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May 26, 2019

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Prince Teng’s grand pavilion

Standing more than 50 meters high, the Tengwang Pavilion was built by Li Yuanying (also known as Prince Teng) in AD 653. The Pavilion of Prince Teng is considered one of the three most notable pavilions in Jiangnan, the region south of the Yangtze River, along with the Yueyang Tower and the Yellow Crane Tower.

Even after being damaged on 29 occasions, the pavilion’s architectural charm brought about its restoration each time.

The nine-story pavilion is in Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, towering over the Ganjiang River. Two of the stories form the foundation.

Varied shades of red cover the pavilion’s rafters, pillars, doors and windows, while its roof tiles and eaves are glazed jade-green.

The Tengwang Pavilion’s beauty was first immortalized in a poem by Wang Bo (AD 650-76), a renowned poet of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). His poem “Preface to the Prince of Teng’s Pavilion” boosted the pavilion’s reputation. For thousands of years, the pavilion was a sacred place for poetic inspiration. Its majestic beauty and natural scenery from a distance attracted generations of artists and writers.

Braced by the mountains and river, a foggy drizzle may even turn the surrounding environment more tranquil and serene.

Perhaps, over 1,000 years ago, Prince Teng adored the view so much that he had his pavilion built here.

Books and records were also stored there, serving as an ancient library. Musical instruments, bronze ritual articles and serial bells found in the pavilion all impart rich cultural significance.

Despite it being a cultural symbol, the pavilion was initially built for Prince Teng’s indulgence. He was the younger brother of Emperor Taizong (AD 598-649). Growing up as the youngest son, Prince Teng was indulged and loved a lot and led a luxurious life. Under his brother’s reign, Prince Teng idled his days away singing and dancing.

His slothful behavior earned him a lot of criticism.

When Emperor Gaozong (AD 628-83)occupied the throne, he found his uncle’s actions hard to bear.

While in mourning period of his brother, Prince Teng invited his officials to a banquet party. This broke bureaucratic norms where officials had to abstain from banqueting, marriage or official activities while in mourning.

When Emperor Gaozong found out, he sent a stern warning: When someone makes a mistake, it is important that he corrects it. Since the empire has its laws, personal favor is hard to be granted.

Prince Teng was demoted to Suzhou in Jiangsu Province and then to Hongzhou in today’s Nanchang. As Hongzhou was far from the capital of Chang’an in today’s Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, Prince Teng abandoned all restraint and enjoyed his time idling away. He decided to build his Tengwang Pavilion on the banks of the Ganjiang River.

News of the pavilion soon reached the emperor. In anger, he transferred Prince Teng to Chuzhou in Anhui Province.

As there was no news of outrageous acts committed by Prince Teng there, the emperor decided to send him to Longzhou in today’s Langzhong in Sichuan Province.

In Longzhou, the prince resumed his bad habits. He continued building lavish buildings, including another Tengwang Pavilion, infuriating the emperor.

Once, the emperor granted all the other princes 500 bolts of colored silk, but only two carts of hemp rope to Prince Teng.

“Prince Teng already has so much money and silk that he doesn’t need to be granted anything,” said Emperor Gaozong. “I’ve given him two carts of hemp rope to tie his money up with.”

This story was recorded in “The New Book of Tang,” demonstrating the extravagant life that Prince Teng lived.

In AD 684, Prince Teng died of a disease in Longzhou.

Despite the prince’s idleness, he left behind legacies that we can still witness today. His short five-year tenure in Longzhou set a basic layout for today’s Langzhong Ancient Town. The Huaguang tower found in the ancient town today was built by the prince.

The Tengwang Pavilion possesses such distinctive architecture that it served as inspiration for the building of the Forbidden City. In the city of Nanchang, this pavilion remains as an iconic and valued landmark beloved by the locals.


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