34/50 – The Iron Pagoda

Kaifeng’s famous Iron Pagoda. Built in the 1049 CE, it has withstood countless floods, hailstorms, earthquakes, and other inclement weather to exist in its original glory nearly a millenia later. Although it is named the Iron Pagoda, it is actually made of glazed brick tiles that give the appearance of iron. When I learned this, I was incredibly disappointed.

I am often asked by my students and friends why I don’t want to travel around China more after I am done teaching here. I tell them with a brief sigh that the things around China aren’t authentic. So many of the ‘historic’ sights which can be visited in China are actually reconstructions of ancient buildings. They’re fabrications, built in the last 40 or 50 years that are meant to draw in tourists. They lack any sort of authentic feel. The Iron Pagoda is different… it’s more real.

Located on the beautiful campus of Henan University, the Iron Pagoda  is something that we see on a daily basis. I only recently entered the park and toured it. It was a really worthwhile experience, and is definitely one of my favorite things about this place.

We have a year pass to most parks in Kaifeng, but it costs an extra 10 RMB to climb inside of the pagoda. This is the entrance. You can see how ornate some of the glazed bricks really are… and just how small the entryway is!

The hallways inside are scary as they are mostly unlit, without handrails, and lacking a standardized step size (both height and width). It can be a bit of a hot and claustrophobic squeeze as you climb the 13 stories to the top, but it’s worth it for the view and the experience.

All in all, it’s really quite the historic experience!

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