Nanjing’s Porcelain Tower: Ancient ‘world wonder’ brought back to life

More than 150 years after rebels destroyed it, Nanjing’s famed “Porcelain Tower” — one of the Seven Medieval Wonders of the World — has been brought back to life.

A modern, steel reconstruction of the pagoda now sits by the Yangtze River in the same area as the original, which was built in the early 15th century.

The new tower, reportedly funded by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, is surrounded by a futuristic, Buddhist-themed museum that opened late last year.


The sites are collectively known as the Porcelain Tower Heritage Park.

During a recent visit to the museum we found relics from the sixth century and earth-colored ruins standing next to modern palatial designs — including a giant floating 3-D Buddha head made of tiny dots of light.

Modern technology used to rebuild medieval wonder

The Porcelain Tower Heritage Park might be steeped in history but the visitor experience is anything but dated.

Visitors can use their smartphones to scan the QR codes scattered throughout the park for more information (in Chinese).

A room encased in mirrored walls and thousands of light bulbs with ever-changing colors is supposed to represent the Buddhist concept of light and “sarira” (shelizi in Chinese) — referring to the bodily relics of Buddhist spiritual masters.

If it weren’t for the decorative Buddha statues, visitors might think they’ve walked onto an empty, 90s-inspired dance floor.

These highly visual renderings of the site’s sacred elements can be found throughout the museum.

While ruins have been carefully preserved in their original locations, they’re often layered with grand interior designs and enhancements like animated illustrations projected onto wall art.

The Chinese government may officially be atheist — and one may not leave feeling like they’ve learned a ton about Buddhist or Nanjing history — but the vigor with which the nation’s ancient culture is displayed is palpable.

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