Dali Three Pagodas

The Three Pagodas are located about 1.5 km (0.9) miles north of scenic Dali, Yunnan province. They are at the east foot of the tenth peak of the massive Cangshan Mountains and face the west shore of the Erhai Lake of the ancient Dali town.

The Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas are comprised of three independent pagodas forming a symmetric triangle. The elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China’s ancient Buddhist architectures, which makes it a must-see in the tour of Dali. The Three Pagodas, visible from miles away, has been a landmark of Dali City and selected as a national treasure meriting preservation in China.

The main pagoda, known as Qianxun Pagoda ( Qian Xun Ta), reportedly built during 824-840 A.D. in Tang Dynasty, was 69.13 meters (230 feet) high and are supposed to be one of the highest pagodas in China’s history. The pagoda is square shaped and comprised of sixteen stories; each story has multiple tiers of upturned eaves. There is a carved shrine containing a white marble sitting Buddha statue at the center of each façade of every story. The body of the pagoda is hollow from the first to the eighth story, surrounded with 3.3 meters (10 feet) thick walls. In 1978, more than 700 Buddhist antiques, including sculptures made of gold, silver, wood or crystal and documents, were found in the body during a major repairing work. The designers of the pagoda are supposed to have come from Xi’an, the capital of Tang Dynasty at that time and the location of another pagoda, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which shares the similar style but is two hundred years older.

The other two sibling pagodas, built about one hundred years later, stand to the northwest and southwest of Qianxun Pagoda. They are 42.19 meters (140 feet) high. Different from Qianxun Pagoda, they are solid and octagonal with ten stories. The center of each side of every story is decorated with a shrine containing a Buddha statue.

The Three Pagodas are well known for their resilience; they have endured several man-made and natural catastrophes over more than a thousand years. Their mother building was known as Chongsheng Monastery ( Chong Sheng Si, also known as SanTa Si, Tianlong Si ) and used to be the royal temple of the Kingdom of Dali and one of the largest Buddhist centers in southeast Asia. It was originally built at the same time as the first pagoda but was destroyed in a fire in Qing Dynasty. It was recorded that Qianxun Pagoda had been split in an earthquake on May 6th, 1515 A. D ( Ming Dynasty ). However, it miraculously recovered ten days later in an aftershock. The most recent record of severe earthquake in the Dali area occurred in 1925. Only one in a hundred of the buildings in Dali survived, but the Three Pagodas were undamaged.


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