In the first centuries A.D., the coming of Buddhism did not strongly affect the Chinese architectural style. Although there was considerable building activity, temples continued to be constructed in the native tradition. The only distinctly Buddhist type of building is the pagoda, which derived from the Indian stupa. Several masonry pagodas are extant that date from the 6th cent. In the T'ang period (618–906) pagodas were usually simple, square structures; they later became more elaborate in shape and adornment.
In the 11th cent. a distinctive type of pagoda was created in the Liao territory. Built in three different stages, with a base, a shaft, and a crown, the structure was surmounted by a spire. Its plan was often octagonal, possibly as a result of the influence of Tantric Buddhism in which the cosmological scheme was arranged into eight compass points rather than four. One of the finest Liao structures is the White Pagoda at Chengde.
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