Wanshou Pagoda is the navigation marker at Quanzhou Bay for the arriving vessels.
Built between 1131 and 1162 (during the Shaoxing reign of the Southern Song Dynasty),Wanshou Pagoda(Sisters-in-Law Pagoda) has a history of more than 800 years. It stands between the Quanzhou Bay and Taiwan Straits, covering an area of 325 square meters, with a height of 21.65 meters. The five-story octagonal structure is a pavilion-like hollow pagoda made of granite. The horizontal tablet above the door on the second floor carries the words “Longevity Pagoda”. There are two square niches built on the top layer enshrining two stone statues. It is said that the figures are female and are sisters-in-law.
How did the pagoda get its name? There are two different versions.
Many people believe it comes from a sorrowful story. A legend has it that in the Song Dynasty, there was a significant drought in Quanzhou. Crops died before harvest. A young man named Haisheng had to sail to Southeast Asia to seek his fortune and promised to return in 3 years. His wife and younger sister missed him so severely that they piled up stones on the Baogai Hill and waited for him. Three years later, the young man returned. But when he was about to get on the shore, all of a sudden, his ship was hit by a terrible storm and sunk. His wife and younger sister were so grief that they jumped off the hill and died. People then built the “Sisters-in-Law Tower” on the rock pile site in memory of them.
However, others think the second explanation is more convincing. According to the historical records, a monk named Jieshu directed the building of the pagoda. After conducting some surveys, Monk Jieshu found out that Baogai hill was located in the southeast of Jinjiang River，where the wind meets water. In Chinese Fengshui (Fengshui is the ancient Chinese study of the energy of a place, and the art of creating harmony and balance in both living and working environment), wind and water are associated with good health and fortune, thus it is an ideal geographical location. In Quanzhou dialect, “Lock up” and “Sisters-in-Law” are homonyms, so actually “Sisters-in-Law Pagoda” is a mispronunciation.
Generally speaking, where there is a pagoda, there is a temple. However, this pagoda is the only architecture on the hill with no temple nearby. Besides, there are neither exquisite statues nor vivid relief sculptures on the pagoda. As recorded in a local ancient document, the sailors knew they were approaching Quanzhou Bay when they saw the pagoda.
That Wanshou Pagoda acted as a visual landmark on the sea has been repeatedly recorded in historical documents and some navigational articles. Its image was also drawn in the ancient navigational maps. Wanshou Pagoda and the mountain where it is located are the view that the merchants will see the minute they arrive in Quanzhou Port. As a result, Wanshou Pagoda became the landmark for the merchant ships heading for Quanzhou Port.It was also an important sightseeing spot along with the national port during the Song and Yuan Dynasties.
Wanshou Pagoda (Sisters-in-Law Pagoda) which protects the ships coming and passing the Quanzhou Port is the unique spiritual symbol of Quanzhou marine trade. The marine trade during the Song and Yuan dynasties is a history of quantities of merchants who sailed overseas to conduct business as well as a history of the family members of those merchants missing them and praying for their safe return. This history，in turn，reflects that to some extent, citizens in Quanzhou all take part in the marine trade.