A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves common to China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most often Buddhist but sometimes Taoist, and were often located in or near viharas. The pagoda traces its origins to the stupa of ancient India.
Chinese pagodas (Chinese :塔; pinyin :Tǎ) are a traditional part of Chinese architecture. In addition to religious use, since ancient times Chinese pagodas have been praised for the spectacular views they offer, and many famous poems in Chinese history attest to the joy of scaling pagodas. The oldest and tallest were built of wood, but most that survived were built of brick or stone. Some pagodas were solid, and had no interior at all. Others were hollow and held within themselves an altar, with the larger frequently containing a smaller pagoda (pagodas were not inhabited buildings and had no "floors" or "rooms"). The pagoda's interior has a series of staircases that allow the visitor to ascend to the top of the building and to witness the view from an opening on one side at each story. Most have between three and 13 stories (almost always an odd number) and the classic gradual tiered eaves.
In some countries, the term may refer to other religious structures. In Vietnam and Cambodia, due to French translation, the English term pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship, although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist vihara. 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. Many Philippine bell towers are highly influenced by pagodas through Chinese workers hired by the Spaniards.
One proposed etymology is from a South Chinese pronunciation of the term for an eight-cornered tower, Chinese :八角塔, and reinforced by the name of a famous pagoda encountered by many early European visitors to China, the "Pázhōu tǎ" (Chinese :琶洲塔), standing just south of Guangzhou at Whampoa Anchorage. Another proposed etymology is Persian butkada, from but, "idol" and kada, "temple, dwelling."
Another etymology, found in many English language dictionaries, is modern English pagoda from Portuguese (via Dravidian), from Sanskrit bhagavati, feminine of bhagavat, "blessed", from bhag, "good fortune".[ citation needed ]
Yet another etymology of pagoda is from the Sinhala word dāgaba which is derived from Sanskrit dhātugarbha or Pali dhātugabbha: "relic womb/chamber" or "reliquary shrine", i.e. a stupa, by way of Portuguese.
The origin of the pagoda can be traced to the stupa (3rd century BCE).The stupa, a dome shaped monument, was used as a commemorative monument associated with storing 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.
These buildings (pagoda, stupa) became prominent as Buddhist monuments used for enshrining sacred relics.In Japan, there exist a total of 22 five-storied timber pagodas constructed before 1850.
Earliest base-structure type for Chinese pagodas were square-base and circular-base. By the 5th-10th centuries the Chinese began to build octagonal-base pagoda towers. The highest Chinese pagoda from the pre-modern age is the Liaodi Pagoda of Kaiyuan Monastery, Dingxian, Hebei province, completed in the year 1055 AD under Emperor Renzong of Song and standing at a total height of 84 m (275 ft). Although it no longer stands, the tallest pre-modern pagoda in Chinese history was the 100-metre-tall wooden pagoda (330 ft) of Chang'an, built by Emperor Yang of Sui. The Liaodi Pagoda is the tallest pre-modern pagoda still standing, yet in April 2007 a new wooden pagoda at the Tianning Temple of Changzhou was opened to the public; this pagoda is now the tallest in China, standing at 154 m (505 ft).
Chinese iconography is noticeable in Chinese pagoda as well as other East Asian pagoda architectures. Iconography of Han is noticeable in architecture of the Chinese Pagoda. The image of the Shakyamuni Buddha in the abhaya mudra is also noticeable in some Chinese pagodas. Buddhist iconography is also inside of the symbolism in the pagoda.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. Some believed they would influence the success of young students taking the examinations for a civil service degree. When a pagoda of Yihuang County in Fuzhou collapsed in 1210 during the Song Dynasty, local inhabitants believed that the unfortunate event correlated with the recent failure of many exam candidates in the prefectural examinations for official degrees, the prerequisite for appointment in civil service. The pagoda was rebuilt in 1223 and had a list inscribed on it of the recently successful examination candidates, in hopes that it would reverse the trend and win the county supernatural favor.
The image of Gautama Buddha in the abhaya mudrā is also noticeable in some Pagodas. Buddhist iconography can be observed throughout the pagoda symbolism.In an article on Buddhist elements in Han dynasty art, Wu Hung suggests that in these tombs, Buddhist symbolism was so well-incorporated into native Chinese traditions that a unique system of symbolism had been developed.
Pagodas come in many different sizes,with taller ones often attracting lightning strikes. While this has inspired tradition that the finial decorating the top of the structure can seize demons, the historically frequent damage has often motivated the modern addition of conductive wires connecting the finial to the earth, allowing it to function as a true lightning conductor.
Wooden pagodas possess certain characteristics which are thought to help them survive earthquakes. These include the friction damping and sliding effect related to the complex wooden dougong joints,the structural isolation of floors, the effects of deep eaves analogous to a balancing toy, and the Shinbashira phenomenon that the center column is bolted to the rest of the superstructure.
Pagodas traditionally have an odd number of levels, a notable exception being the eighteenth century pagoda designed by Sir William Chambers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.
The pagodas in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are very different from Chinese and Japanese pagodas. Pagodas in these countries are derived from Dravidian architecture.
During the Southern and Northern Dynasties pagodas were mostly built of wood, as were other ancient Chinese structures. Wooden pagodas are resistant to earthquakes, and no Japanese pagoda has been destroyed by an earthquake.Many have burnt down, and wood is also prone to both natural rot and insect infestation.
Examples of wooden pagodas:
The literature of subsequent eras also provides evidence of the domination of wooden pagoda construction in this period. The famous Tang Dynasty poet, Du Mu, once wrote:
The oldest extant fully wooden pagoda standing in China today is the Pagoda of Fugong Temple in Ying County, Shanxi Province, built in the 11th century during the Song Dynasty/Liao Dynasty (refer to Architecture section in Song Dynasty).
During the Northern Wei and Sui dynasties (386–618) experiments began with the construction of brick and stone pagodas. Even at the end of the Sui, however, wood was still the most common material. For example, Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty (reigned 581–604) once issued a decree for all counties and prefectures to build pagodas to a set of standard designs, however since they were all built of wood none have survived. Only the Songyue Pagoda has survived, a circular-based pagoda built out of stone in 523 AD.
The earliest extant brick pagoda is the 40-metre-tall Songyue Pagoda in Dengfeng Country, Henan.This curved, circle-based pagoda was built in 523 during the Northern Wei Dynasty, and has survived for 15 centuries. Much like the later pagodas found during the following Tang Dynasty, this temple featured tiers of eaves encircling its frame, as well as a spire crowning the top. Its walls are 2.5 m thick, with a ground floor diameter of 10.6 m. Another early brick pagoda is the Sui Dynasty Guoqing Pagoda built in 597.
The earliest large-scale stone pagoda is a Four Gates Pagoda at Licheng, Shandong, built in 611 during the Sui Dynasty. Like the Songyue Pagoda, it also features a spire at its top, and is built in the pavilion style.
One of the earliest brick and stone pagodas was a three-storey construction built in the (first) Jin Dynasty (265–420), by Wang Jun of Xiangyang. However, it is now destroyed.
Brick and stone went on to dominate Tang, Song, Liao and Jin Dynasty pagoda construction. An example is the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (652 AD), built during the early Tang Dynasty. The Porcelain Pagoda of Nanjing has been one of the most famous brick and stone pagoda in China throughout history. The Zhou dynasty started making the ancient pagodas about 3,500 years ago.
Pagodas, in keeping with the tradition of the White Horse Temple, were generally placed in the center of temples until the Sui and Tang dynasties. During the Tang, the importance of the main hall was elevated and the pagoda was moved beside the hall, or out of the temple compound altogether. In the early Tang, Daoxuan wrote a Standard Design for Buddhist Temple Construction in which the main hall replaced the pagoda as the center of the temple.
The design of temples was also influenced by the use of traditional Chinese residences as shrines, after they were philanthropically donated by the wealthy or the pious. In such pre-configured spaces, building a central pagoda might not have been either desirable or possible.
In the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Chan (Zen) sect developed a new 'seven part structure' for temples. The seven parts—the Buddha hall, dharma hall, monks' quarters, depository, gate, pure land hall and toilet facilities—completely exclude pagodas, and can be seen to represent the final triumph of the traditional Chinese palace/courtyard system over the original central-pagoda tradition established 1000 years earlier by the White Horse Temple in 67. Although they were built outside of the main temple itself, large pagodas in the tradition of the past were still built. This includes the two Ming Dynasty pagodas of Famen Temple and the Chongwen Pagoda in Jingyang of Shaanxi Province.
A prominent, later example of converting a palace to a temple is Beijing's Yonghe Temple, which was the residence of Yongzheng Emperor before he ascended the throne. It was donated for use as a lamasery after his death in 1735.
Examples of Han Dynasty era tower architecture predating Buddhist influence and the full-fledged Chinese pagoda can be seen in the four pictures below. Michael Loewe writes that during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) period, multi-storied towers were erected for religious purposes, as astronomical observatories, as watchtowers, or as ornate buildings that were believed to attract the favor of spirits, deities, and immortals.
Pagodas built during the Sui and Tang Dynasty usually had a square base, with a few exceptions such as the Daqin Pagoda:
Pagodas of the Five Dynasties, Northern and Southern Song, Liao, Jin, and Yuan Dynasties incorporated many new styles, with a greater emphasis on hexagonal and octagonal bases for pagodas:
Pagodas in the Ming and Qing Dynasties generally inherited the styles of previous eras, although there were some minor variations:
Tiered towers with multiple eaves:
Stupas called "pagodas":
Places called "pagoda" but which are not tiered structures with multiple eaves:
Structures that evoke pagoda architecture:
Structures not generally thought of as pagodas, but which have some pagoda-like characteristics:
A stūpa is a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing relics that is used as a place of meditation. A related architectural term is a chaitya, which is a prayer hall or temple containing a stupa.
Tang dynasty art is Chinese art made during the Tang dynasty (618–907). The period saw great achievements in many forms—painting, sculpture, calligraphy, music, dance and literature. The Tang dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an, the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization—equal, or even superior, to the Han period. The Tang period was considered the golden age of literature and art.
Chinese architecture demonstrates an architectural style that developed over millennia in China, before spreading out to influence architecture throughout East Asia. Since the solidification of the style in the early imperial period, the structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details. Starting with the Tang dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Vietnam, and a varying amount of influence on the architectural styles of Southeast and South Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and The Philippines. Chinese architecture is typified by various features; such as, bilateral symmetry, use of enclosed open spaces, the incorporation of ideas related to feng shui such as directional hierarchies, a horizontal emphasis, and allusion to various cosmological, mythological, or other symbolism. Chinese architecture traditionally classifies structures according to type, ranging from pagodas to palaces. In part because of an emphasis on the use of wood, a relatively perishable material, and due to a de-emphasis on major monumental structures built of less-organic but more durable materials, much of the historical knowledge of Chinese architecture derives from surviving miniature models in ceramic and published planning diagrams and specifications. Some of the architecture of China shows the influence of other types or styles from outside of China, such as the influences on mosque structures originating in the Middle East. Although displaying certain unifying aspects, rather than being completely homogeneous, Chinese architecture has many types of variation based on status or affiliation, such as dependence on whether the structures were constructed for emperors, commoners, or used for religious purposes. Other variations in Chinese architecture are shown in the varying styles associated with different geographic regions and in ethnic architectural design.
The architecture of China is as old as Chinese civilization. From every source of information—literary, graphic, exemplary—there is strong evidence testifying to the fact that the Chinese have always enjoyed an indigenous system of construction that has retained its principal characteristics from prehistoric times to the present day. Over the vast area from Chinese Turkistan to Japan, from Manchuria to the northern half of French Indochina, the same system of construction is prevalent; and this was the area of Chinese cultural influence. That this system of construction could perpetuate itself for more than four thousand years over such a vast territory and still remain a living architecture, retaining its principal characteristics in spite of repeated foreign invasions—military, intellectual, and spiritual—is a phenomenon comparable only to the continuity of the civilization of which it is an integral part.
Zhengding, originally Zhending, is a county in the southwestern Hebei Province, North China, located approximately 260 km (160 mi) south of Beijing. It is under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Shijiazhuang, the capital of the province, and has a population of 594,000. Zhengding has been an important religious center for more than 1,000 years, from - at least - the times of the Sui dynasty to the Qing dynasty. It is the founding place of several major schools of Chan Buddhism. However, many former religious building complexes have been severely damaged throughout history. A noted temple is the Longxing Monastery, where the historical building ensemble has been preserved almost intact. Furthermore, four famous pagodas, each with its own architectural style, are still standing.
Buddhist religious architecture developed in the Indian subcontinent. Three types of structures are associated with the religious architecture of early Buddhism: monasteries (viharas), places to venerate relics (stupas), and shrines or prayer halls, which later came to be called temples in some places.
The architecture of the Song dynasty (960–1279) was noted for its towering Buddhist pagodas, enormous stone and wooden bridges, lavish tombs, and extravagant palaces. Although literary works on architecture existed beforehand, architectural writing blossomed during the Song dynasty, maturing into a more professional form that described dimensions and working materials in a concise, organized manner. In addition to the examples still standing, depictions in Song artwork, architectural drawings, and illustrations in published books all aid modern historians in understanding the architecture of the period.
The Iron Pagoda of Youguo Temple (佑國寺), Kaifeng City, Henan province, is a Buddhist Chinese pagoda built in 1049 during the Song dynasty (960–1279) of China. The pagoda is so-named not because it is made of iron, but because its color resembles that of iron. It is a brick pagoda tower built on the location of a previous wooden one that had been burnt down by lightning fire in 1044. Along with the Liuhe, Lingxiao, Liaodi, Pizhi, and Beisi pagodas, it is seen as a masterpiece of Song dynasty architecture.
The Lingxiao Pagoda is a Chinese pagoda west of the Xinglong Temple in Zhengding, Hebei Province, China.
The Liaodi Pagoda of Kaiyuan Monastery, Dingzhou, Hebei Province, China is the tallest existing pre-modern Chinese pagoda and tallest brick pagoda in the world, built in the 11th century during the Song dynasty (960–1279). The pagoda stands at a height of 84 meters (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, which stands at 69.13 m (230 ft). The tallest pagoda in pre-modern Chinese history was a 100-meter (330 ft)-tall wooden pagoda tower in Chang'an built in 611 by Emperor Yang of Sui, yet this structure no longer stands. It is considered one of the Four Treasures of Hebei.
The Songyue Pagoda, constructed in AD 523, is located at the Songyue Monastery on Mount Song, in Henan province, China. Built during the Northern Wei Dynasty, this pagoda is one of the few intact sixth-century pagodas in China and is also the earliest known Chinese brick pagoda. Most structures from that period were made of wood and have not survived, although ruins of rammed earth fortifications still exist.
The Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple 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".
Lingyan Temple is a Buddhist temple located in Changqing District, Jinan, Shandong Province, China, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city of Tai'an. The temple grounds are situated in a valley on the western edge of the Taishan range. The Lingyan Temple has a long recorded history, and was one of the main temples in China during the times of the Tang and Song Dynasties. Its most renowned landmarks are the 11th century Pizhi Pagoda and the Thousand Buddha Hall which houses a Ming dynasty bronze Buddha statue as well as 40 painted clay statues of life-size luohan from the Song dynasty.
The Tianning Temple, located in Changzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China, is noted for its giant pagoda, the Tianning Pagoda (天宁宝塔/天寧宝塔). Construction began in April 2002 with the opening ceremony for the completed structure held on April 30, 2007, where a crowd of hundreds of Buddhist monks gathered for the ceremony. With 13 stories and a height of 153.79 metres (505 ft), this 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.
The Baoguang Temple is located in Xindu district 18 km north of Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. It was founded during the Tang Dynasty.
Pagodas in Japan are called tō, sometimes buttō or tōba and historically derive from the Chinese pagoda, itself an interpretation of the Indian stupa. Like the stupa, pagodas were originally used as reliquaries but in many cases they ended up losing this function. Pagodas are quintessentially Buddhist and an important component of Japanese Buddhist temple compounds but, because until the Kami and Buddhas Separation Act of 1868, a Shinto shrine was normally also a Buddhist temple and vice versa, they are not rare at shrines either. The famous Itsukushima Shrine, for example, has one.
The Wuying Pagoda, also known as the Xingfu Temple Pagoda and The Thousand Year-old Pagoda of Wuhan, is a Buddhist pagoda in Wuchang, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Built of stone 750 years ago during the final years of the Southern Song Dynasty, it is the oldest standing architectural feature in Wuhan. Wuying Pagoda is a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level.
Linji Temple is a Buddhist temple located in Zhengding Town of Zhengding County, Hebei, China. In the mid-Tang dynasty (618–907), Linji Yixuan founded the Linji school, which eventually became one of the five major schools of Buddhism in China. In the Song dynasty (960–1276), two Japanese monks Eisai and Shuniyo introduced Linji school to Japan. Linji Temple is the cradle of Linji (Rinzai) school of both Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. The temple was added to National Key Buddhist Temples in Han Chinese Area's list in 1983. The eldest thing in the temple is the Chengling Stupa, which still preserves the architectural style of the Liao and Jin dynasties (916–1234).
Caotang Temple is a Buddhist temple located on the north hillside of Mount Guifeng, in Huyi District of Xi'an, Shaanxi, China.
Daxingshan Temple is a Buddhist temple located in Yanta District of Xi'an, Shaanxi.
Lingguang Temple is a Buddhist temple located on the east hillside of Mount Cuiwei (翠微山), in the Shijingshan District of Beijing. The temple is renowned for its collection of the tooth relic of the Buddha.
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