In total there are over 60 historical sites to be visited and enjoyed in Yinchuan and its vicinity.
The Yinchuan Report
Haibao Tao - Northern Temple & Pagoda:
Although in general Ningxia Region and its Capital City of Yinchuan are more widely known among international travelers as the home of the Tangut Dynasty and the Hui Ethnic Minority and thus the main focus of tourism is on the Xixia Emperors Tombs and the many Mosques of the City and Region, the Buddhist Haibao Monastery and its Pagoda are among the main monuments and historical jewels of the Town. Apart from being one of the two pagodas in Yinchuan that are part of the historically renowned 'Eight Famous Sceneries of Ningxia', the other is the Chengtiansi Pagoda in the west of the Old Town (Xingching), it is also the oldest Pagoda in Yinchuan and likely one of the oldest surviving structures in the City. That is, the historical foundations of the Pagoda and Monastery can be traced back at least to the Warring
A Map of the North-Eastern section of Yinchuan (Beitahu) with the locations of Zhongshan Park and the Haibao pagoda & monastery.
History of Haibao Ta:
Haibao Ta has a history that can be traced as far back as the 5Th Century AD when, according to historical records, it was rebuilt by Helian Bobo the king of Da Xia state (407 AD - 427 AD). Thus, it is also known as the He Pagoda, today a rarely used name.
In 1739 AD, during the Qing Dynasty Era (1644 AD - 1911 AD) , a devastating Earthquake, now dubbed the Pingluo-Yinchuan Earthquake, leveled the entire Temple leaving nothing but rubble. The current day Temple was rebuilt in its original style and reopened in the year 1771 AD, at which time it was renamed as was the Haibao Buddha Hall. This remained the name of the Temple throughout the China Dynasty Era, as well as during the early Republic of China years (1928 AD onwards). Since then its has survived several smaller earthquakes and the Temple remains operational as a (Buddhist) Monastery.
Today's Temple grounds do not exactly resemble the sistuation that existed in the past. It is said that after its reconstruction in 1771, the Haibao Pagoda was situated on an island in a lake. According to historic records at the time there was a Festival on every March the 4Th of the lunar year, at which Time people would have to travel outside of their city to the Temple, then cross the lake by boat to attend the annual temple fair.
Recently, the 'Lake' that existed here in the Qing Dynasty was recreated in the Shape of Beitahu, creating once more a green environment to surround the Pagoda and Temple. The Beitahu however is a man-made Lake.
The Haibaota Pagoda is the main structure inside the Haibao Monastery. The Pagoda was toppled in the earthquake built rebuilt during the Qianlong Reign of the Ching Dynasty. Eversince it was known as the Black Pagoda. Today it is also known the North Pagoda.
The pagoda structure consists of a square tower of brick built in nine floors with 11 seperate levels, measuring 53.9 meters in total height. The design of this Pagoda is completely unique with curved doors on the four sides of each floor and the door is flanked by concave eaves. The first storey has a portico and an arched door. Inside is an arhat niche flanked by brick steps leading to the top of the pagoda. Arched doors on the front of each storey are flanked by false niches. The interior of the pagoda is also cross-shaped and in the center of each floor is a square chamber. The pagoda tapers by fifteen to twenty centimeters from one storey to the next.
Within the pagoda, the square rooms are separated with wood beams and floor planks.
The steeple or 'Crown' of the Haibao Pagoda is different from that of any other pagoda found in China or elsewhere. It is peach-shaped and built of green glazed bricks.
The Climb to the top of the Tower is 154 steps along small and narrow wooden staircase,
creating a problem for many visiting tourist. When finally on top those who dared sweat it out are rewarded with the view of a towering Mt. Helan in the west - described by locals as resembling a running horse, and the murky waters of ancient Yellow River - China's sorrow but Ningxia's blessing- like a snaking dragon in the distance.
In the recent two decennia local Government has invested significantly in renovations and expansions of the Haibao Temple. Among the elements added a bell tower, a drum tower, wing-rooms and a greenhouse. The expansions and renovations involved, repainted the outer enclosure wall, the construction of a road and parking space to be used by flocks of tourist visiting this famed historic Landmark. A special administrative unit was set up at the Temple to manage the tourism aspect of the Temple.
Location: Haibao Park. North of Shanghai East Road.
Opening Hours: 7 AM to 18:00 PM
The Main landmarks of Yinchuan City are as listed below.
Inside the temple halls there are lively statues of Buddha sitting majestically within a haze of incense smokes. In the largest hall, Weituo Hall, one can find a truely splendid reclining Buddha statue, measuring 7.6 meters in length. Placed behind it are the statues of the ten disciples of the Buddha, painted in color, and modeled in different looks. It is a representation of the classical scene in which Sakyamuni speakes his will to his disciples, while lieing on his death-bed.
The Main attractions naturally are the Grand View to be had from the Top of the Tower, nine storeys high, overlooking most parts of the City and with the ridges of Helan Shan in view in the distance. The temple itself is abundantly green, resembling a park.
In the temple, halls and houses are arranged centrally around the pagoda, involving two courtyards, one in the South and one in the North. The pagoda sits in the front courtyard standing between the Mahavira Hall and the Weituo Hall. A flower pattern brick carved gate at west rear of the pagoda leads to the second courtyard, where the Weituo Hall and the Hall of declining Buddha are situated.
How to get there:
Although the Haibao Ta or Sea Treasure Monastery is widely advertised as being located well away from the Old Town Center and the Yuhuang Pavilion, the distance to the Pagoda is in fact not that great. Only, it is just a bit too far to hike, especially considering the problem of correct navigation.
Basicly, the Monastery and the Pagoda can be found some 2+ kilometers North of the Old Cities' Center inside their own park, which naturally is called Haibao Park (Haibao Gongyuan). Take a Taxi to the main entrance of the Park to enjoy the most of your visit. Dare to do kind of travelers can also arrange to rent a bicycle and head out. Mind the chaotic traffic! Rules? There are no rules!
Entrance of Haibao Park, which lies surrounding the Haibao Temple and includes streams and ponds, rockeries and a chang lang - long wooden walkway with decorations.
States Period (475 BC - 225 BC) and possibly to an earlier date. Today, the Monastery has been restored and expanded and is open to the Public every day. Apart from drawing groups of visiting tourists, the Monastery is active and fully in function. Monks lead the faithful in prayers, while tourists browse around the courtyards and admire the architecture. Among the scenes of Yinchuan the Haibao Ta is certainly one not to miss.
The easiest route is to find the Bell- and Drumtower on the Map (see above: bottom right corner). From the Tower head out towards the west on Jiefang West Street and follow it for two large blocks. The first block will bring you up to the Main China Post Office of Yinchuan. The next block, turn up north to follow Jinning North Street.
All one need do then is follow the road until it passes the East Gate of Haibao (Sea Treasure) park. On the way the road crosses two main east to west boulevards, these are Beijing East Road and Shanghai East Road.
Once having left the highrises of the Old City Center and the horizon is more often visible, the stone pagoda of the Temple can be recognized from afar. However, housing blocks outside a the old city center also get progressively larger. Stay the course. The perimeter of the park starts just North of Shanghai East road after which it is still quite some ways up road to the East Gate. One can hardly miss though.
A Taxi takes less than ten minutes and an average 6 to 7 rmb in costs. Driving a bicycle would take at least 30. Given the climate in Ningxia prepare well.
The main pedestrian boulevard which takes visitors up through Haibao Park to the south and front gate of the Temple Complex (August 2010).
The Haibao park gates themselves are clearly very new and quite modern styled. Large concrete pillars give way to wide causeway surrounded by shrubs and bushes. This is the Haibao Park, which is a recent addition to the Temple. An attempt, if you
will, to restore it to its former and original splendor. As is described later, originally the temple stood on an island surrounded by a Lake. Although this is no longer the case, to the North and South of the Temple is an (artificial) lake, the Beitahu which is connected by a canal and sleuce gate running west and behind the Temple complex. At the moment attempts are made to reshape both into a larger park and lake, a recreation of the earlier Temple and an attractive urban recreational space for newcommers to the city who have been housed in new appartments blocks surrounding the Park.
Before or after your temple visit have a walk around and enjoy the small charms of
Haibao Park. The Chang Lang covered wooden walkway has some interesting painted scenes from 'Journey to the West' (西游记) one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, proving -among things- the lasting popularity of this epic work. In reality though the Monk Xuan Zang, on who's travels the mythical story is based never passed through Yinchuan on his way out of the Chinese Empire during the early years of the Tang Dynasty (around 630 AD). Xuan Zhang crossed the Yellow River at Lanzhou upstream from Yinchuan and never visited the Haibao Ta. A Pagoda more likely to be associated with Xuan Zang is the West Pagoda at the Chentian Si in Yinchuan, which is half a meter higher than the one erected in honor of Xuan zang, the Great Goose Pagoda at the Da Cien Si in Xi'an, the former Tang Capital.
The repainted outer wall and restored Main Gate of the Sea Treasure Monastery with the Haibao Pagoda towering over the complex (August 2010).
In the south-east corner of the parks stands a smaller four stories wooden pagoda and viewing tower. Although the green is still to grow, the new bridges in the park provide for an interesting garden landscape and offer a pleasant getaway from city life. There is plenty of space for everyone.
Stroll down through the Park and up the paved boulevard to eventually wind up on a large parking space with some newly added ceremonial white marble bridges. On the far end of this parking square stand the ancient Temple itself shaded by its old trees. Although entrance into Haibao Park is completely free of charge for anyone, gaining access to the Temple requires the buying of a ticket. Get it at the right and east of the Central Main Gate. The Entrance into the Temple is usually also through a minor gate at this side.
Route Map of Xuanzang's "Journey to The West" (India).