108 Pagodas, a Remarkable Stupa Complex in Ningxia

By Rosie Wu, 11, May, 2011

The 108 Pagodas, a triangle pagoda forest of 108 brick stupas of Lamaism, is the most famous spot in Qingtongxia, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The pagoda complex has a unique layout and ranks among the top three pagoda complexes in China. The other two are the pagoda forest of Shaolin Temple in Henan and Lingyan Temple in Shandong.


The 108 Pagodas, located on the east of Xiakou Mountain on the western shore of the Yellow River. They are covered with lime with a pearl-shaped top, resembling that of the white pagoda of the Yuan Dynasty at the Beijing Miaoying Temple. The exact year of construction of the grouped pagodas is unknown, but some believe they were built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).


The 108 Pagodas are leaning on a precipitous slope sitting in the west and facing east. They were constructed following the curve of the mountains into 12 rows to form an equilateral triangle, with each row containing an odd number of pagoda(s) starting from the top. The height of these pagodas ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 meters and come in three shapes: gourd, pyramid and vase.


The one at the top of the pagoda group is a huge lama pagoda of solid core and shaped like an upside-down alms bowl. It is about two meters high, built by bricks and covered by lime. The pagoda has an octagonal sumeru seat. The pagoda body is like an upside-down alms bowl and the top shapes like a pearl. Other pagodas resemble this pattern, but are smaller in size.


From a distance, a full view of the entire group of pagodas can be achieved. 108, is the idiomatic number in Buddhism. Buddhism identifies 108 kinds of trouble and affliction for life, to eliminate the trouble and affliction, one should pray to Buddha 108 times, knock a bell 108 times and so on. 108 towers should be those contribute the "merits and virtues". To build a tower here is to eliminate the trouble of life.