'Leaning Tower' Of Shanghai Underwhelms Visitors Everyone's heard of the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. But who knew that China had its very own Leaning Tower? Certainly not most Chinese. What's more, the 900-year-old pagoda outside Shanghai could well be the most tilted building in the world.
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'Leaning Tower' Of Shanghai Underwhelms Visitors

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'Leaning Tower' Of Shanghai Underwhelms Visitors

'Leaning Tower' Of Shanghai Underwhelms Visitors

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

We're going to look elsewhere in China now to an architectural accomplishment that you might compare to Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa. NPR's Louisa Lim saw what may be the world's most tilted building.

LOUISA LIM: It's a beautiful sunny day and I'm climbing up a hillside on the outskirts of Shanghai to visit one of Shanghai's lesser known tourist attractions. Here, I've been promised, is a leaning tower that leans even more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAVES)

LIM: Ah, so I can see the leaning tower and it's really is leaning an awful lot. Wow, it's amazing that it's still standing.

YANG KUN: Part of the foundation was built on rock, and part of the foundation was built on mud, so which made an imbalance.

LIM: I have come up here with Yang Kun from the Songjiang Museum and he is a bit of an expert on this tower's history. And he has been explaining to me why it leans so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

KUN: Back in 1788, in the Qing Dynasty, people were setting firecrackers. One of them actually burned the wooden frame of this pagoda. (Unintelligible) right now it's only the bricks that's left over.

LIM: To summarize, the Huzhu Pagoda was built in Songjiang suburb in 1079. That's well before Italy's famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was built on an unstable foundation, so it started tilt early on; then only 700 years on fireworks burned down the pagoda's wooden infrastructure. So it leaned even more. But its troubles still weren't over. There's a massive hole in one side of the pagoda, as if someone who has taken a bite out of it, the result, Yang Kun says, of over-excitable treasure hunters.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

KUN: Back in the 19th century, there were rumors that ancient coins were hidden in these pagoda, so the villagers near here all went here and tried to dig up the treasures. They found nothing here. So when people kept digging, the bricks left a big hole in here. And this leaning is irreversible.

LIM: Mr. WANG HAONAN(ph) (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: The tower is just so-so, very average, says Wang Haonan, who was canoodling with his girlfriend near the foot of the tower before I rudely interrupted them.

LIM: Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.

INSKEEP: You can appreciate a photo of China's leaning tower. It's at our Web site, npr.org. This is NPR News.

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