Lofty legends: 14 ancient Chinese pagodas with distinctive styles

The Qianxun Pagoda, Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, Yunnan province

Updated: Apr 13, 2022 Print
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The Qianxun Pagoda stands at the center of the three pagodas in front of the Chongsheng Temple in Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, Yunnan province. The xun is an ancient Chinese unit of length; each xun roughly equals 2.67 meters. The Qianxun, literally meaning one thousand xuns in Chinese, is a literary hyperbole referring to the height of the pagoda, which, in fact, is about 69 meters.

The Qianxun Pagoda presents a fusiform-like shape and reflects the typical architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty. [Photo/IC]

Built between 833 and 840, under the rule of the Nanzhao Kingdom (738-902) during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Qianxun Pagoda has 16 stories constructed from bricks with a square plan and multi layers of eaves. The main body presents a fusiform-like shape with a smooth profile, reflecting the typical architectural style of the Tang Dynasty. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, is another paragon in this architectural style.

The smaller pagodas next to it were completed from 1108 to 1172, the period of the rule of the Dali Kingdom. Designed in pyramid-like shapes, each of them has 10 stories with an octagonal plan and stands at a height of 42.19 meters. Decorative bracket sets, terraces, niches and Buddhist relief carvings of varied kinds adorn each floor of the two pagodas.

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