Tianning Monastery Pagoda 天寧寺塔



  • Tianning Monastery Pagoda (English)
  • 天寧寺塔 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 天宁寺塔 (Simplified Chinese)
  • Tiānníngsì tǎ (Pinyin)
  • T’ien-ning-ssu-t’a (Wade-Giles)


  • Coordinates:
    • Lat. 39.893602° Long. 116.339780°
  • Building Information

    The Tianning Monastery Pagoda is an octagonal stone and brick pagoda with thirteen eaves constructed in the miyan (密檐, meaning “closely-piled eaves” (Lin 2016, 111)) style in the Liao dynasty. A Liao stele found at the top of the pagoda documents its construction in 1119 supervised by prince Chun, a military general of the Liao military, under the decree of Emperor Tianzuo, and the construction was completed in 1120 (Wang and Wang 2011, 80). The finial (baoding 寶頂) of the pagoda was a Qing dynasty reconstruction (Wang 1996, 10). 1

    Although the center is now offset due to later renovations, Wang Shiren locates the original position of the pagoda at the center of the rectilinear complex of the Tianningsi (1996, 11). The pagoda is 55.38 meters tall according to a 1991 measurement (Wang 1996, 12). The body of the pagoda is seated upon a wide octagonal base consisting from bottom to top of a Mount Sumeru platform (xumizuo 须弥座) with horizontal patterning of cusped gable doorways (kunmen 壸门), another level consisting of the same pattern, a level of balcony structured decoration formed by railings (goulan) supported by bracket arms (dougong) in imitation of wooden structures, and three layers of upward-facing lotus petals that frame the shaft (Liang and Lin 1935, 142). The body’s first level contains alternating architectural features of arched doorways and mullioned windows on its cardinal and off-cardinal sides respectively. There are relief sculptures flanking or on top of the architectural features. The thirteen eaves are constructed with masonry in imitation of wooden structures: the eaves are complete with both eaves rafters and flying rafters which curve upwards at the corners, column tops are joined with both lan’e and pupaifang, and the columns support five-layer bracket sets with two steps of huagong (五铺作双抄) (Wang 1996, 13). The forty-five degree angle bracket arms (huagong) at the corners are also characteristic of late Liao wooden structures. The eaves are topped with glazed tiles (liuliwa) dating to distinct periods, and plate tiles (banwa) were also found dating to the Liao dynasty (Wang 1996, 12). 2

    Date 1119 - 1120
    Dynasty Liao 916-1125 3

    Works Cited

    Any information without attribution has been created following the Syriaca.org editorial guidelines.

    • 1 LIN. 2016. Performing center in a vertical rise: Multilevel pagodas in China's middle period, 111.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 汪. 2011. 北京名刹天宁寺, 80.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 王. 1996. 北京天宁寺塔三题, 10.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
    • 2 王. 1996. 北京天宁寺塔三题, 11-13.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 梁. 1935. 由天寧寺談到建築年代之鑑別問題, 142.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
    • 3 WILKINSON. 2000. Chinese History: A Manual, 12.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

    Contained in Place

    How to Cite This Entry

    Sophia Liu, “Tianning Monastery Pagoda 天寧寺塔 ” in Architectura Sinica last modified March 21, 2024, https://architecturasinica.org/place/000297a.


    Sophia Liu, “Tianning Monastery Pagoda 天寧寺塔 .” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published December 10, 2021. https://architecturasinica.org/place/000297a.

    About this Entry

    Entry Title: Tianning Monastery Pagoda 天寧寺塔

    Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

    • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
    • Sophia Liu, entry contributor, “Tianning Monastery Pagoda 天寧寺塔

    Additional Credit:

    • Initial research 2021 by Sophia Liu
    • Editing and proof correction Tracy Miller
    • Website coordination by Yuh-Fen Benda

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