Others Pagodas, Stupas & Temples

Post 538

Porcelain Tower of Nanjing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Porcelain Pagoda, as illustrated in Fischer von Erlach‘s Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture (1721)

The Porcelain Tower (or Porcelain Pagoda) of Nanjing (Chinese: 南京陶塔; pinyin: Nánjīng Táotǎ), also known as Bao’ensi (meaning “Temple of Gratitude”; Chinese: 大报恩寺, Da Bao’en Si), is a historical site located on the south bank of the Yangtze in Nanjing, China. It was a pagoda constructed in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty, but was mostly destroyed in the 19th century during the course of the Taiping Rebellion. The tower is now under reconstruction.


The original blocks of the Nanjing Tower’s arched door, now pieced back together and on display at the Nanjing Museum

The tower was octagonal with a base of about 97 feet (30 m) in diameter. When it was built, the tower was one of the largest buildings in China, rising up to a height of 260 feet (79 m) with nine stories and a staircase in the middle of the pagoda, which spiraled upwards for 184 steps. The top of the roof was marked by a golden pineapple. There were originally plans to add more stories, according to an American missionary who in 1852 visited Nanjing. There are only a few Chinese pagodas that surpass its height, such as the still existent 275-foot-tall (84 m) 11th-century Liaodi Pagoda in Hebei or the no longer existent 330-foot-tall (100 m) 7th-century wooden pagoda of Chang’an.

The tower was built with white porcelain bricks that were said to reflect the sun’s rays during the day, and at night as many as 140 lamps were hung from the building to illuminate the tower. Glazes and stoneware were worked into the porcelain and created a mixture of green, yellow, brown and white designs on the sides of the tower, including animals, flowers and landscapes. The tower was also decorated with numerous Buddhist images.


The original blocks of the Nanjing Tower’s arched door, now pieced back together and on display at the Nanjing Museum

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing was designed during reign of the Yongle Emperor (r. 1402-1424) shortly before its construction, in the early 15th century. It was first discovered by the Western world when European travelers like Johan Nieuhof visited it, sometimes listing it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. After this exposure to the outside world, the tower was seen as a national treasure to both locals and other cultures around the world.

In 1801, the tower was struck by lightning and the top three stories were knocked off, but it was soon restored. The 1843 book The Closing Events of the Campaign in China by Granville Gower Loch contains a detailed description of the tower as it existed in the early 1840s. In the 1850s, the area surrounding the tower erupted in civil war as the Taiping Rebellion reached Nanjing and the Taiping Rebels took over the city. They smashed the Buddhist images and destroyed the inner staircase to deny the Qing enemy an observation platform. American sailors reached the city in May 1854 and visited the hollowed tower. In 1856, the Taiping destroyed the tower in order to prevent a hostile faction from using it to observe and shell the city. After this point, the tower’s remnants were forgotten and it lay dormant until a recent surge to try and rebuild the landmark.

Pizhi Pagoda

Pizhi Pagoda, 54 m (177 ft) in height, built by 1063.

The Pizhi Pagoda (Chinese: ; pinyin: zhī ) is an 11th century Chinese pagoda located at Lingyan Temple, Changqing, near Jinan, Shandong province, China. Although originally built in 753 during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (r. 712–756), the present pagoda is a Song Dynasty reconstruction from 1056 until 1063, during the last reigning years of Emperor Renzong of Song (r. 1022–1063). This octagonal-based, nine-story tall, brick-and-stone pagoda stands at a height of 54 m (177 ft).


The Chinese word “pizhi” is a translation of the Sanskrit word pratyeka. The pratyeka is a type of buddha, a loner personality and one who has attained enlightenment after the death of the Sakyamuni Buddha. This is achieved by self-study and self-cultivation without the aid of Buddhist teachers or guides. Thus, the Pizhi Pagoda was built by the Song Chinese of the 11th century in dedication of these pratyeka, which is a rarity among pagodas in China.


From a cliffside of nearby Mount Tai, a view onto Lingyan Temple and Pizhi Pagoda.

The basic structure of the pagoda is built of brick, although the exterior facade has carved stone elements. At the base of the pagoda is a stone pedestal carved on four sides with scenes of the Buddhist afterlife and torture scenes in Hell. The first, second, and third stories feature balconies supported by typical Chinese dougong brackets. From the fourth story until the ninth, there are only pent roofs and no balconies. The iron steeple crowning the top of the pagoda is composed of an inverted bowl, discs, a sun, a crescent, and a bead. Iron chains are used to keep the steeple firmly into place on the rooftop. Small iron statues of celestial guards were positioned on the corner ridges by each of the chains, which was believed to keep the chains firmly into place. A large brick pillar and brick stairway lead all the way up to the fifth floor, but only the winding staircase outside the pagoda allows one to traverse all the way to the top where the steeple is located. This arrangement is often seen in stone pagodas, but rarely in brick ones.

Phra Pathom Chedi

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Phra Pathom Chedi

Phra Pathom Chedi (Thai: พระปฐมเจดีย์) is the tallest stupa in the world with the height of 127 metres (417 ft). It is located in the town of Nakhon Pathom, Thailand.

The name Phra Pathom Chedi means Holy chedi (stupa) of the beginning. The stupa at the location is first mentioned in Buddhist scriptures of the year 675, however archaeological findings date back to the 4th century. In the 11th century it was overbuilt with a Khmer (Ancient Cambodia) style prang, which was later overgrown by the jungle. The ruin was visited several times by the later King Mongkut during his time as a monk, and after his coronation he ordered the building of a new and more magnificent chedi at the site. After 17 years of construction it was finished in 1870, and the population of nearby Nakhon Chai Si was ordered to move to the newly created town around the chedi.

Pha That Luang

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang (Lao: ພຣະທາດຫຼວງ, IPA: pʰā tʰâːt lŭaːŋ, ‘Great Stupa’) is a gold-covered large Buddhist stupa on the eastern outskirts of Vientiane, Laos. Since its initial establishment suggested to be in the 3rd century, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions until the 1930s due to foreign invasions to the area. It is generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol.


Pha That Luang and its place in Vientiane

Pha That Luang according to the Lao people was originally built as an Indic temple in the 3rd century. Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by the Emperor Ashoka, including Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic of Lord Buddha to the stupa. It was rebuilt in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin.


In the mid-16th century, King Setthathirat relocated his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered construction of Pha That Luang in 1566. It was rebuilt about 4 km from the centre of Vientiane at the end of That Luang Road and named Pha That Luang.The bases had a length of 69 meters each and was 45 meters high, and was surrounded by 30 small Stupas.

In 1641, a Dutch envoy of the Dutch East India Company, Gerrit van Wuysoff, visited Vientiane and was received by King Sourigna Vongsa at the temple, where he was, reportedly, received in a magnificent ceremony. He wrote that he was particularly impressed by the “enormous pyramid and the top was covered with gold leaf weighing about a thousand pounds.  However, the stupa was repeatedly plundered by the Burmese, Siamese and Chinese.

Pha That Luang was destroyed by the Thai invasion in 1828, which left it heavily damaged and left abandoned. It was not until 1900, when the French restored to its original design based on the detailed drawings from 1867 by the French architect and explorer Louis Delaporte. However the first attempt to restore it was unsuccessful and it had to be resigned and then reconstructed in the 1930s.


Jayavarman VII

The architecture of the building includes many references to Lao culture and identity, and so has become a symbol of Lao nationalism. The stupa today consists of three levels, each conveying a reflection of part of the Buddhist doctrine. The first level is 223 feet by 226 feet, the second is 157 feet along each side and the third level is 98 feet along each side.[3] From ground to pinniacle, Pha That Luang is 147.6 feet high.

The area around Pha That Luang is now gated, to keep traffic out. Previously visitors could drive around the whole complex. The encircling walls are roughly 279 feet long on each side and contain a large number of Lao and Khmer sculptures including one of Jayavarman VII.

Tianning Temple (Changzhou)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tianning Temple
The Tianning Temple with the finished giant pagoda in the background
Address Changzhou, Jiangsu
Country China

The Tianning Temple (Chinese: 天宁寺) is in Changzhou, Jiangsu, China. The temple is famous for its giant wooden Chinese pagoda. Construction began in April 2002 while the opening ceremony for the completed structure was held on April 30, 2007, where a crowd of hundreds of Buddhist monks gathered for the ceremony.With 13 stories and a height of 154 m (505 ft), this wooden pagoda is now the tallest pagoda in the world,taller than China’s tallest existent pre-modern Buddhist pagoda, the Liaodi Pagoda built in 1055 at a height of 84 m (275 ft). Although the existing pagoda was built by April 2007, the temple grounds and the pagoda have a history of construction and destruction for the past 1,350 years, since the time of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Building of the pagoda was proposed by the Buddhist Association of China in 2001, yet providing money donations for the temple was an international effort, as leaders of 108 Buddhist associations and temples worldwide attended the opening ceremony at the temple.

On 25 May 2006 the lower levels of the pagoda caught fire however no permanent damage was done.

Structural features

The grounds for the Tianning Temple Pagoda occupies a space of 27,000 m2 (290,625 ft2).[1] Complete with 68,038 kg (75 t) of gold and brass for the rooftops, additional bronze and jade decorations, and the use of wood imported from Myanmar and Papua New Guinea, the total cost of its construction was some 300 million yuan (US $38.5 million). The top story of the pagoda features a golden spire and a large bronze bell weighing 30,000 kg (33 t).

 Religious significance

On the completion of the new pagoda at Tianning Temple, the mayor of Changzhou, Wang Weicheng, explicitly correlated his city’s economic development with that of religious development in China. Following the end of religious persecution after the tumultuous Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the Chinese Communist Party has relaxed its control over religion, especially Chinese Buddhism, which has some 100 million adherents within the People’s Republic of China. The deputy abbot of Tianning Temple, Kuo Hui, said that like other religions Buddhism advocates peace and harmony, with ideas that could be beneficial to Chinese society. He also stated that the pagoda was rebuilt to “inherit the fine traditions of Buddhism and to honour Buddha. The pagoda is dedicated to Chinese Chan Buddhism.

Pagoda of Fogong Temple

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fogong Temple Pagoda

The Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple (Chinese: 佛宫寺释迦塔; pinyin: Fógōng Sì Shìjiā Tǎ) of Ying County, Shanxi province, China, is a wooden Chinese pagoda built in 1056, during the Khitan-led Liao Dynasty. The pagoda was built by Emperor Daozong of Liao (Hongji) at the site of his grandmother’s family home.The pagoda, which has survived several large earthquakes throughout the centuries, reached a level of such fame within China that it was given the generic nickname of the “Muta” (Chinese: 木塔; pinyin: mùtǎ; literally “Timber Pagoda”).

The pagoda stands on a 4 m (13 ft) tall stone platform, has a 10 m (33 ft) tall steeple, and reaches a total height of 67.31 m (220.83 ft) tall; it is the oldest existent fully-wooden pagoda still standing in China.[4][5] Although it is the oldest fully-wooden pagoda in China, the oldest existent pagoda is the 6th century Songyue Pagoda made of brick and the oldest existent wooden buildings in China date back to the mid Tang Dynasty (618–907), which are Buddhist temple halls found at Mount Wutai.


Close-up detail of the dougong supports of the pagoda.

The pagoda and temple grounds

Buddhist statues found within the pagoda, with the Sakyamuni Buddha at the center

The Pagoda of Fogong Temple was built 85 km (52.8 miles) south of the Liao Dynasty capital at Datong. The Gujin Tushu Jicheng encyclopedia published in 1725—written during the reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng in the Qing—states that a different pagoda built between the years 936–943 stood previously at the site before the present one of 1056 was built.[5] The same statement appears in the Shanxi tongzhi (Record of Shanxi Province) and the Yingzhou xuzhi (Record of Ying Prefecture, Continued). The Yingzhou zhi (Record of Ying Prefecture)—edited by Tian Hui during the reign of the Wanli Emperor (r. 1572–1620) of the Ming Dynasty—states that the pagoda was funded and erected in 1056 by a Buddhist monk named Tian. In compiling a record for Ying County, Tian Hui of the late Ming Dynasty researched the history of the pagoda and recorded the history of its repairs in his Zhongxiu Fogongsi ta zhi. The placard on the third story of the pagoda listed that periodic repairs were conducted in the years 1195 and 1471. While piecing together the history of the pagoda, Tian Hui never came across any information to suggest that the pagoda had a predecessor built from 936 to 943, as other texts suggest.

In confirming the date of 1056 and not the years 936–943, Zhang Yuhuan writes in his Zhongguo gudai jianzhu jishu shi (1985) that the Wenwu Laboratory determined various wooden components from the second to fifth floors of the pagoda to be 930 to 980 years old. Other evidence to suggest the later date includes the fact that the foster mother of Emperor Xingzong was a native of Yingzhou. Xingzong’s son Hongji (Emperor Daozong) was also raised in Ying County due to his following of the Khitan custom of raising Yelu clan sons within the families of their mothers. Hongji was also known as a devout Buddhist; the pagoda (following the tradition of the stupa) symbolized the death of the Buddha, which Hongji might have associated with his deceased father, the Xingzong Emperor. Steinhardt writes “only something like the memory of an imperial youth might account for the construction of such a phenomenal building in such an out-of-the way place. Also, the 1050s was a decade which marked the end of a Buddhist kalpa, which would signify the Pagoda of Fogong Temple as an “ultimate death shrine to the Buddha of the age,” according to historian Nancy Steinhardt.This occurred at roughly the same time in which Fujiwara no Yorimichi of Japan converted the Phoenix Hall of his father Fujiwara no Michinaga‘s residence at Byōdō-in into a temple meant to guide souls into the Buddhist afterlife (according to Pure Land Buddhism).

The pagoda was placed at the center of the temple grounds, which used to be called Baogong Temple until its name was changed to Fogong in 1315 during the Yuan Dynasty.[ Although the size of the temple grounds were described as being gigantic during the Jurchen-led Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), the temple began to decline during the Ming Dynasty.

The Yingzhou zhi records that there was a total of seven earthquakes between the years 1056 and 1103, yet the tower stood firm.In its entire history before the 20th century, the pagoda needed only ten minor repairs. However, considerable repairs were needed after Japanese soldiers shot more than two hundred rounds into the pagoda during the Second Sino-Japanese War.[While repairing the pagoda in 1974, renovators found Liao Dynasty texts of Buddhist sutras and other documents that were printed, attesting to the widespread technological use of movable type printing that developed within the neighboring Song Dynasty.


The pagoda features fifty-four different kinds of bracket arms in its construction, the greatest amount for any Liao Dynasty structure. Between each outer story of the pagoda is a mezzanine layer where the bracket arms are located on the exterior. From the exterior, the pagoda seems to have only five stories and two sets of rooftop eaves for the first story, yet the pagoda’s interior reveals that it has nine stories in all. The four hidden stories can be indicated from the exterior by the pagoda’s pingzuo (terrace balconies). A ring of columns support the lowest outstretching eaved roof on the base floor, while the pagoda also features interior support columns.[11] A statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni sits prominently in the center of the first floor of the pagoda, with an ornate zaojing (caisson) above its head (the pagoda is named Sakyamuni Pagoda due to this statue). A zaojing is also carved into the ceiling of every story of the pagoda. The windows on the eight sides of the pagoda provide views of the countryside, including Mount Heng and the Songgan River. On a clear day, the pagoda can be seen from a distance of 30 km (18.6 miles).



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Iron Pagoda of Kaifeng, China, built in 1049 AD

Wooden five-story pagoda of Hōryū-ji in Japan, built in 7th century, one of the oldest wooden pagodas in the world.
Wooden three-story pagoda of Ichijō-ji in Japan, built in 1171 AD  


















Wooden five-story pagoda of Hōryū-ji in Japan, built in 7th century, one of the oldest


One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam.
The nine-story Xumi Pagoda, Hebei, China, built in 636 AD
Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan
The Bombardier Pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

A pagoda is the general term in the English language for a tiered tower with multiple eaves common in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist, and were often located in or near temples. This term may refer to other religious structures in some countries. In Vietnam, pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship, although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist temple. The modern pagoda is an evolution of the Ancient Indian stupa, a tomb-like structure where sacred relics could be kept safe and venerated.[1] The architectural structure of the stupa has spread across Asia, taking on many diverse forms as details specific to different regions are incorporated into the overall design.


The word is first attested for in English in the period c. 1625–35; introduced from the Portuguese pagode, temple, from the Persian butkada (but idol + kada temple, dwelling.) [2] Another etymology, found in many English language dictionaries, is modern English pagoda from Portuguese (via Dravidian), from Sanskrit bhagavati, feminine of bhagavatt “blessed” < bhaga “good fortune.”


The origin of the pagoda can be traced to the Indian stupa (3rd century BC). The stupa, a dome shaped monument, was used in India as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics. The stupa emerged as a distinctive style of Indian architecture and was adopted in Southeast and East Asia, where it became prominent as a Buddhist monument used for enshrining sacred relics. In East Asia, the architecture of Chinese towers and Chinese pavilions blended into pagoda architecture, eventually also spreading to Southeast Asia. The pagoda’s original purpose was to house relics and sacred writings.This purpose was popularized due to the efforts of Buddhist missionaries, pilgrims, rulers, and ordinary devotees to seek out, distribute, and extol Buddhist relics.


Chinese iconography is noticeable in Chinese pagoda as well as other East Asian pagoda architectures. The image of the Shakyamuni Buddha in the abhaya mudra is also noticeable in some Pagodas. Buddhist iconography can be observed throughout the pagoda symbolism.

In an article on Buddhist elements in Han art, Wu Hung suggests that in these tombs, Buddhist iconography was so well incorporated into native Chinese traditions that a unique system of symbolism had been developed.


Pagodas attract lightning strikes because of their height. This tendency may have played a role in their perception as spiritually charged places. Many pagodas have a decorated finial at the top of the structure. The finial is designed in such a way as to have symbolic meaning within Buddhism; for example, it may include designs representing a lotus. The finial also functions as a lightning rod, and thus helps to both attract lightning and protect the pagoda from lightning damage. Early pagodas were constructed out of wood, but steadily progressed to sturdier materials, which helped protect against fires and rot.

Pagodas traditionally have an odd number of levels, a notable exception being the eighteenth century pagoda “folly” designed by Sir William Chambers at Kew Gardens in London.

Structures that invoke pagoda architecture:

  • The Bombardier Pagoda, or Pagoda Tower, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This 13-story pagoda, used as the control tower for races such as the Indy 500, has been transformed several times since it was first built in 1913.[9]
  • Taipei 101 in Taiwan, record setter for height (508m) in 2004 and currently the world’s second tallest completed building.

Other Uses:

  • Mercedes-Benz W113, nicknamed Pagoda for its concave hard top roof line. Included are the 1964-1971 230SL, 250SL, and 280SL sport coupes.

Beisi Pagoda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Beisi Pagoda

The Beisi Pagoda (Chinese: 北寺塔; pinyin: Běisì Tǎ; Wade-Giles: Peiszu T’a) or North Temple Pagoda is a Chinese pagoda located at Bao’en Temple in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China. The base of the pagoda has an octagonal frame, and the tower rises nine stories in a total height of 76 m (243 ft). The pagoda was once eleven stories tall, yet was damaged and reduced to nine stories. its double eaves and flying corners are similar to that of the Liuhe Pagoda found in Hangzhou. Its base and outside walls are made of brick, the balustrades made of stone, and the eaves and banisters encircling the structure are made of wood.



Although the present structure dates to the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) (with renovations in following eras), the historical site of construction for the pagodas dates back 1,700 years. A Buddhist pagoda built during the reign of Sun Quan in the 3rd century originally stood at the site (in honor of his wet nurse), along with another pagoda built during the Liang Dynasty (502-557). The current design of the pagoda structure was made between the years 1131 and 1162, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Patronage and construction for the Song era pagoda was headed by the Buddhist monk Dayuan. However, the pagoda was burnt down by fire towards the end of the Song Dynasty and rebuilt during the MIng.

During the modern repairs of the pagoda in 1960 and 1975, Chinese artifacts were found within the steeple, including a copper turtle and statues of the Buddha. The latest restoration of the pagoda was in 2006

Daqin Pagoda

Remnants of the pagoda

Christianity in China portal

Daqin Pagoda (大秦塔) in Chang’an, Shaanxi Province, located about two kilometres to the west of Lou Guan Tai temple is the remnant of the earliest surviving Christian church in China. The church and the monastery were built in 640 by early Nestorian missionaries. Daqin is the name for the Roman Empire in the early Chinese language documents of the first and second century, by the mid-ninth century it was also used to refer to the mission churches of the Syriac Christians.


Persecution of Christians in China led to the abandonment of Daqin in about 845.[3] Much later, in 1300, a Buddhist temple was installed in the pagoda. An earthquake severely damaged the pagoda in 1556 and it was finally abandoned. Due to the earthquake, many of the underground chambers of the complex are no longer reachable. Daqin was “rediscovered” in 1998[1] and its roots in early Chinese Christiagrnity were recognized.

This account needs to be emended. The Daqin Temple was converted to Buddhist use by the Northern Sung Dynasty at the latest; the great poet, Su Shih/Shi (Tung-p’o/Dongpo; 1037-1101) visited the place in 1064 and wrote a well-known poem about it, the poem entitled “Daqin Temple” (using the Buddhist word for “temple”)大秦寺, and his younger brother Su Ch’e/Che, wrote an “echoing” poem referring to the monks at the temple. Also, note that the claim that the seriously damaged sculptures inside are Christian is most unlikely to be true. They simply lack sufficient detail, and what is left is entirely consistent with known Buddhist iconographical schemes. — Jonathan Chaves, Professor of Chinese, The George Washington Universit

The pagoda today

Inside the pagoda, artistic works in both Western and Asiatic style can still be found[citation needed], among them Jonah at the walls of Nineveh, a nativity scene and Syriac graffiti. Many of these artworks are made from mud and plaster, which suffered during prior centuries from exposure to the elements. Seismic activity and flooding endanger the stability of the pagoda. In 1999, the pagoda’s exterior was restored, but overall stability was not improved. Further restoration of the site is planned, as well as exploration, most probably by remote probe, of the collapsed underground chambers.

Outside of the pagoda, a replica of the Nestorian Stele and its stone tortoise have been installed.

The exterior of the pagoda and its surroundings were featured in the first episode of the 2009 BBC program “A History of Christianity”. The program also features an interview with Martin Palmer by the presenter Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an, China

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda or Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Chinese: 大雁塔; pinyin: Dàyàn Tǎ), is a Buddhist pagoda located in southern Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China. It was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty and originally had five stories, although the structure was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian and its exterior brick facade was renovated during the Ming Dynasty. One of the pagoda’s many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang.

 Surroundings and history

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Close up view of the eaves and exterior bricks

The original pagoda was built during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang (r. 649-683), then standing at a height of 54 m (177 ft). However, this construction of rammed earth with a stone exterior facade eventually collapsed five decades later. The ruling Empress Wu Zetian had the pagoda rebuilt and added five new stories by the year 704 AD. However, a massive earthquake in 1556 heavily damaged the pagoda and reduced it by three stories, to its current height of seven stories.[2] The entire structure leans very perceptibly (several degrees) to the west. Its related structure, the 8th century Small Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, only suffered minor damage in the 1556 earthquake (still unrepaired to this day). The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was extensively repaired during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and renovated again in 1964. The pagoda currently stands at a height of 64 m (210 ft) tall and from the top it offers views over the current city of Xi’an.

During the Tang Dynasty the pagoda was located within the grounds of a monastery, within a walled ward of the larger southeastern sector of the city, then known as Chang’an. The monastic grounds around the pagoda during the Tang Dynasty had ten courtyards and a total of 1,897 bays.[ In those days graduate students of the Advanced Scholars examination in Chang’an inscribed their names at this monastery.

Close by the pagoda is the Temple of Great Maternal Grace; Da Ci’en. This temple was originally built in AD 589 and then rebuilt AD 647 in memory of his mother Empress Wende by Li Zhi who later became the Tang Emperor Gaozong.

The monk Xuanzang‘s statue stands in front of the temple area.

Global Vipassana Pagoda

Global Vipassana Pagoda
Type Meditation Hall
Architectural style Burmese
Structural system Stone dome, with self-supporting interlocking stones
Location Mumbai, India
Started 2000
Completed 2008
Architect Ar.Prvez Dumasia Mumbai, Sompura Consultant=Chandubhai Sompura
Structural engineer Nandadeep Building Center (NPPCPL) Aurangabad M.S.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda is a notable monument in Mumbai, India. The pagoda is to serve as a monument of peace and harmony. This monument was inaugurated by Pratibha Patil, the President of India on February 8, 2009.[1] It is located in the north of Mumbai in an area called Gorai and is built on donated land on a peninsula between Gorai creek and the Arabian Sea. The Global Vipassana Pagoda is built out of gratitude to the Buddha, his teaching and the community of monks practicing his teaching. Its traditional Burmese design is an expression of gratitude towards the country of Myanmar for preserving the practice of Vipassana. The shape of the pagoda is a copy of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. It is being built combining ancient Indian and modern technology to enable it to last for a thousand years


The center of the Global Vipassana Pagoda contains the world’s largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars. The height of the dome is approximately 29 metres, while the height of the building is 96.12 meters, which is twice the size of the previously largest hollow stone monument in the world, the Gol Gumbaz Dome in Bijapur, India. External diameter of the largest section of the dome is 97.46m and the shorter sections is 94.82m. Internal diamter of the dome is 85.15m.The inside of the pagoda is hollow and serves as a very large meditation hall with an area covering more than 6000 m2 (65,000 ft2). The massive inner dome seats over 8000 people enabling them to practice the non-sectarian Vipassana meditation as taught by Mr S.N. Goenka and now being practiced in over 100 countries. An inaugural one-day meditation course was held at the pagoda on December 21 2008, with Mr S.N. Goenka in attendance as the teacher.

The aim of the pagoda complex is, among others, to express gratitude to Gautama Buddha for dispensing for what followers believe is a universal teaching for the eradication of suffering, to educate the public about the life and teaching of the Buddha, and to provide a place for the practice of meditation. 10-day vipassana meditation courses are held free of charge at the meditation centre that is part of the Global Vipassana Pagoda complex.

 Construction history


Meditators seated inside the Global Pagoda dome.

Planning for the construction of the Global Vipassana Pagoda began in 1997, while actual building work started in 2000. The pagoda consists of three sub-domes. The first and largest dome was completed in October 2006 when bone relics of Gautama Buddha were enshrined in the central locking stone of the dome on October 29 2006, making it the world’s largest structure containing relics of the Buddha. The relics were originally found in the stupa at Sanchi. They have been donated by the Mahabodhi Society of India and the prime minister of Sri Lanka to be kept at the Global Vipassana Pagoda.The second and third domes sit atop the first dome. Construction of the third dome was structurally completed on November 21 2008.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda complex is still under construction with plans to include a museum depicting the life and teaching of Gautama Buddha that is expected to draw one hundred thousand visitors annually. The Global Vipassana Pagoda’s educational displays will communicate the Buddha’s universal teaching as a path towards real happiness.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda complex will consist of the following structures:

  • Pagoda dome containing relics of Buddha (complete)
  • Vipassana meditation centre Dhamma Pattana (complete)
  • Museum depicting life of the Buddha (Complete)
  • Two smaller pagodas on the north and south side (north pagoda complete)
  • Library and study rooms
  • Circumambulation path around the dome
  • Administration building (complete)
  • Underground parkade

The south pagoda, once completed, will contain 100 meditation cells for use by Vipassana students taking a meditation course at the adjoining meditation centre.

 Construction materials

The foundation of the dome consists of basalt, while the dome itself is made from sandstone imported from Rajasthan. The individual blocks of sandstone weigh 600-700 kg each and are joined by lime mortar. The circumambulation path is laid in marble.

The pinnacle of the pagoda is adorned with a large crystal. The spire is covered in real gold, while the rest of the pagoda will be covered in gold paint. The spire is topped with a special ornamental umbrella piece donated by the Burmese. The main doors to the pagoda are wooden and hand-carved in Myanmar (Burma).

Huqiu Tower

Huqiu Pagoda

The pagoda as viewed from the Tiger Hill

The Huqiu Tower, or Yunyan Pagoda and Tiger Hill Pagoda, (Chinese: ; pinyin: Yún yán or Chinese: ; pinyin: qiū ) is a Chinese pagoda situated at Changmen in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. It has several other names, including the ‘Leaning Tower of China’ (as referred to by historian O.G. Ingles)[1] and the Yunyan Temple Tower. The tower was built in the later period of the Five Dynasties (907-960 CE), completed by the second year of the Song Dynasty. The tower rises to a height of 47 m (154 ft). It is a seven-story octagonal building built with blue bricks. In more than a thousand years the tower has gradually slanted due to forces of nature. Now the top and bottom of the tower vary by 2.32 meters. The entire structure weighs some 7,000,000 kg (7000 tonnes), supported by internal brick columns. However, the tower leans roughly 3 degrees due to the cracking of two supporting columns.

The tower leans because the foundation is originally half rock and the other half is on soil. In 1957, efforts were made to stabilize the tower and prevent further leaning. Concrete was also pumped into the soil forming a stronger foundation. During the reinforcement process, a stone casket containing Buddhist scriptures was found. The container had an inscription noting the completion date of the tower as the seventeenth day of the twelfth month of the second year of the reign of Jianlong (961 AD); according to O.G Ingles it was built in 959.O.G. Ingles writes that the better name for the Tiger Hill Pagoda should be the “‘Leaning Tower of China’, since it predates the famous Italian structure.”The uppermost stories of the tower were built as an addition during the reign of the Chongzhen Emperor (1628–1644), the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

Although it is seven stories, there are no built-in staircases. People climbed to upper stories using movable ladders

As of January 2007 public access to the top of the tower is allowed

Liaodi Pagoda

Liaodi Pagoda

The Liaodi Pagoda (traditional Chinese: 料敵塔; simplified Chinese: 料敌塔; pinyin: Liàodí Tǎ; Wade-Giles: Liaoti T’a) of Kaiyuan Monastery, Dingzhou, Hebei Province, China is the tallest existing pre-modern Chinese pagoda, built in the 11th century during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The pagoda stands at a height of 84 metres (276 ft), resting on a large platform with an octagonal base. Upon completion in 1055, the Liaodi Pagoda surpassed the height of China’s previously tallest pagoda still standing, the central pagoda of the Three Pagodas built during the Tang Dynasty, which stands at 69.13 m (230 ft). The tallest pagoda in pre-modern Chinese history was a 100-metre-tall (330 ft) wooden pagoda tower in Chang’an built in 611 by Emperor Yang of Sui, yet this structure no longer stands.


Construction on this stone and brick pagoda began in the year 1001 AD during the reign of Emperor Zhenzong of Song, and was completed in 1055 AD during the reign of Emperor Renzong of Song. Emperor Zhenzong intended to have Buddhist scriptures gathered by the Chinese monk Huineng from India stored at the pagoda’s site. Due to its location at a strategic military location, the height of the pagoda made it useful as a watchtower, which could be used to spot enemy movements coming from the northern Liao Dynasty headed by the Song’s Khitan rivals. Initially the pagoda was called the Kaiyuan Pagoda, but as a result of its military use it became known as the ‘Liaodi’ pagoda, literally meaning ‘foreseeing the enemy’s intentions.’

A closeup of a door at the Liaodi Pagoda of Kaiyuan Temple in Dingzhou, China.

Another pagoda of similar height and design is the Chongwen Pagoda of Shaanxi Province. Completed in 1605 during the Ming Dynasty, this pagoda stands at a height of 79 m (259 ft), making it the second tallest pagoda built in pre-modern China.


Each floor of the Liaodi Pagoda features gradually-tiered stone eaves, doors and windows (with false windows on four sides of the octagonal structure) while the first floor has an encircling balcony. A split section of the pagoda’s walls are open so that the tower’s interior may be viewed, along with the actual thickness of the walls. At the top of its steeple, the pagoda features a crowning spire made of bronze and iron. In the interior a large staircase with landings for each floor winds from the bottom all the way up to the top floor. Brick brackets are used to support the landings on each floor, while from the eighth story up there are no brackets supporting the vaulted ceiling. Within the pagoda is a large pillar in the shape of another pagoda, as seen from the inside and as viewed from the cut section. The painted murals and stone steles with Chinese calligraphy in the pagoda are dated to the Song period when the pagoda was built.

Liuhe Pagoda

The Liuhe Pagoda

Liuhe Pagoda (Chinese: 六和塔; pinyin: Liùhé Tǎ), literally Six Harmonies Pagoda or Six Harmonies Tower, is multi-storied Chinese pagoda in southern Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. It is located at the foot of Yuelun Hill, facing the Qiantang River. It was originally constructed during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127 AD), destroyed in 1121, and reconstructed fully by 1165, during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279 AD).

History and background

The pagoda was originally constructed by the ruler of the Wuyue State, some of which would later makeup Zhejiang province. The name ‘Liuhe’ comes from the six Buddhist ordinances and it is said that the reason for building the pagoda was to calm the tidal bore of the Qiantang River and as a navigational aid. However, the pagoda was completely destroyed during warfare in the year 1121.

The pagoda was in disrepair before 1900

After the current pagoda was constructed of wood and brick during the Southern Song Dynasty, additional exterior eaves were added during the Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing Dynasties (1644 – 1911). The pagoda is octagonal in shape and some 59.89 meters (196 feet) in height, it also has the appearance of being a thirteen-story structure, though it only has seven interior stories. There is a spiral staircase leading to the top floor and upon each of the seven ceilings are carved and painted figures including animals, flowers, birds and characters. Each story of the pagoda consists of four elements, the exterior walls, a zigzagged corridor, the interior walls and a small chamber. Viewed from outside, the pagoda appears to be layered-bright on the upper surface and dark underneath. That is a harmonious alternation of light and shade.

According to historian Joseph Needham, the pagoda also served as a lighthouse along the Qiantang River. Being of considerable size and stature, it actually served as a permanent lighthouse from nearly its beginning, to aid sailors in seeking anchorage for their ships at night (as described in the Hangzhou Fu Zhi).

A small “Pagoda Park” has recently been opened nearby. Its an exhibition features models of ancient Chinese pagodas, and illustrates the variety of different designs, and the history, culture and symbols associated with the pagoda.

Lingxiao Pagoda

The Lingxiao Pagoda of Zhengding, Hebei Province, a half-brick half-wooden pagoda built in 1045 AD, with little change in renovations since.

The Lingxiao Pagoda (Chinese: ; pinyin: Língxiāo ; Wade-Giles: Linghsiao T’a) is a Chinese pagoda west of the Xinglong Temple in Zhengding, Hebei Province, China.


The original pagoda that stood at the same site was dubbed the Wooden Pagoda, and was built in 860 AD during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The pagoda’s present form of brick and wood dates to 1045 AD during the reign of Emperor Renzong (1022-1063) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and was renovated and restored in the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. It was formerly part of the Tianning Monastery, and although the latter no longer exists, the pagoda has been well-preserved since the 11th century. In 1966 the pagoda was damaged in an earthquake, but immediate repairs have kept it standing and open to the public.


The brick base and structure of the 42 m (137 ft) tall pagoda ends after the 4th floor, as the rest of its height from the 5th floor up is purely wooden construction. It features a total of nine stories with nine wooden tiers of eaves encircling the octagonal frame of the pagoda.[1] In the center of the pagoda stands a large column, a feature of Chinese architecture in pagodas that was discontinued sometime after the Song and Yuan periods. Built a decade later in 1055, the Liaodi Pagoda (China’s tallest pre-modern pagoda) also features an inner column, in the shape of another pagoda. Within the interior of the Lingxiao Pagoda, a wooden staircase leads up to the 4th floor. The pagoda is also crowned with a cast iron spire.

Cave Buddhist Temple

The idea of constructing Buddhist temples by hollowing out rock faces was brought to China from Central Asia, where monuments of this sort had been constructed for centuries. Over the years, more and more caves would be excavated and decorated as pious acts on the part of monks and artists.  Most of the cave temples were begun in the north during the Northern Dynasties. Cave temples at Dunhuang were begun in 366; at Bingling and Maijishan  in the early fifth century;  at Yungang in 460; at Longmen and Gongxian in the early sixth century.  During the Tang period additions were made to many of these cave temple complexes, especially Dunhuang and Longmen.


Positioned in the furthest reaches of northwestern China, Dunhuang served as a gateway into China from Central Asia. Beginning in the fifth century, and continuing through the tenth, approximately five hundred rooms were carved into the area’s soft rock.  These rooms were decorated with sculptures and frescoes in styles which changed over the centuries. What you see here is only a tiny fraction of the art that can still be seen in the 492 surviving caves at Dunhuang. Below is a painted room in Dunhuang, which was first completed in the Western Wei period (6th  century).

What visual effect is achieved by a room completely decorated with painted images? Does the style of the painted images evoke any particular emotional response from the viewer?
Cave 282 at Dunhuang Height: 316 cm (10 ft 4 in), width: 638 cm (20 ft 11 in) source
Below is a painted stone relief altar.

Painted stone relief altar from Dunhuang  




















In 386 the Northern Wei dynasty was declared by the Tuoba, a

nomadic people from the north. As it consolidated power in

north China during the fifth century, this non-Han dynasty

found it beneficial to associate themselves with the

burgeoning popularity of Buddhism. Despite this,

the Northern Wei emperor Taiwu (r. 424-452) was

persuaded by Daoist and Confucian officials at court

to curb the Buddhist church. This persecution of

Buddhism, begun in 446, lasted until his death in 452.

Taiwu’s grandson, Wencheng (r. 452-465) succeeded him

and reinstated Buddhism to its previous, eminent

position. One of the ways in which he made up for

his grandfather’s actions was by commissioning

the excavation of some of the enormous caves at Yungang.


Today, over 50,000 statues from the 52 caves survive.

Below is an outdoor shot of Yungang.  Most of the

caves here (Caves 21-45) date back to the 5th century.


The front walls of many of the caves have eroded away,

so that some of the larger statues can now be viewed

from a distance, as seen below.

Below is an immense gilded Buddha from Yungang from the fifth century. It is approximately the height  

of a four-story house.


How do you think monuments like this one fit

within the history of Buddhism during the Northern Wei?

Northern Wei Gilded Buddha from Yungang Height: 17 m (55 ft 8 in) source
To the left is a close-up of figures carved into the cave wall at Yungang during the Northern Wei period (5th century).  The bright colors are a modern attempt to restore the original painting. Why do you think each Buddha

figure is situated in its own niche?

Wall at Yungang, Cave 11 source
Here is another recently re-painted stone relief from Yungang, also fifth  century.Look at the  

composition of the art displayed on these walls.

Why do you think these images were arranged

the way they are?

Painted stone relief from Yungang, Cave 10 source
To review images from Yungang shown in previous sections of this unit click here.
LONGMEN Although construction of the cave temples at 

Longmen were begun in the early sixth century,

the bulk of the sculptures there date from the

Tang period. One of the more illustrious patrons

of the caves was Empress Wu, the controversial

Tang ruler who commissioned approximately

380 images for the Longmen caves between the

years 655 and 705.

Over 100,000 images can be found in the

approximately 1,300 caves of Longmen.

These images range in size from 2 cm (0.8 in)

to 17 m (56 ft).

Here is a close-up of one of the central figure

from Fengxian Monastery at Longmen, completed

during the first half of the eighth century.

Can you tell which deity this

is by just looking at the face?

Head height: 400 cm (13 ft 1 in) source


Below we see a full view of the massive stone statue of which you just saw a detail.  

With a full view can you now

identify which figure was just shown to you?

Can you identify the figure second to the right of him?

Height of the Buddha: 17.14 m (56 ft) source
A common theme at Longmen and other cave temples is the “thousand Buddhas,” usually  

portrayed by small, repeated images.

Why do you think is the effect of a repetitive

image like this one? Why do you think someone

would repeat an image of a sacred figure?.

Wall of Thousand Buddhas, Longmen Height: 131 cm (4 ft 4 in)

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Overview of the Temple of Heaven, Beijing. Photo docsdl. Detail of the beautiful Hall of Heavenly Prayer. Photo Sergio Nasi.

The House of Heavenly Lord at Tian Tan. Photo Rob Rogoyski.

View over the Tian Tan temple complex. Photo Stephan Wolschon.

Colorfully painted ceiling in the Hall of Prayer. Photo Lauren.

Testing the acoustics of the Echo Wall. Photo Paco Alcantara.

Entrance to the Abstinence Palace. Photo Brian Jeffery Beggerly.

“The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations.” –UNESCO World Heritage


The Temple of Heaven, or more literally the Altar of Heaven (; Tiān Tán) is a temple of Chinese religion used for imperial ceremonies for five centuries. Its buildings are situated in their own large and tranquil park in southeast Beijing.


Construction of the Temple of Heaven began during the reign of Emperor Yongle was completed in 1420. It was used by all subsequent Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

In imperial China, the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, the intermediary between Earth and Heaven. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The Temple of Heaven was built for these ceremonies.

The most important ceremony of the year took place on the winter solstice, when the emperor prayed for good harvests. After three days of fasting, the emperor and his entourage, wearing splendid robes, would make their way to the park on the day before the solstice. It was forbidden for the commoners to catch a glimpse of the great annual procession; they had to bolt their windows and remain in silence indoors throughout the event.

Upon arrival at Tian Tan, the emperor meditated in the Imperial Vault, ritually conversing with the gods on the details of government. He then spent the night in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

The next day, the winter solstice, he performed animal sacrifices before the Throne of Heaven at the Round Altar. The rituals were planned to the smallest detail according to numerological theories. The ceremony had to be perfectly completed, for the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year.

Speaking of bad omens, the Hall of Prayer was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1889. The official explanation for this appalling event was that is was divine punishment meted out on a caterpillar that was about to crawl onto the golden ball of the hall’s roof. For allowing this to happen, 32 court dignitaries were executed. The hall was then faithfully rebuilt according to the original Ming design.

The temple complex remained forbidden to all but the emperor and his retinue until the gates were thrown open to the people on the first Chinese National Day of the Republic in October 1912. On December 23, 1914, General Yuan Shikai performed the ancient ceremonies himself, as part of his attempt to be proclaimed emperor. He died before the end of the year.

That was the last time Tian Tan was used for ritual ceremonies. It has since been a museum open to the public. The site was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1998.



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