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the equivalent of a 45-lane highway!

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In the year 841, the emperor Wuzong
proceeded down this avenue

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to the altar of heaven

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accompanied by ' two hundred thousand
guards and soldiers'!

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The imperial city was the
administrative heart of the empire.

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Within its large walled enclosure were
government offices of both civil

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and military functions, headquarters
of imperial guards and the spectacular

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palaces of the imperial family.

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It was also here that the emperor came
to conduct ritual sacrifices

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at the imperial ancestral temple
and at the imperial heav

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Its streets were full of foreigners
from India, Central Asia and Japan -

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travelers, merchants and missionaries
lured by tales

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of China's fabulous wealth.

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It was a time of openness to new
ideas, and of religious tolerance.

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And so in the year 742

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the emperor allowed a great mosque to
be erected in the Muslim quarter

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of the city of Chang'an,

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where it still caters to the faithful
today.

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This mosque is built like a Chinese
courtyard temple

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but with an east-west, rather than the
customary north-south axis,

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so the temple can face Mecca.

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The type of building the West most
identifies with China is the pagoda.

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But it is not originally a Chinese
building at all.

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Chinese historians have traced how the
pagoda made its way to China

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from India.

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During the first century AD, the
emperor at the capital of Luoyang

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opened the silk road,

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exporting silks and ceramics from
China and importing spices and

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medicines.

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With these imports came something
that would change China forever:

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rumors of a new immortal called
Sakyamuni: the Buddha.

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In 67 AD the emperor had a dream
about a golden flying holy man.

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So he sent officials to India to find
out more about this new immortal.

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These officials met two Indian monks

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who brought back Sanskrit Buddhist
scriptures to Luoyang on a white horse.

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The emperor was pleased

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and so the two Indian monks founded
the first Buddhist temple in China -

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the white horse temple right here in
Luoyang.

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In this building the two Indian monks
carefully translated the Buddhist

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scriptures into Chinese; scriptures
which would have profound impact

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not just on China,

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but on the cultures of Korea and Japan.

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And on the grounds of this temple the
monks supervised the construction

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of a new type of building never seen
before in China -

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a pagoda.

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But what exactly is a pagoda?

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In Sanskrit, the ancient language of
the Buddhist sutras,

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the word "Stupa" or "Dagoba" means
a heap,

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as in putting dirt or stone in a pile
on top of a tomb

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to mark the place of burial of a holy
man

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or of some part of his bodily remains,

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a lock of hair, a fingernail
or a bone.

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So the pagoda began as a shrine which
held a holy relic.

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That original pagoda at the white
horse temple is gone,

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but just a few miles away nestled
against one of China's five holy

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mountains,

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lies the oldest surviving pagoda in
China.

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The Songyue pagoda was built in 523
AD,

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and retains the original Indian shape
of a stupa.

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Close by is the Shaolin temple -
birthplace of Zen Buddhism and

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more famously, Kung Fu.

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Successive Abbots of the order were
buried here behind the temple -

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at the famous forest of pagodas.

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The oldest one here is 1400 years old,

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with the newest one erected just a few
years ago.

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This Indian form of stupa eventually
mixed with the native Chinese watchtower

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to form the distinctive Chinese style
pagoda

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that is so symbolic of China's
landscapes.

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Soon pagodas incorporated many classic
Chinese architectural elements

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like post and beam construction,
and duo gong brackets.

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Later pagodas copied these design
features

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in stone and brick to carefully

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mimic the classical wooden structures.

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The largest and most imposing of
these is perhaps the most famous

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pagoda in all of China...

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the wild goose pagoda.