Buddhist Pagoda

buddhist pagodaThe pagoda is the monument (usually built on sacred ground) where Buddha is worshipped, that consists of several levels, one on top of another. In simpler words, it is a place of worship (most commonly Buddhist) and meditation built in the traditional Asian style. Pagoda (sometimes it is also called as stupa) originated in India.

History of Pagodas

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Stupas are the dome-shaped structures that were used as tombs. When the Buddhist saint Sakyamuni died, his cremated remains were venerated as relics, the stupa was then erected to house them and soon became a place of worship. His remains were enshrined in 10 stupas, most of them located in the northern parts of India. The stupa of Sakyamuni infuenced all later pagodas and stupas began to be used by Indian Buddhist to house the relics of other saints. Stupas became a focus of Buddhist practice in India.

In the 1st century CE, Buddhism reached China and the stupa came with it. Over time, many of the newly erected stupas began taking on the traditional forms of Chinese architecture. Early Chinese pagodas were built on circular or square bases and many of them were constructed of wood. Unfortunately, very few of wooden pagodas survived due to the its susceptibility to rot and weathering. Because of this, wood was replaced with brick and stone as their primary materials in the 4th – 7th centuries. And during this period, the octagonal bases became predominant and pagoda began to develop its characteristic multitiered roofs with up-swept gables.

Famous Pagodas

Today, pagodas can be found in Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Eastern Asia. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is also known as “The Land of Pagodas” because there is a vast numbers of pagodas dotting the countryside.

In China, there is a famous 1500 years old Shaolin Temple complex that is known to be the China’s birthplace of martial arts with its numerous pagodas. There is also a 1500 years old Haibao Pagoda (or Sea Treasure Pagoda in English) in Yinchuan city. It is noted for its beautiful view of the Helan Mountain to the West and the Yellow River to the East. Though its origins are lost to memory, this pagoda has been rebuilt multiple times due to the collapse during the earthquakes. It was last rebuilt in 1788 and currently stands about 54 m high with 9 tiers.

Another pagoda named Tiger Hill Pagoda (also known as “China’s Leaning Tower”) is a symbol of the city of Suzhou. It is an octahedron with 7 stories and 48 m high built in the 10th century. In Vietnam, there are 14,000 pagodas in which 45 of them are particularly famous. Of the 600 pagodas in and aruond Hanoi, Chua Huong – the One Pillar Pagoda, Perfume Pagoda, Quan Su Pagoda and Tran Quoc Pagoda are the most popular.

Japan is the home of the oldest wooden pagoda. The five stories high Pagoda of Horyuji was built in the 600’s and it can be found in Nara. Traditionally, pagodas have an odd number of levels but you also can see the 18th century pagoda “folly” that was designed by Sir William Chambers at Kew Gadens in London.

Other interesting facts and information about pagoda:

Tianning Pagoda is considered to be the tallest pagoda in the world. This modern Buddhist pagoda is 154 meters high and located in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, China.

Horyuji Temple and Pagoda in Japan are regarded as the oldest wooden pagoda as well as the oldest wooden structure in the world.

One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot) in Hanoi, Vietnam, is an unique pagoda with only one story and stands above the pond as it is supported with a stone pillar that rising from the pond.

Thien Mu Pagoda in Vietnam: If you have read the story of a brave monk named Thich Quang Duc, the car that took him to the site of his self-immolation is stored in the rear of Thien Mu Pagoda.

Dagin is a Christian Pagoda located in Chang-an, Shaanxi Province, China. It is the remnant of the earliest surviving Christian church which built by early Nestorian missionaries in 640. Now the pagoda is recognized as significant part of the history of early Christianity in China.

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (Da Yan Pagoda) was built after the holy monk Xuan Zhang (if you have watched the popular movie "Journey to the West", you should have known him) returned from India to China with the Holy Scriptures. It is also one of the most notable Buddhist pagodas in China.

There is also Yunyan Pagoda (Tiger Hill pagoda), a seven stories pagoda which is famous because of its lean - In fact, it predates the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The pagoda is situated in Suzhou city, Jiangsu Province, China. A Sword Pond, a small rectangular pond called "Jianchi", beneath which a treasure of some 3000 legendary swords of extraordinary sharpness are said to have been buried; the site is not excavated because the Leaning Pagoda's foundations rest on this site.

Some pagodas were built for feng shui purposes, one of them is the Liuhe Pagoda or Six Harmonies Tower which was built in order to calm the tidal bore of the Quantang River as well as to be a navigational aid. The 104 large iron bells hung on its flying eaves was intended to ward off evil spirits who responsible for the heavy tides. This masterpiece of ancient Chinese pagoda has 13 storeys from the outside but in fact the octagonal pagoda only has 7 storeys inside. During the night, lanterns were lit around this 60 meters tall pagoda so that ships and boats cuold use it as their navigational tower.



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