Reputed as National 4A Class Scenic Spot, Tianning Temple was originally built during the period of Emperor Zhenguan in Tang Dynasty, and has a history of over 1300 years. As a key Buddhist temple under the protection of the state, Tianning Temple owns huge and magnificent palaces, and together with Jinshan Temple in Zhenjiang, Gaomin Temple in Yangzhou and Tiantong Temple in Ningbo have long been reputed as “the Four Buddhist Temples in Southeast China”. When Emperor Qianlong in Qing Dynasty paid inspection visits to the South Yangtze area, he had visited the Tianning Temple for worship for three times, and even inscribed the horizontal tablet and couplet on pillars as “Buddhism of Dragon City”. The Grand Hall in the Tianning Temple is quite huge and magnificent, and ever owned a couplet inscribed by Weng Tonghe, the teacher of Emperor Guangxu in Qing Dynasty, which content was “Sit in meditation, the boundless universe is before you; Visit here by boat, the most magnificent temple is built here”.
As the ancient tradition of Buddhism goes that a temple is built, where a pagoda is erected. Obviously, Tianning Temple is no exception. However, the original pagoda of the temple was destroyed by wars in Song Dynasty. To celebrate the current prosperous era, the present abbot of Tianning Temple, Master Song-chun expressed his great aspirations to rebuild the Tianning Pagoda. On April 30, 2007, 108 eminent abbots and monks from home and abroad, including Master Shi-yi-cheng, chairman of China Buddhism Association, Master Ming-xue, chairman of Jiangsu Provincial Association of Buddhism, envoys from Indian BODH GAYA Pagoda and etc. gathered at Changzhou to pray for the grand opening and consecration ceremony of the Tianning Pagoda. The pagoda is built in the architectural style of ancient pagodas in Tang and Song Dynasties, with octagonal eaves, and magnificent, resplendent appearance. The pagoda body is erected by 6,500 tons-weight steel frame, and the error of perpendicularity from the top to the bottom of the pagoda is less than one centimeter, which was awarded the “Diamond Prize” by the State Association of Steel Structure in 2004. The wall-painting of cloisonné 32 Nirmanakaya of Goddess of Mercy with 3 meters high and 72 meters long on the ceiling is reputed as the largest cloisonné craft ware in China, and even awarded the Guinness Records.
The Tianning Pagoda has created eight wonders in China: it is the first pagoda with gold-plated roof and jade-decorated wall); the first pagoda with bronze inscriptions tiles; the largest scale of Buddhist Sutra Steles Forest; the pagoda hanging the highest bell with 3.2 meters high and 15 tons weight at the top of pagoda at 118 meters high; the one with the largest underground palaces, including 8 opened ones and 8 hidden ones; the one with the largest granite relief of 500 Arhats with 130 meters long and 2.8 meters high around the foundation of the pagoda; the one with the largest forest of small pagodas, including 999 white marble engraved small pagodas on the top of circled rails; and the one with a height of 153.79 meters, which make it fully deserve the honor of the highest Buddhist pagoda in China.