The Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple in Dali

The Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple 崇圣三塔 used to be situated at the foot of Diancang Mountain on the shores of Lake Erhai. The temple no longer exists, but the three pagodas, different in size and history, remain. Qianxun Pagoda, the biggest of the three, is described variously in historical records, but from its structure and shape, it must have been built after the Kaicheng period (836 to 840) of the Tang Dynasty and undergone repairs in the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. When the pagoda was repaired again in 1979, three copper plates, found in the bottom of the steeple, stated that the pagoda was repaired in 1000, 1142 and 1154. Also discovered were statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas, scriptures, seals, coins, a bronze mirror, porcelain, articles used in Buddhist ritual, musical instruments, daily-use articles, various kinds of small pagodas, and gold and silver ware. Unearthed from the pagoda’s underground palace were ceramic Buddhist statues and pagodas and matrices for printing Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit.

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Straight and towering, the Quadrangular Qianxun Pagoda, the main one was exquisitely constructed, with multiple tiers of eaves. It has 16 storeys and a height of 69.13 meters. In the central part of each facade, a shrine was built and a Buddha statue of white marble installed. The two other pagodas of 10 stories are 42.19 meters high. They are solid and beautiful, and in octagonal shape. Coated with white mud, and carved with a shrine, Buddha statue, lotus flowers, etc. on each story, the pagodas look elegant and stately.

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The newly built Chongsheng Temple covers an area of 40 hectares. It is arranged along a main axis and two auxiliary axes. Lying in proper order along the main axis are the Gate to the Temple, Heavenly Kings, Maitreya, Eleven-faced Goddess of Mercy, and Great Hero Halls, the Pavilion of Achuoyie Goddess of Mercy, Mountain-Lake Grand View Stone Archway, and the Lake Viewing Tower. Along the two auxiliary axes are Arhat, Eminent Monks (the nine kings who became monks), Founders (six founders of the Zen sect), and Heavenly Kings Halls, and Institute of Buddhism.

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