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Liaodi Pagoda at Kaiyuan Temple

2004-09-06 17:14:17



  Liaodi Pagoda is located inside the southern gate of the ancient city of Dingzhou. The temple no longer exists.
  According to historical accounts of Dingzhou, during the Northern Song Dynasty a Buddhist monk, Hui Neng, of Kaiyuan Temple went on a pilgrimage to India for Buddhist scriptures. Upon his return in 1001 Emperor Zhenzong issued a decree for the construction of a pagoda at the temple, which was completed in 1055. Since Dingzhou was a strategic point on the border between the Song and the Liao, the pagoda was named Liaodi (Watching for the Enemy) Tower. In fact, the original purpose for building the pagoda was to provide a high position for the garrison troops to watch the enemy‘s activities. That was why it was made so tall.
  The multistoreyed brick pagoda is octagonal, 84 meters high, and has eleven storeys. It is the tallest of all extant ancient pagodas (and all ancient buildings) in the country. The storeys are well proportioned, giving the pagoda a lofty and elegant appearance. The first storey is relatively high, with a balcony and eaves. The other storeys have eaves but no balconies. The short eaves were built by stacking tier upon tier of bricks around the body of the pagoda. The pagoda‘s steeple is composed of a subbase decorated with large honeysuckle leaves, an inverted-bowl-shaped top, an iron disc and a pair of bronze beads.
  Doors were installed on four sides of each storey and false windows on the other four sides. The windows are ornamented with geometric patterns. Above each door, on the exterior, is a flame headpiece painted in bright colors,
  Inside the pagoda a winding staircase in the middle leads to the upper levels. Each level has a landing around the staircase with a ceiling made of bricks with exquisite carved patterns, surrounded by brick brackets. From the fourth to the seventh storey the ceilings are wood with colorful paintings. From the eighth storey up, there are no brackets to support the vaulted brick ceilings.
  It was found that in the middle of the pagoda there was a central pillar, made of bricks, linking all the levels from the top to the base. This pillar itself was in the shape of a pagoda, called pagoda inside pagoda.
  The first storey, because of its huge size, was divided into two levels. The upper level had a dome ceiling made of brick supported by a skeleton of eight ridges of bricks. This revealed the original design of the builders.
  Mural paintings were discovered on a built-in wall on the second level of the first storey of the pagoda. These paintings are originals of the Northern Song Dynasty.
  Dozens of stone tablets of the Northern Song Dynasty were also found in the inner walls. They are also valuable relics of calligraphy and historic materials.

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