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'Leaning Tower of East' Repaired After Being Damaged in Wenchuan Earthquake

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Baoguang Temple's Sarira Tower, sometimes dubbed the "Leaning Tower of the East," in southwest China's Sichuan Province, has been repaired after being seriously damaged in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

The 13-story Buddhist tower, located in Xindu District, Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, leans westward from the sixth story. The top of the tower is 92 mm askew from where it should be, if the tower was perfectly vertical.

"The tower was repaired between Feb. 2009 and Jan. 2010. We tried our best to preserve its original features," said Liu Jian, deputy director of Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau in Xindu District.

The tower was seriously damaged in the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake, which struck southwest China on May 12, 2008, leaving some 87,000 people dead or missing.

"The quake shook the tower badly and left many cracks. We didn't dare walk near it before it was repaired," said Chong Fa, a Baoguang Temple monk who supervised the renovation of the tower.

The tower, built during the reign of Emperor Xizong (862 AD to 888 AD) in the Tang Dynasty, is more than 400 years older than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. It is famous for the collection of Sakyamuni's sariras.

The sarira is remains from cremation of Buddha's or a saintly monk's body, and is regarded as the most treasured Buddhist relics.

"The tower is an important Buddhist building. We carefully planned the renovation and used traditional ways to reinforce in order to preserve its original structure," said Liu.

(Xinhua News Agency February 23, 2010)

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