Three Pagodas

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Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple
Three Pagodas of Chong Sheng Temple
Affiliation Buddhism
Country China
China Yunnan location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Yunnan
Geographic coordinates 25°42′31″N100°08′50″E / 25.708725°N 100.147236°E / 25.708725; 100.147236 Coordinates: 25°42′31″N100°08′50″E / 25.708725°N 100.147236°E / 25.708725; 100.147236

The Three Pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple (Chinese :崇圣寺三塔; pinyin :Chóngshèng Sì Sāntǎ) are an ensemble of three independent pagodas arranged on the corners of an equilateral triangle, near the old town of Dali, Yunnan province, China, dating from the time of the Kingdom of Nanzhao and Kingdom of Dali in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Chinese language family of languages

Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

Pagoda Tiered towers that find its origins vis-à-vis architectural and stylistic edifices in the classical palatinal realms of the Indian subcontinent, thereafter being adopted in East Asian masonry and architecture.

A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, built in traditions originating as stupa in Ancient India and further developed in East Asia with respect to those traditions, common to Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka 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 viharas. 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.


The Three Pagodas are located about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) north of Dali old town. They are at the east foot of the tenth peak of the massive Cangshan Mountains and face the west shore of the Erhai Lake of ancient Dali.

Erhai Lake lake in Yunnan, Peoples Republic of China

Erhai or Er Lake, is an alpine fault lake in Yunnan province, China. Its name means "Ear-shaped Sea", due to its shape as seen by locals and travellers. Erhai was also known as Yeyuze or Kunming Lake in ancient times.


Reflection Pond mirroring the image of the Three Pagodas. Dali 2007 171.jpg
Reflection Pond mirroring the image of the Three Pagodas.

The Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas comprise three independent pagodas forming a symmetric triangle. The elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China's ancient Buddhist architectures, which makes it a must-see in the tour of Dali. The Three Pagodas, visible from miles away, has been a landmark of Dali City and selected as a national treasure meriting preservation in China.

The main pagoda, known as Qianxun Pagoda (Chinese :千寻塔; pinyin :Qiānxún Tǎ), reportedly built during 823-840 CE by king Quan Fengyou (劝丰佑) of the Kingdom of Nanzhao, is 69.6 meters (227 feet) high and is one of the tallest pagodas in China's history. [1] The central pagoda is square shaped and composed of sixteen stories; each story has multiple tiers of upturned eaves. There is a carved shrine containing a white marble sitting Buddha statue at the center of each façade of every story. The body of the pagoda is hollow from the first to the eighth story, surrounded with 3.3 meters (10 feet) thick walls. In 1978, more than 700 Buddhist antiques, including sculptures made of gold, silver, wood or crystal and documents, were found in the body during a major repairing work. The designers of the pagoda are supposed to have come from Chang'an (present-day Xi’an), the capital of Tang Dynasty at that time and the location of another pagoda, Small Wild Goose Pagoda, which shares the similar style but is one hundred years older.

Marble Non-foliated metamorphic rock commonly used for sculpture and as a building material

Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. Marble is typically not foliated, although there are exceptions. In geology, the term "marble" refers to metamorphosed limestone, but its use in stonemasonry more broadly encompasses unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material.

Changan Ancient capital and city of China

Chang'an was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese since it was a capital that was repeatedly used by new Chinese rulers. During the short-lived Xin dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; the old name was later restored. By the time of the Ming dynasty, a new walled city named Xi'an, meaning "Western Peace", was built at the Sui and Tang dynasty city's site, which has remained its name to the present day.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda pagoda

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda, sometimes Little Wild Goose Pagoda, is one of two significant pagodas in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China, the site of the old Han and Tang capital Chang'an. The other notable pagoda is the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, originally built in 652 and restored in 704.

The other two sibling pagodas, built about one hundred years later, stand to the northwest and southwest of Qianxun Pagoda. They are 42.19 meters (140 feet) high. Different from Qianxun Pagoda, they are solid and octagonal with ten stories. The center of each side of every story is decorated with a shrine containing a Buddha statue.

A lake is located behind the pagodas. Named Reflection Pond (Chinese :聚影池; pinyin :Jùyǐng Chí), the pond is known to be able to reflect images of the Three Pagodas.


The Three Pagodas, taken from the entrance Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple front view from entrance.jpg
The Three Pagodas, taken from the entrance

The Three Pagodas were initially built for auspicious reasons. According to local legends, Dali was once a swamp inhabited by breeding dragons before the humans arrived. As the dragons, which were believed to deliberately create natural disasters to dispel human intruders, revered pagodas, the Three Pagodas were built to deter the dragons.

The Three Pagodas are well known for their resilience; they have endured several man-made and natural catastrophes over more than one thousand years. Their mother building was known as Chong Shen Monastery (Chinese :崇圣寺; pinyin :Chóngshèng Sì) and was once the royal temple of the Kingdom of Dali. It was originally built at the same time as the first pagoda, but was destroyed in a fire during the rule of the Qing Dynasty. The temple was later rebuilt in 2005. It was recorded that Qianxun Pagoda had been split in an earthquake on May 6, 1515 AD (Ming Dynasty). However, it miraculously recovered ten days later in an aftershock. The most recent record of severe earthquake in the Dali area occurred in 1925. Only one in one hundred buildings in Dali survived, but the Three Pagodas were undamaged.

1925 Dali earthquake earthquake struck Yunnan Province, China on March 16, 1925

The 1925 Dali earthquake occurred at 14:42 UTC on 16 March. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.0 on the surface wave magnitude scale and a maximum perceived intensity of at least IX (Violent) on the Mercalli intensity scale. It had an epicenter in the province of Yunnan in southern China and killed an estimated 5,000 people.

The central Qianxun Pagoda was built sometime in the latter half of the 9th century (after the Kaicheng period, 836840). [2] During repairs in 1979, three copper plates were found at the bottom of the steeple which recorded the exact years of previous repairs, those being 1000, 1142, and 1145. [2]

See also


  1. Three Pagodas. From Retrieved on 2008-02-12.
  2. 1 2 Qianxun Pagoda at Chongsheng Temple in Dali of Yunnan Province. From Retrieved on 2008-02-11.

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