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Qingjinghuayu Pagoda in Beijing

2004-09-06 16:32:02



  This vajrasana pagoda is located in a courtyard two kilometers northwest of Andingmen in Beijing.

  Details of the pagoda‘s history were recorded on a stone tablet erected in 1784. In the autumn of 1780 the Sixth Bainqen Erdini went to Beijing from Tibet to celebrate the Qing emperor‘s birthday. During his stay in Beijing he was invited to lecture at Xihuang Temple in Beijing‘s northern suburbs. A year after his death in November of that year in Beijing a golden shrine containing his remains was sent back to Tibet, and in 1782 a tomb was built between Donghuang Temple and Xihuang Temple for burial of his clothes. This tomb was named Qingjinghoayu Pagoda.

  The complex of five pagodas was built on a stone platform about three meters high. Two stone archways with ornamental patterns of dragons, phoenixes and the Eight Treasures decorate the sides of the platform. Two strange-looking animals with long tails and wings and tongues sticking out stand in front. They were supposed to scare evil spirits away from the tomb. Such animals were often set in front of official residences and mausoleums. After Buddhism was introduced to China, lions replaced the strange animals to make the temples and statues of Buddha more impressive. The animals in front of the pagoda were a rarity.

  The five pagodas on the platform are surrounded by balustrades made of marble. The middle pagoda, fifteen meters tall, is in Lamaist style. Its octagonal base has two levels. The lower level is decorated with carved patterns of ocean waves, fish, shrimp, crabs and turtles. The upper level has ornamental patterns of phoenixes, scroll leaves and swastika patterns. The pedestal on the base is covered on all sides with relief sculptures of animals, plants, twin lions, twin phoenixes, bats, lotus petals, cloud patterns and scroll leaf patterns. On the recessed neck of the pedestal there are relief sculptures presenting the life story of Buddha, from his birth to his awakening to Nirvana. Though the pictures are not large, the mountains, houses, trees and the expressions of the people are all depicted in vivid detail. At the corners there are eight relief sculptures of heavenly guardians. Except for the one on the western corner, who wears boots and a hat made of tiger skin, the guardians are all naked, revealing strong muscles. On top of this there is an octagonal pedestal. On each of the four surfaces facing the four directions are eight relief sculptures of seated Buddhas. The pagoda‘s body is in inverted-bowl style. Inside a niche in the body‘s front sit the Trikala Buddha (Buddhas of the past, present and future). Eight statues of bodhisattvas are carved around the body of the pagoda. The statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas all have narrow waists, broad shoulders and delicate features, typical of Buddhist images during the Qing Dynasty, when Lamaism was most popular. The steeple is composed of a small pedestal with lotus petal ornaments and a "thirteen skies" (thirteen discs) spire topped by a gilded lotus bottle with a pair of gilded ears. This is an ornament often seen on small Lamaist metal pagodas, known as the Fenyang or Fanyang Hat (with a conical crown and broad brim) style, but it is rarely used on large pagodas.

  Generally, the four smaller pagodas at the four corners of the pedestal are either multistoreyed or Lamaist in style. In this particular case some changes have been made in the structures of the four smaller pagodas. They are in the shape of a Buddhist pillar (a pillar inscribed with Buddhas name or Buddhist scripture) but have many levels of eaves. They are about eight meters high and octagonal. The surface of the first storey is carved with Buddhist scriptures. The upper part of the pagodas, divided by many levels of eaves, is decorated with relief statues of bodhisattvas and lotus petals.


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