Xiangji Temple is situated in Chang'an County, about 17.5 kilometers (12 miles) to the south of Xian City. It was built in honor of the noted Buddhist monk Shandao, one of the initiators of a branch of Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, by his disciple Huai Yun after his master's death. Huai Yun named the temple 'xiangji', heaped fragrance, to suggest his master was holy as the Xiangji Buddha, an ancient Indian Buddha. Many Pure Land Buddhists, who believe in the purification of the soul through faith, began conducting activities at the temple, which led to it being considered the center and cradle of the Pure Land sect.
Two pagodas stand in Xiangji Temple. The larger pagoda, named Shandao Pagoda, is 33 meters (108 feet) tall, and was built in 680, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The top two stories of the pagoda have worn away during its 1300 years of history, leaving a remaining eleven stories. Its flank is stenciled with exquisitely engraved half-naked Buddha and strong pieces of script. To the east stands the pagoda's smaller counterpart, a brick pagoda built to commemorate another of Shandao's pious disciples, Jingye. Surrounding these two pagodas is a vista that is beautiful and tranquil. The renowned landscape poet Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty visited the Temple and composed a poem to praise its charms.
The Xiangji Temple had its heyday during the Tang Dynasty. Emperors like Gaozong and Zhongzong, and the Empress Wu Zetian all visited the site and had cults started in their honor. Today, countless tourists come from across China and the world to sightsee and reflect at the temple.