Chinese pagoodas come in carious sizes and shapes-some look like towers, others like pavilions, still others like pyramids. Some atand alone, while others were built in clusters.
Most chinese pagodas are connected to the Buddhist tradition in China. The
earliest were built in the first century AD,when Buddhism was introduced to China from India. Sone were built for feudal rulers to commune with the immortalswho were believed to live in the clouds.Others housed religious artifacts and relics.The best example of these Buddhist pagodas is perhaps the pmposing Wild Goose
Pagoda in Xi'an,Shaanxi Ptovinces.This seven-story,64.1-meter-high,wood-and-brick structure was built in the mid-seventh century to house Buddhist scriptures
brought from India by the monk,Xuan Zang.The famous Tang Dynasty pilgrim traveler and scholar collected more than 600 volumes of scriptures and later translated them into Chinese. The Wild Goose Pagoda is an architectural masterpiece and remains intact and in good condition, notwithstanding 1,300 years of weathering and a very strong earthquake.
At first, pagodas were the central building of a temple, around which the monks prayed. Later, they were liaced elsewhere on the temple grounds. In recent centeries, some have been built simply to adorn a scenic spot, while others were erected to serve nore practical needs.
In North China,for instance,pagodas werer built as military watch -towers.
In South China, seaside and river bank pagodas aided navigation. Sailors used to climb the Guangta Pagoda in the Huaisheng Temple in Guangzhou to observe weather conditions before going to sea. The Liuhe Pagoda on the Qiantang River estuary in Hangshou, Zhejiang Province, has served as a lighthouse for navigation for centuries.
Chinese pagodas may be square, polygonal or circular with each story sep-
arated by projecting roofs or eaves. A typical pagoda has three main elements:
the underground hall, the platform and the body. The underground hall usually housed sacred relics,books and paintings.The p;atform may be a simple structure, or it may be elaborately decorated.The shaft or the main part of the pagoda may be either solid or hollow. Aspiral stairway sometimes leads up through this central shaft. Imagges of the Buddha are usually carved on the outside walls.
Pagodas' roofs are often crowned with ornate carvings or studded with jewels.
Chinese pagodas gelong to several categories. Based on their style of construction, they can roughlly be classified into four categories. First, the tower-style pagoda. It resembles a multi-story tower with protruding up-turned eaves.The oldest and tallest of this type is a magnificent Ying County Wooden Pagoda in Shanxi Province. Built in 1056, it is an octagonal structure of five stories, 67.1 meters high.
Another type is the Miyanshita. It takes its name from the many tiers of closely-set eaves at the top. Most pagodas of this sort are built of brick and
stone. They are without doors or windows, escept for holes that let in light.
The earliest example is at the Songyue Temple on Mt.Songshan in Henan Province. Built in 520, it stands 40 meters high and has 12 sides capped by 15 tiers of eaves.
The third style is the pavilion-style or one-story pagoda. Most of them were used as tombs for abbots and other high-ranking monks. The earliest of these still extant is the 1,400-year-old Simen Pagoda at the Shentong Temple in Shandong Province,East China.It is square, with a single roof and one door on each side.
The fourth is the Lamaist style. Similar to Indian dagobas, the pagoda is a dome-shaped structure set on a large pyramidal platform.One famous example
is the White Dagoba in Beijing's Beijing's Beihai Park.
As mentioned earlier,ancient Chinese pagodas may stand alone or in groups.The largest group of pagodas is the Pagoda Forest at the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. This group is composed of 220 brick and stone structures.
Another well-known example is the unique Bamboo-shoot Pagoda in Yunnan Province. It consists of a central pagoda in the shape of a lotus flower, surrounded by eight smaller ones. From a distance the group suggests a bamboo thicket.
In china ,there're many different types of pagodas in terms of their structure :pavilion type ,storied-pavilion type,dese-eave type,floral type,overturned-bowl style,Vajra-throne type,crossing-the-street type etc.
Originally known satupas,gagodas in India were constructed to preserve Buddha's relics ,such as bones, hair and teeth.So they were actually tombs. Along with buddhism ,the construction of gagodas was introduced into china in 68AD. But most of them were didicated to some eminent monks whose cremains were buried underneath.
From an architectural point of view ,a pagoda consist of four parts: the top,the body ,the foundation and the underground chamber.
The top is usually built in round or needle shape .It is said to have two functions :it marks a Buddhist land ,and embodies the 'idea'of buddha,Any how, its decorative function should not bo neglected.That's why the top is always exquisitely made .
The main part of a pagoda is ,of course ,its body .The inside is either solid or hollow.
The foundation of the early pogada was usually low, After the Tang dynasty it was divided obviously into the stand and pedestal .The stand was just the previous foundation .The pedestal was made higher and more magnificant wiht the architectural development .For example ,the pedestal of the stupa type makes up about one third of the entire height of the pagoda ,and the pedestal of the Vajra-throne type or threet pagoda constitutes the main part of the body .
The underground chamber is used to preserve the Buddhist relics or gems ,or house Buddhist scriptures.
After the Ming and Qing Dynasties ,the pagodas were rarely related to the Buddhist religion as it had been for centuries.Some served as a landmark or an ornament to a mountain or a scenic spot,others became lighthouses or wathchtowers.
The main structure of a pagoda generally consists of underground palace,base,body and pinnacle:
1, Underground Palace
Underground palace is a specific part of pagodas in China,which is similar to that of emperor’s mausoleum built in ancient times.Built of bricks the palaces are in different shapes,usually square,round or polygonal.
They are mostly underground but some with a half underground and a half in pagoda,these basements are built mainly to bury the relics of Buddha and place Buddhist Scriptures,treasures and other things.
Base,as the term suggests,is the foundation of a pagoda,on which the body and the pinnacle of a pagoda is built.The bases built in the early years are generally lower.After the Tang Dynasty,the bases built consist of two parts:base station and stand.Therefore,the base is obviously taller and bigger,the base of Lama-style pagoda being most striking.the height of this kind of base amounts to 1/3of a pagoda’s total height,thus being the main part of it.The pagoda built on a tall and big base looks extremely steadily solid and magnificent.From this we can see how important the base is in the beautiful shape of and richly exquisite carvings on the pagoda.The striking example is the Tianning Temple Pagoda in Beijing.
Body,in the middle,is a principal part.Pagodas in different styles have different appearances.And body comes in two kinds:solid body and hollow body in which there are generally steps.Climbing up the stairs to the top,one can feast one’s eyes on the beauty of scence and enjoy the bounty of nature.
Pinnacle,or the top of a pagoda,is indispensable to a pagoda.Some pinnacles are round,some square,octagonal or calabash;some are short thick,some are long thin;some are built of bricks,some made of metals.They are various in forms and shapes.It,on the top of the body,is a lofty part.Pinnacle embodies the Pure Land of the Buddhist world-vihara or temple,which is also called Buddhist Lands.Pinnacle,in fact,is a pagoda in miniature.It is in the same structure as that of a pagoda,namely base,body and pinnacle.The appearance of the pagoda with a pinnacle(the miniature of a pagoda )on the top makes the pagoda itself towering,magnificent,tall and erect.
Chinese cultural spirit pays special attention to the harmony and affinity of man with nature, and towers andpavilions particularly embody this characteristic. In boundless nature, people are not content with their limited self, they demand a personal experience of spiritual sublimation. The Goddess Chang'e, Yuren and Feixian express the mystical fantasy of this pursuit, while towers and terraced pavilions express the reality. Therefore, Chinese towers and pavilions are clearly different from ancient European buildings in terms of spirit, style and feature. The latter's buildings are laid with bricks and stones, with small windows; outside the building there is no corridor, the inner and the outer parts are separated from each other; stress is put n the vertical tapering form, as if the earth is not worth a glance, revealing an estrangement between man and nature.
Chinese towers are wide open, so that air is circulating and infiltrating the space inside and outside the tower. Around various floors there are corridors for climbing and looking into the distance. The level-oriented eaves n every floor, and the corridors and balustradesaround each floor, greatly reduce the soaring kinetic potential of the overall vertical form, so that the towers can overlook the vast land from time to time. The notched and Curvedroofing, and the rounded corners of the tower, avoid a rigid and solitary appearance. The towers are beautifully inlaid in nature, so that they become part of the universe containing the infinite yearning of the people for nature. Many poems and prose clearly express the human spirit contained in these towers, Such as the lines: "The sun sets behind the mountain, theYellow Riverflows into the sea, ascending another story to see a thousand miles". This describes the vivid experience of the poet who climbs the tower and looks afar between heaven and earth to clear his mind. This meaning can also be seen from the magnificently perceived names of various towers, such as Watching the Sea Tower, Seeing the Mountain Tower, Looking at the Cloud Tower, Catching the Moon Tower, the Mist and Rain Tower, the Refreshing Breeze Tower, the Absorbing River Water Tower, Reaching-the-Clouds Tower, the Sunset-Bathed Tower, etc.
Among towers and pavilions in history, most which enjoy a high reputation are essentially structures for sightseeing, built in scenic areas, Such as the Huanghe (yellow crane) Tower, the TengWang Tower andYueyang Tower, the three famous towers south of theYangtze RiverSites for such towers are often in sections beside rivers or lakes bordering cities for the convenience of looking afar, and for closer ties with cities-making it easy to "capture the sights", the size and pattern are based on careful conception, the structure and nature acting in harmonious coordination with each other, the tower itself also increases the beauty of nature and becomes an object of appreciation, called "ChengJing"(Established Scenery).
The Yueyang Tower
TheYueyangTower is on the west bank ofDongting Lakein Yueyang, Hunan. Legend has it that there is a military review tower here during theThree Kingdoms period, and there are poems and prose about climbing the Yueyang Tower in theTang Dynasty, Such asLi Bai's lines which read: "Looking from the tower I command the full views of Yueyang, when the river flows back, the Dongting Lake thaws", the lines ofDu Furead: '-I heard about the water of Dongting Lake before, Now I climb up the Yueyang Tower". Yueyang Tower was rebuilt in the Song Dynasty, Fan Zhongyan wrote "Notes on the Yueyang Tower", as a result, the tower has enjoyed a high reputation across the country. The extant Yueyang Tower was rebuilt in the fifth year (1879) ofQing DynastyEmperor Dezong's reign, with the west city walls of Yueyang facing Dongting Lake. The plane of the tower is rectangular, its frontage consisting of three rooms, surrounded by corridors. The three storeys have three eaves, with a total height of nearly 20 meters. on top of the tower are four sloping helmet-shaped roofs, the upper part of the roofing being convex and the lower part concave. It is China-s existing largest helmet-roofed structure, covered with yellow glazed tiles, the wing corner being upturned. The left and right sides before the tower stand parallel with the tower in the shape of" ping", with the Sanzui Pavilion and the Xianmei Pavilion serving as a foil.
Huanghe Tower stands on the southern bank of the Yangtze River in Wuchang, Hubei. Legend has it that the tower was initially built during the Three Kingdoms period, although it began to become well known during the Tang Dynasty. This was mainly attributed to poet Cui Hao's verse which reads: "Riding the yellow crane, ancients have gone away, here only the Huanghe Tower remains". The Picture of Huanghe Tower, a Song Dynasty painting, vividly captures its appearance. The HuangheTower is built on a platform, under which trees provide pleasant shade from where one can look into the distance and see a vast expanse of misty, rolling water The central main tower consists of two storeys. The plane is of a square form, the left and right sides on the lower floor protruding out, while the verandas on the front and back are linked to the wing-tower. The top of the whole tower is well-arranged, with jagged wing-corners, giving it a magnificent appearance. After the Song Dynasty, Huanghe Tower was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. Reconstructed in the seventh year (1868) of Emperor Muzong's reign, it existed only a dozen years or so. The tower, however, no longer consisted of many structures towering above a high platform as shown in the Song picture.Instead, a centralized plane was adopted standing above the city walls.The plane is of an angle cross. There are three stories with a total height of 32 meters.
There is another kind of structure in China, similar to but higher than, towers in form: namely, the "pagoda"-type Buddhist commemorative or indicative buildings.
The prototype and the religious meaning of the pagoda were introduced into China from India. Its original function in India was a tomb wherein were buried the bones of Sakyamuni. After it was introduced to China, its meaning was expanded.
The practical functions of the pagoda are not subject to much.restriction. Its form is relatively free, and most are built with funds raised by believers or with financial aid from the state and localities. Believer soften spare no expense to.build pagodes in order to demonstrate their devotion. There are many structural methods for the pagoda, so they are of a very rich style, providing scope for artisans to freely display their imaginative power. The pagoda has become an important type of Chinese architectural art. Chinese monasteries, mainly of a tower-type and dense-eave style, are created in light of the prototype of Indian pagodas, and towers emerged in large quantities in China'sHan Dynasty.
Beijing's Famous Towers
The architectural art of tall buildings was highly developed in ancient China, dating back to the Warring States Period (475-221BC). Among them, the classical Chinese Lou, which in modern Chinese refers to buildings of two or more stories, has been regarded as one type of the representative works. In ancient China, Lou means a storied building with a horizontal main ridge and usually, all-round verandas. Many such buildings also feature sloped, double-eaved roofs, and carved brackets supporting the overhanging eaves from the columns. Beijing, as the capital of Yuan, Ming and Qing three dynasties, has a classical collection of Lou, such as: Cheng Lou (Gate Tower), Jiao Lou (Corner Tower), Jian Lou (Archery Tower), Zhong Lou (Bell Tower) and Gu Lou (Drum Tower).
Tian'anmen Gate Tower
Located to the north of the Tian'anmen Square, the Tian'anmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is a vermilion building with yellow glazed tiles, glistening in the sunlight with all its beauty, splendor and grandeur.
Tian'anmen Gate was built in the 15th year (1417) of Emperor Yongle's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and has a history of over 570 years. From imperial days, the yellow glaze-tiled double-eaves tower functioned as a rostrum for proclamations to the assembled masses. The tower has five doors and in front of it are seven bridges spanning a stream. Only the emperor could use the central door and bridge.
The Gate measures 43.7 meters in height and with a facade of 62.77 meters wide. This solemn architecture of national style with double eaves has 60 grand red columns, 8 ball-shaped palace lanterns hanging high, white balustrade, yellow tiles, red beams and painted pillars, which in the arrangement of either colors or structures shine in its entirety, with the extraordinary beauty of harmony.
Looking up, the four roof-ridges with an orderly array of figurines of dragons, phoenix, lions, unicorns, heavenly horses, fighting bulls and other animals can be seen, which are vivid and brilliant. But under the up-turned roof-eaves, there are lightly painted graceful pictures of golden dragon and imperial seal, golden phoenix and imperial seal, dragon brocade and imperial seal, dragon phoenix and imperial seal etc., which are known as palace color pictures with a history of several hundred years.
On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong, standing on the tower, proclaimed the founding of the new China.
Jiao Lou (Corner Tower)
In the Forbidden City of Beijing, there are four so-named Jiao Lou (Corner Tower) on the four corners, which used to be stationed by the emperor's guardsmen, for instance, the existing Southeast Jiao Lou at Dongbianmen of the Chongwenmen (Chongwen Gate) District.
Jian Lou (Archery Tower)
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), each city gate of Beijing was also guarded by a Jian Lou (Archery Tower), and two of them have been well preserved.
Zhong Lou (Bell Tower)
The Bell Tower in the city also plays a very big role in landscape. The existing Bell Tower of Beijing in the northern part of the city was built in the 18th year (1420) of the reign of Ming Emperor Chengzu. The Bell Tower was built entirely with bricks and stones. Under it is a square, towering brick platform, encircled by stone balustrades. A single-storied bell drum, which is the largest ever in China, was erected on the platform.
Gu Lou (Drum Tower)
Located to the south of the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower overlooks the busy Drum Tower Street, with a platform below and a two-storied, three-eave building on the upper level. The Drum Tower is horizontal and long in form, larger in size and elegant in style, presenting a sharp contrast to the Bell Tower which is small, vertical, plain and neat.
In ancient times, according to the old rule, the local officials would open the city gate at the toll of the bell in the morning, and close it with the strike of the drum at dawn.