marauding Japanese pirates during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The wooden parts of the pagoda were burnt in the pirate attack leaving just a brick skeleton.
The brick skeleton collapsed in 1924 after centuries of neglect and vandalism by locals who stole the bricks on the superstitious belief that the bricks had magical medical properties. The reconstruction of the pagoda did not take place until 2002 when the current pagoda was built on the ruins of the original pagoda.
The foundation of the new tower is designed and built to cover, protect and display the foundations of the original pagoda.
The Leifeng Pagoda
The pagoda is remains an important Buddhist site and is still used by Buddhists for worship. Not surprising considering that local legends, Buddhist scriptures and stone tablets claimed the pagoda once housed the bones and hair of Sakyamuni, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism. An iron case was excavated from a pit under the foundations of the original pagoda in 2001. The case contained an artefact that experts believe holds the hair of Sakyamuni.
The grounds behind and to the left of the pagoda are great for a walk and well worth seeing. Most tourists go straight up to the pagoda using the escalator (shame on them), catch a lift to the top, enjoy the view and leave the same way. I had the whole garden to myself when I was there.
Leifeng Pagoda is on the southern end of the lake and easily accessible by foot or bike when going around the lake. You can catch these buses to the pagoda k4, K504, 808, 809, Y1, Y2, Y3, Y8.
Tickets and Opening Times
The ticket cost 40RMB which is a little pricy considering the cost of other larger, more famous and more “original” attractions but still well worth it.
The opening times are 7:30am to 9:00pm during the peak season (March 15 to November 15) and 8:00am to 5:30pm during the off season.