Pagoda Forest at Lingyan Temple
The pagoda forest on the west side of the temple is formed by 167 tomb pagodas built from the Tang to the Qing Dynasty.
The number of pagodas, their construction over such a long period of time, their variety and exquisite designs make this a very unusual pagoda forest in China--a match for the pagoda forest in Shaolin Temple. The oldest pagoda in the forest is a one-storey, pavilion-style structure built between 742 and 755 during the Tang Dynasty. There is a door on its southern side and a false door on the eastern and western sides. Carved inside each of the false doors is a half-naked parson who is either opening or closing the door. Carved on the main body of the pagoda are lion heads, musicians, flying apsarases and celestial guards, all vividly expressed. The carvings indicate excellent skill and are in the style of the Tang Dynasty.
The pagodas from different times have different styles and features, but generally they are all comparatively small. Most are bell-shaped. There are also eighty-one stone tablets in the pagoda forest, one of which, erected in 1341 in the Yuan Dynasty, bears the inscription of a Japanese monk who had been in China studying Buddhism for more than twenty years. The inscription mentions the profound friendship between the Chinese and Japanese people in ancient times.