pagoda (pəgōˈdə) [key], name given in the East to a variety of buildings of tower form that are usually part of a temple or monastery group and serve as shrines. Those of India (see stupa) are chiefly pyramidal structures of masonry, tapering to an apex and elaborately adorned with carving and sculpture. In China the pagoda, derived from India, is one of the most characteristic architectural types and in general is devoted to sacred usage. Octagonal, hexagonal, or square in plan, they are built in superimposed stories, sometimes as many as 15; from each story projects an upward-curving tiled roof. The material most commonly used is brick, often faced with slabs of glazed and colored tile. A few date back to the T'ang dynasty (A.D. 618–906). In Japan the pagodas were introduced from China with Buddhism. They are usually square in plan and five stories high, each story having its projecting roof. Generally made of wood, they exhibit superb carpentry craftsmanship. The Horyu-ji tower near Nara, of the 7th cent., is a noted example.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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