When touring China, there is hardly need to bring along your StairMaster.  A visit to just a few of the sights will give you beefier calves than Jillian Michaels.  After huffing and puffing my way up the 392 steps atop Shongshan Mountain to the mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum in Nanjing, I thought for sure I'd experienced my toughest climb.  

That was until I hit the streets of Changzhou and found myself starring up 153 meters to the top of the TianNing Pagoda.  The 13-story Zen Buddhist pagoda is said to be the tallest pagoda in the world, with advertisements boosting the "number one highest hanging bell under heaven."  And it certainly is a hike to the top.  My friends and I started out energetic, skipping up the first few floors, but by the time we reached level 7, the elevator sign looked like a pool of cool water in a never-ending dessert at high-noon.  

We forgot all about our sweat-soaked t-shirts and burning limbs once we saw the view from the top.  Here we could see skyscrapers pierce the humid haze along the Changzhou skyline.  The intricate patterns of the winding paths through the nearby park area were beautifully visible from our aerial perspective.  A calm serenity surrounded us as we stood atop the hustle and bustle of the metropolis below, and it was easy to understand why so many people find this place ideal for worship.


Construction of the pagoda began in 2002 with an inauguration in the spring of 2007.  The guilded detail, including 75 tons of bronze and gold just in the top of the building, makes the already impressively tall structure even more regal.  With a ticket costing 80 Yuan (roughtly $11) guests can visit the pagoda, the TianNing Temple, and the surrounding gardens.