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11:56 pm Nov 03
Pagoda Forest is in fact a term describing the cluster of pagodas, made of stone or brick, usually found on the peripheral property of certain temples. The pagodas are actually the tomb stones for the respected monks from the prestigious temple. The longer the temple’s history is, the larger it is, and hence the more extensive the pagoda forest is. Within the land of China, the most renowned, spectacular pagoda forest is evidently the one attached to the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, Henan Province, north China. Other notable ones include pagoda forest around Lingyan Temple in Jinan, Shandong, Fengxue Temple in Linru, Henan, Qingtong Gorge in Ningxia, Shentong Temple in Jinan, Shandong and Qiyan Temple in Yongji, Shanxi.
The Shaolin Temple’s pagoda forest is approximately 250m to the main complex of the Temple, occupying roughly an area of 14,000 square meters (3.5acres). The site presently contains 243 pagodas dating back from the year of 791 AD to 1803 AD, of which more than half were from the Ming Dynasty, accounting at 138; 40 were from the Yuan Dynasty, 10 from the Qing Dynasty, 6 from the Jin Dynasty and some unidentifiable.
Customarily, after a respected Shaolin monk’s decease, his remains or ashes (or clothes if these two were missing) would be buried underground and a pagoda would be constructed upon it, of which the height, number of tiers, shape and the space it occupied would be decided according to his lifetime achievements and contributions. The number of tiers of the pagodas must be odd numbers and no greater than 7, and the height of the pagodas are all less than 15 meters (50ft). The shape of the pagodas varies from quadrilateral, hexagonal to octagonal, while the silhouette ranges from conical, cylindrical to parabolic and many more.
The Pagoda Forest of Shaolin Temple is the largest group of ancient pagodas extant nowadays. The oldest one in this forest is one determined to have been built in the year of 791 AD, during the Tang Dynasty, which is rising at 8 meters but with only one tier. It was made with brick and stone and decorated with high-relief in patterns like Feitian and other conventional Buddhism objects. Yugong Pagoda, a hexagonal brick pagoda with seven tiers located in the central part of the site, marks the tomb of Fuyu, the most acclaimed abbot of the Shaolin Temple during the Yuan Dynasty and the only one who was conferred a title posthumously by the emperor on the history of Shaolin Temple.
In the year of 2010, the UNESCO World Heritage Site list encompassed eight places in the vicinity of Dengfeng as “The Centre of Heaven and Earth”, including the Huishan Temple, the Observatory, the Songye Temple Pagoda, the Songyang Academy, along with the Shaolin Temple and its Pagoda Forest.
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