Located in Linji Village south of the county town of Zhengding, the pagoda is also called the Grey Pagoda because it was built of gray bricks.
Linji Temple is an ancient temple built in 540 during the Eastern Wei Dynasty. In the Tang Dynasty a master monk by the name of Xuanyi founded the Linji Sect, which eventually became one of the five major sects of Buddhism in China. The sect developed rapidly after the middle years of the Tang Dynasty and was in great fashion for a time because it could help people achieve "awakening" by swift means or through popular epigrams. At the end of the twelfth century (during the Song Dynasty) two Japanese monks, Eisai and Shuniyo, went to China, later introducing the Linji Sect to Japan. During the Kamakura period (1192-1333) twenty of the twenty-four schools of the Chan (Zen) Sect in Japan belonged to the Linji Sect headed by Yany Qi. Even today, many Buddhists in Japan regard Linji Temple in Zhengding as the birthplace of their sect. Chengling Pagoda was built in 867 by Xuanyi's disciples after his death as a tomb for his mantle and alms bowl. Since the original building was in complete ruins, a new pagoda was constructed between 1161 and 1189 during the Kin Dynasty. That is the pagoda people see today.
It is a multi-eared, octagonal, brick pagoda, 33 meters tall, with nine storeys. The base of the pagoda is an octagonal stone platform on which stands a Sumeru pedestal with brick balconies surrounded by banisters. The pedestal is decorated with gorgeous carvings and sculptures. Three layers of huge brick lotus petals on the pedestal support the main body of the pagoda. The first storey has relief carvings of doors, windows and columns. Above the arched door on the front hangs a horizontal board with the inscription "Linji Temple Chengling Pagoda" on it. On top of the first storey are nine layers of eaves, all supported by brackets. Chengling Pagoda is regarded as one of the best multi-eared pagodas in China for its elegant shape and exquisite carvings.