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Wooden Structures of Liao Dynasty—Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County,Main Hall of Fengguo Monastery of Yixian County

Date of Submission: 29/01/2013
Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Yingxian County, Shuozhou City, Shanxi Province;Yixian County, Jinzhou City, Liaoning Province, China
Ref.: 5803
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian : N 39°33′ 54.12″   E 113°10′ 55.26′′

Main Hall of Fengguo Monastery of Yixian County: N 41° 32′ 34.6″    E 121° 14′ 33.8′′

 

Wooden Pagoda in Yingxian County, Shanxi Province and the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery in Yixian County, Liaoning Province are both important single wooden structure of typical style of the Liao Dynasty in People's Republic of China. Built in 1056, the 957-year-old Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is the oldest wooden multi-storey structure of the world, and this 67.31m-high and nine-storey building is also the tallest. Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery was constructed in 1020. The 993-year-old Hall has nine bays on its facade (47.6m) and five bays in depth (25.13m). The 24m-high building is the best preserved and largest wooden Buddhist structure with highest rank in China. The two structures represent the outstanding achievements in the design and construction of wooden structure of ancient China.

 I. Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian

The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County, which is also called the Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple, is located in the northwest corner of the county, Shuozhou City, Shanxi Province, People's Republic of China.

Completed in the 2nd Year of the reign of Qingning in Liao Dynasty (year of 1056), the 957-year-old pagoda was known as “the first pagoda” during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, which means that “there are large numbers of Buddha pagodas in the world, but the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is the first one”. It plays an important role in the history of ancient Chinese architecture. Also, it is the oldest and tallest wooden multi-storey building of the world. This pagoda embodies the wisdom of ancient craftsmen, and it still stands tall after many seismic tests during nine hundred years. It can be described as a miracle in the history of Chinese architecture. The pagoda is called architectural gems by experts in the architectural field both at home and abroad for its long history, unique design and wonderful construction techniques.

The pagoda is a stereoscopic temple which is built along the vertical space. The pagoda takes the shape of an octagon in the plane with five stories and six eaves and is proped by two circles of columns. The external peripheral column is surrounded by corridor columns, a layout known as Jinxiangdoudicao surrounded by a corridor in Yingzaofashi (Treatise on Architectural Methods). The whole wooden pagoda has nine stories in all, including four blindstories and five clear layers. The pagoda is a double-barrel wooden structure constructed with tenon-and-mortise work. It is composed of three parts: pagoda base, the mainbody and Tasha. The whole pagoda is as high as 67.31 meters from the ground to the top. In 1961, the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County was declared by the State Council as among the first batch of state priority protected sites.

II. Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery of Yixian

Located in the northeast corner of the county seat of Yixian County, Jinzhou City, Liaoning Province in China, the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery was built in the ninth year of Kaitai period of the Liao Dynasty (AD 1020), and is more than 993 years old now.

Among existing Chinese ancient monasteries, the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is the biggest and the most integrated building of hall type with one tier of eaves. The whole building is made of high platform, column layer, brackets layer and roof layer. The building is regarded as an art treasury of Chinese culture, including colorful sculptures, paintings, sacrifices, steles, tablets, and so on. In 1961, it was declared by the State Council as among the first batch of state priority protected sites.

The Liao Dynasty established by Khitan had lasted for 300 years, including 90 years of Xiliao Dynasty, and came to an end in Jin Dynasty to Yuan Dynasty (the12th-13th century). As a masterpiece in the history of ancient Chinese wooden structure, the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is a vivid evidence of historic culture in Liao Dynasty and an outstanding Buddhist architecture created by Khitan as an ethnic minority living in border areas who inherited and developed the traditional culture of central China.

The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian and the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery are two typical timbers buildings of the Liao Dynasty, which are helpful to have an objective understanding about the uniqueness, development and evolution law of buildings in Liao Dynasty. They provide examples to research the carpentry work, joinery work, paintings on the beam frames, wall construction, rise of the roof, and roof structure, etc., explore the typical feature of Liao architectures, evolution of wooden structure in Tang and Song Dynasties, and understand questions in the book Yingzaofashi of the North Song Dynasty.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

As the only extant and tallest wooden structured Buddha pagoda in China, the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County bears the knowledge, skill and experience accumulated by Chinese architects during the span of hundreds of years. The property area covers an area of 5.1 hectares, including the full range of Fogong Temple. And, the buffer zone, an area of 1,459.7 hectares, covers nearly the whole historic city of Yingxian County. They become the most important background setting of the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian, reflecting the historical change of the relationship between the city and the temple in nearly a millennium since Liao Dynasty.

The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is a brilliant example of the combination of the Buddha pagoda and Chinese local wooden structured building, and provided convincing evidence for the development of Chinese ancient wooden structure system. The pagoda uses “Cai” as basic modules with octagonal plane, dual-barrel structure and ancillary fastening components there are added diagonal supports on radial direction of each blind story and on each side of the octagon chord wiseto endow the building with good properties of structural mechanics. The bucket set systemin total 54 sorts of brackets used on the pagodaand traditional execution methods enable the wooden pagoda to resist earthquake. And it fully exhibits the highest achievement of China in the fields of architectural skill and arts in the 11th century AD. Moreover, large quantity of such Buddhist treasure as Buddhist statues, frescos and Buddhist sutra, paintings and Buddhist relics have been discovered in the pagoda, proving the prosperity of Buddhism in Laio Dynasty. The tablets, couplets, inscriptions, and steles show the artistic charm of China, and the records the restoration events in the history.

The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is the biggest wooden structure with one tier of eaves. The clay sculpture of the Seven Buddha in the hall are among the oldest, the biggest and the most beautiful group of sculptures in the world, which make the hall differ from other Buddhist temples. The hall is a sacred place of world fame to inherit and carry forward Buddhist classics. There are a lot of marvelous paintings of fairies on the beam frames of the hall, which are one of the unique features of the hall. The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery shows refulgent Chinese civilization in architecture, sculpture and painting.

Both the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County and the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery represent the prime level of wooden structured building of Liao Dynasty, manifest the great achievements in the fields of architectural technology and art in 11th Century in China.

Criterion (i): The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is the oldest and the tallest multi-storey wooden structure in the world, and it highlights the human being’s creative spirit. It boasts sophisticated structure, beautiful outline, balanced proportion and magnificent scale. Its appearance follows a clear digital proportional rule, and is a creative design based on comprehensive and detailed design on the plan, vertical effect, sections and internal space. The wonderful and excellent design represents the highest scientific and technological achievement in wooden structure building then and even now. The pagoda was built with 2,200 cubic meters of wood, more than 15,400 pieces of constructional elements. The pagoda has been preserved for almost a thousand years, and is a marvel in the history of high-rise building engineering of wooden structures.

The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery and its cultural relics are unique artistic and technical creation in the world. "The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is one of three representative Chinese wooden structures (namely, Foguang Hall, Qifo or Seven Buddha Hall and Haihui Hall). The paintings of fairies on its beam frameworks remain vivid and brilliant, which are rare examples of ancient paintings on wooden structures". The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery inherits the elegant architectural style and rise of the roof construction of the Tang Dynasty. The building is in a form of blending   the styles of the Tang and Liao Dynasties, demonstrating the architectural charm of the two dynasties. It had exerted far-reaching influence on the architecture style of the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties as well as contemporary Buddhist monastery complex.

Criterion (iii): The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is a typical Buddhist architecture with ceremony sites constructed along the vertical space, which shows the prosperity and creativity of the Buddhist architecture in the Liao Dynasty. It witnessed that the nomadic Khitan was deeply affected by the Han’s farming culture after they passed the Great Wall southward and established the Liao Empire, and vigorously promote cultural integration by developing Buddhism.

The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery and its sculptures and paintings preserve the cultural features and memory of traditional Buddhist architecture of the Liao Dynasty, and keeps the precious artistic and scientific information of the Tang Dynasty and Liao Dynasty.

Criterion (iv): The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is an outstanding example of wooden architecture techniques of East Asia in the 11th century AD. The pagoda was built with the typical architectural design module of "Cai-Fen system", which creates the beautiful and elegant architectural form. The pagoda has good performance of structural mechanics thanks to the double-barrel wooden structure and tenon-and-mortise work, which creates the stability resistence against earthquake. As the model of utilizing the knowledge, skill and experience by ancient Chinese architects, the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County represents the highest achievement of China in wooden structure and architectural art.        

The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is an outstanding example of wooden structure of single eave in China in 11th Century and an excellent example of the transformation from palatial hall style to the hall type. Its architecture design is based on the module ofCai-Fen system, creating elegant appearance and graceful curve line. It shows the knowledge of ancient architects about the structural mechanics and solves the unfavorable factors of the flexural beams by using beams with six rafters and the Jiaobei structure on it.  It is also an outstanding example for the integration between the advanced culture and the border area culture in ancient China.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity

The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian consists of all attributes carrying its universal value, including the main body of the pagoda that reflects the brilliant achievement of wooden structure building, Buddhist remains showing the prosperity of Buddhism in the Liao Dynasty, and the tablets and inscriptions of later dynasties. Its construction scale is large enough to completely reflect the characteristics and evolution of the property value. The heritage site is in Yingxian County, and is closely related with urban development. Fast urban development has imposed pressure from development and construction on the setting of the property. Fortunately, these negative effects have been effectively controlled in management and systems, thanks to a series of regulations and special plans developed and implemented by the government. Therefore, the integrity of the Sakyamuni Pagoda is well preserved.

The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery maintains its original shape when it was built a thousand years ago. The carpentry work, painting scheme, 21 huge statues, seven sets of stone articles for offer sacrifice, two couples of stone lions and the stone column bases were all constructed in the Liao Dynasty and are well preserved. Besides, the layout of Buddhist temple of the Liao Dynasty around the main hall is perfectly preserved. Therefore, the integrity of the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is well preserved.

Authenticity 

As the main building for Buddhism activities, the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County keeps its original structure built in the 11th century AD in spite of weathering and restorations. Its main construction components preserve faithfully the typical characteristics of wooden building in the Liao Dynasty in forms and design, materials and substance. When several restorations were conducted during the following dynasties, the tradition of preserving the original state of the structure has been followed and traditional materials and methods have been used to repair the damaged components. Furthermore, inscriptions were left on the replaced or repaired components to record the modification made in the past. For any major restoration, a special tablet bearing inscriptions that records the event would be placed in front of the pagoda.  Such a practice meets concept of authenticity. The extant Buddhist remains and associated properties within the pagoda can pass faithfully the Buddhist spirit during the prosperity of Buddhism in the Liao Dynasty to the modern people. Therefore, the authenticity of the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is well preserved.

The authenticity of the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery has been proved by Chinese and international (Japanese and Italian) experts through investigations, surveying and drawing, archeological investigation, photographing, demonstration, evaluation and expounding, and evidenced by tablets and steles, historical documents, articles, books, symposiums publications and special writings including textual research, records about preservation and restoration, drawings and data, photos and reports. Restorations in later dynasties cast little influence on its original structure.

Comparison with other similar properties

I. Comparison between the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County and Indian Buddhist pagoda, Buddhist remains in Horyuji Temple area and the five-storey pagoda of Toji Temple in Japan, and relevant Buddhist pagoda in China. The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County is an ancient architecture with its basic value characteristic as "high multi- storey wooden pagoda". The pagoda is not only closely related with the Buddhist culture, but also is a good example of sinicizing Buddhist architecture. What’s more, it also is an outstanding example and witness of architectural structure and construction technique.

Among the large number of historic buildings that are related with Buddhist culture on the World Heritage List, 27 are "pagodas", a special type of buildings. Most of these are in East and South Asia where Buddhism has widespread influence. Properties in South Asia, East Asia and China are selected for comparison.

(1) Comparison with Indian pagodas

Buddhist pagodas localized in China, represented by the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian, are greatly different from the India pagodas in the functions, forms, and building materials, and they developed towards different directions into completely different architectural types, which shows the influence of cultural differences on the architectural culture.

(2) Comparison with Buddhist monuments in the Horyuji Temple area and the five-storey pagoda of Toji Temple in Japan.

From the analysis of four wooden structure Buddhist pagodas including the five-storey pagoda of Horyuji Temple (607), the three-storey pagoda of Hokkiji Temple (706), the five-storey pagoda of Toji Temple (1644), and the east pagoda of Yakushiji Temple (730), we found that these pagodas were all built in the period from the seventh to ninth century and influenced by the style of Northern and Southern Dynasties or Tang Dynasty of China. As the only extant wooden structured Buddhist pagoda (built in the 11th century AD), the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County reflects the style of the late Tang Dynasty or Five Dynasties of China. All these buildings are outstanding representatives of the wooden architecture techniques in different times, and form a continuous history of development. But the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County shows better superiority of architectural construction.

(3) Compared with other pagodas in China.

There are more than 25,000 Buddhist pagodas in China now, with 161 declared as national priority protected sites, including multi-storey pagodas, multi-eave pagodas, warrior- pedestal style pagodas, overturned-bowl style pagodas and single-layer style pagodas. According to architectural structure, they can be divided into wooden structure, brick structure, stone structure, brick-stone structure, masonry-wood structure and so on. The Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian is an outstanding representative of wooden structure pagodas.

II. Comparison between the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery and the main hall of Huayan Monastery in Datong, Shanxi Province, the main hall of Nanchan Monastery in Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province, east hall of Foguang Monastery in Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province, and the main hall of Tōdai-ji in Nara, Japan.

The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery has nine bays on the façade47.6meters longand five bays 10 raftersin depth25.13 meters, and 24 meters in height. With magnificent appearance, the main hall also boasts perfect combination of art and technology in the inner structure. The Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery is among the oldest in terms of the initial construction time and the biggest among the single wooden Buddhism buildings in China.

(1) Comparison with the main hall of Huayan Monastery in Datong Shanxi Province.

The main hall of Huayan Monastery is 120 years younger than the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery, and is 53.9 meters long on façade and 25.13 meters wide, a little bigger than the latter. But there are four extensions of outer brackets of the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery which are hardly comparable by the main hall of Huayan Monastery.

(2) Comparison with the main hall of Nanchan Monastery

In China, the main hall of Nanchan Monastery in Shanxi province is the oldest existing wooden building dating from the Tang Dynasty. It has three bays on façade with width of 11.58 meters, three bays and four rafters with depth of 9.9 meters. Its simple structure reflects the distinctive characteristics of the wooden architecture in the Tang Dynasty, but it is much smaller than the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery.

(3) Comparison with the East Hall of Foguang Monastery

The East Hall of Foguang Monastery in Shanxi Province is one of the oldest existing wooden structure building in China and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009.  It has seven bays, 34 meters horizontally and four bays with eight rafters, 17.66 meters in depth. It is a typical Tang structure but is slightly smaller than the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery.

(4) Comparison with the reconstructed main hall of Tōdai-ji Temple in the sixth year of Baoyong period (1709) Located in the city of Nara, Japan, the main hall of Tōdai-ji Temple is the world's largest wooden building and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998. There are seven bays56 meterson the façade (43 meters high)while there are nine bays on the façade of the Main Hall of the Fengguo Monastery. Since the Main Hall of Fengguo Monastery was constructed with imperial rank, it boasts a higher status than that of the main hall of the Tōdai-ji Temple.