Three Pagodas, one of the most ancient and magnificent architectures in south China, was built for two reasons: to serve as a Buddhism site and to intimidate the dragon dwelled in the Erhai lake (according to Chinese myths, pagoda is an awe-inspiring architecture for dragons). Nestling at the foot of Yingle Peak of Cangshan Mountain and facing the Erhai Lake, Three Pagodas is only 1.5km away from Dali ancient town and 14km from Xiaguan. With the same distance of 70m, they form a triangle and symbolize the splendid culture of Bai Minority. Embedded between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, Three Pagoda is Dali’s landmark architecture with striking beauty.
The 9th century saw the construction of Qianxun Pagoda, the biggest and highest pagoda remains intact today. It is 69.13m high and its base is 9.9m wide. This square brick pagoda has 16 stories and belongs to Tang dynasty architecture, just as Xiaoyan Pagoda (Little Goose Pagoda) in Xian. This pagoda is hollow and comprises one wood staircase, which leads to the top of it. You can take a bird's eye view here.
After finishing the construction of Three Pagodas, a stately temple known as Congshen Temple was constructed later during the 9th century and the successive dynasties witnessed its expansion. During Song dynasty, Congshen Temple reached to its prime time. According to the history record:" there are 890 rooms and 114000 Buddha statues inside of this temple." Pity this temple has vanished due to destruction. The year 2005 saw the massive scaled restoration of Congshen Temple. Covering an area of 20080 m2, this grand antique architecture clusters worthy of sightseeing.
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Three Pagodas mirroring the Erhai Lake
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Xizhou Ancient Town, Dali
Qianxun Pagoda: the main tower of Three Pagodas
The remaining two pagodas all measure 42.19m in height and have 10 layers. Unlike Qianxun Pagoda, these two octagon pagodas are not hollow, at least in the upper part. The cone shape discloses their construction background of Song dynasty. What is interesting is these two pagodas have leaned since the past 400 hundred years and is famed as ""Leaning Tower of Pisa" in China".
Absorbing the essence of center China culture, Three Pagodas developed unique features also: first, the pagoda's floor number in center china are odd number, while the two pagodas here have even number; second, the size of pagodas in center China shrink from bottom to peak and feature straight line, while pagodas here distinguish themselves by big bellies, small heads&feet as well as more beautiful curves.
Weathering the past millennia, Three Pagodas have survived over 30 times of tense earthquakes. A fierce earthquake stroke Dali during Ming dynasty, which resulted in the massive collapse of residences except the Qianxun Pagoda. Though crackled during the earthquake, it healed miraculously in ten days. The latest earthquake occurred in 1925, during which 99% houses fell to the ground and the Three Pagodas just shed off few tiles. Thus, this scenic site has stirred heating interest of architecture study, just as Big Goose Pagoda and Little Goose Pagoda in Xian.
Opening Hour: 8:00-19:00
Admission Fee: 112RMB
Best Travel Season: With average annual temperature of 15 degree, Dali is suitable for travel all year around. But since many festivals will be held during March to April such as March Street (March 15 to March 21, lunar calendar) and Butterfly Meeting on April 15 (lunar calendar). Dali will breathe rich festival atmosphere and is dominated by flowers and green trees at this period. Besides, this golden period is not harassed by the endless rain.
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