A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, built in traditions originating as stupa in historic South Asia and further developed in East Asia or with respect to those traditions, common to Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist, and were often located in or near viharas. In some countries, the term may refer to other religious structures. In Vietnam and Cambodia, due to French translation, the English term pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship, although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist vihara. The modern pagoda is an evolution of the stupa which originated in ancient India. Stupas are a tomb-like structure where sacred relics could be kept safe and venerated. The architectural structure of the stupa has spread across Asia, taking on many diverse forms as details specific to different regions are incorporated into the overall design.
One proposed etymology is from a South Chinese pronunciation of the term for an eight-cornered tower, Chinese: 八角塔, and reinforced by the name of a famous pagoda encountered by many early European visitors to China, the "Pázhōu tǎ" (Chinese: 琶洲塔), standing just south of Guangzhou at Whampoa Anchorage. Another proposed etymology is Persianbutkada, from but, "idol" and kada, "temple, dwelling."
Another etymology, found in many English language dictionaries, is modern English pagoda from Portuguese (via Dravidian), from Sanskritbhagavati, feminine of bhagavat, "blessed", from bhag, "good fortune".
Yet another etymology of pagoda is from the Sinhala word dāgaba which is derived from Sanskrit dhātugarbha or Pali dhātugabbha: "relic womb/chamber" or "reliquary shrine", i.e. a stupa, by way of Portuguese.
Kek Lok Si pagoda tiers labelled with their architectural styles
The origin of the pagoda can be traced to the stupa (3rd century BCE). The stupa, a dome shaped monument, was used as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics. In East Asia, the architecture of Chinese towers and Chinese pavilions blended into pagoda architecture, eventually also spreading to Southeast Asia. The pagoda's original purpose was to house relics and sacred writings. This purpose was popularized due to the efforts of Buddhist missionaries, pilgrims, rulers, and ordinary devotees to seek out, distribute, and extol Buddhist relics.
In an article on Buddhist elements in Han dynasty art, Wu Hung suggests that in these tombs, Buddhist symbolism was so well-incorporated into native Chinese traditions that a unique system of symbolism had been developed.
Pagodas attract lightning strikes because of their height. Many pagodas have a decorated finial at the top of the structure, and when made of metal, this finial, sometimes referred to as a "demon-arrester", can function as a lightning rod.[dubious – discuss] Also Pagodas come in many different sizes, as some may be small and others may be large.
The Dragon House of Sanssouci Park, which is an eighteenth-century German attempt at imitating Chinese architecture.
The Panasonic Pagoda, or Pagoda Tower, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This 13-story pagoda, used as the control tower for races such as the Indy 500, has been transformed several times since it was first built in 1913.
Wooden three-story pagoda of Ichijō-ji in Japan, built in 1171
Yingde pagoda, Qingyuan, Guangdong Province, China, from Johan Nieuhof (1618–1672); Jean-Baptiste Le Carpentier (1606 – c. 1670): L'ambassade de la Compagnie Orientale des Provinces Unies vers l'Empereur de la Chine, 1665
^The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press
^Chinese Origin of the Term Pagoda: Liang Sicheng's Proposed Etymology
Authors: David Robbins Tien, Gerald Leonard Cohen
Publication: Arts, Languages and Philosophy Faculty Research & Creative Works
DownloadTien, D. R., & Cohen, G. L. (2017) [scholarsmine.mst.edu]. David Robbins Tien. Comments on Etymology, October 2014, Vol.44, no. 1, pp. 2–6.
^Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary by Henry Yule & Arthur Coke Burnell, first printed 1896, reprinted by Wordsworth Editions, 1996, p. 291. Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper, s.v. pagoda, at [www.etymonline.com] (Accessed 29 April 2016)