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Tibetan Stupa: Tibetan Buddhist cultural characteristics in Tibet

Tibet is a relatively mysterious place for us Han people, and it has a unique human geographical environment, which has created its unique Tibetan Buddhism and the unique stupa art culture in Tibet.


The earliest surviving stupa in Tibet is the White Pagoda located on the west side of the Dharma Cave in the Potala Palace. This pagoda was built during the construction of the Dharma Cave, facing the front of the Dharma Cave, about 2.48 meters high, and is called the Treasure of the Town Palace. There is also a white pagoda on the east side of the cave, which is built after the white pagoda on the west side and is specially for people to worship.

The stupas in Tibet are directly derived from the eight spiritual pagodas in India and are the forms that evolved after the eight spiritual pagodas of India entered the Tibetan region, so the stupas in the Tibetan region are correspondingly divided into eight categories. However, compared to the spiritual pagodas in India, these eight types of stupas in Tibet are called the Eight Pagodas of the Good World.


The shape of these eight pagodas is generally the same, the main difference lies in the shape and pattern of the four levels of the stupa: the first four-level pagoda has four levels of lotus flowers painted or sculpted on it, and sometimes the seven-level pagoda can also be seen; The second Bodhi Pagoda has four levels, square and flat; The third auspicious tower has four levels, with a slight protrusion in the middle of about one-third of each face. The four levels are painted and sculpted with temple door motifs. The number of temple gates, according to certain specifications, the requirements are different; The fourth Divine Transformation Tower has a four-level layer, with a slight protrusion in the middle of about one-third of each face; The fourth level of the fifth God Descent Tower is basically the same as the God Transformation Tower, except that there are three rows of descending stairs on the front of the tower bottle. Towers with doubled layers can sometimes be seen; The fourth level of the sixth detached tower, square, cut corners are octagonal; The fourth level of the seventh Sheng Pagoda is divided into three layers, circular; The eighth Nirvana Pagoda does not have a four-level layer, and the tower bottle is directly upside down on the tower base, and sometimes it can be seen that the tower bottle is not upside down.

The structure of stupas in Tibet is generally composed of three parts: pagoda, pagoda bottle, and pagoda, but they are very subdivided and have eighteen names. Holding the earth, the third order, the Dharma seat, Sonni, the basin bow bema, the pending, the ten senses, the fourth layer, the bottle seat, the bottle, the bucket seat, the tower bucket, the umbrella lotus petal, the thirteen dharma wheels, the rain cover, the diva, the nima, the roof of the house.


As for the size and scale of the stupa, in Tibetan pagoda, the rule widely used in the early days was to build according to the pagoda building writings transmitted from India and the scale of the pagoda left by several masters. It was not until the construction of the Dalai Lama V in the Potala Palace that a unified regulation of the scale of the tower was carried out. Therefore, it was only in the second half of the 7th century AD that the Tibet region widely spread its own scale of tower building.

The structural materials of the stupa include gold, silver, copper, jade, stone, wood, earth, bone and other structures. Most of the small and medium-sized pagodas enshrined in the hall are gold, silver, copper, jade, wood, bone, and other structures. Most of the towers built on outdoor hilltops, roadsides, fields, and near towns are civil or earth, stone, and wood structures, which are large in shape, and some are protected by bricks and tiles. Stupas come in a variety of forms. No matter what form the tower, it is composed of the base of the tower, the body of the tower, the treasure bottle, the neck of the tower, the top of the tower, and other parts. The base of the tower and the tower body have several kinds of square, round, and polygonal shapes, which are built upwards with steps and gradually converged; Most of the vases are round, with shrines on the front, and some are equipped with "ten phases free" diagrams; The neck of the tower is generally strung with 13 round stones, representing the thirteen stages of Buddha's cultivation of positive fruit, that is, the thirteen phase chakras, layer by layer, in turn; The top of the tower is composed of the sun, moon, and stars. The tower is generally white, but there are also red, yellow, black, and green, but mostly white. The pagoda contains Buddha statues, Buddhist scriptures, valuables, and grains.


There are many types of Tibetan stupas and different shapes. From the building materials of the stupa, there are mud towers, stone carved towers, earthen pagodas, wooden pagodas, brick and tile pagodas, jade pagodas, copper pagodas, silver pagodas, and golden pagodas; From the combination of the number of towers, there are single towers and group towers. The single pagoda is large and small, and the large one is tens of meters high, such as the Gyantse Baiju Pagoda, which is equipped with a prayer hall and a prayer cloister, which is actually a temple tower, that is, the temple and the stupa are integrated; Small ones are usually only 5 to 10 meters and are found all over Tibet. The group of pagodas has 8 pagodas of the same size, arranged in a zigzag shape, called the Barulai Pagoda, the more famous is the Barulai Pagoda of the Thar Temple, each pagoda has its own name: Lotus Pagoda, Bodhi Pagoda, Peace Pagoda, Special Pagoda, Nirvana Pagoda, God Transformation Pagoda, Divine Descending Pagoda, Auspicious Domen Pagoda 8 kinds, representing 8 different stages or 8 different spiritual artistic conceptions in Shakyamuni's life. There are 108 pagodas or more, such as the Pabangka Pagoda on the west side of Sera Temple and the Loka Pagoda in Naidong County. From the nature of the pagoda, it can be divided into four types: stupas, special pagodas, flesh spirit pagodas, and relic columbarium towers.

When Buddhist monks and outstanding religious leaders pass away, their bodies are preserved in the pagoda after special treatment, which is called the Flesh Spirit Pagoda. After the death of King Yeshivo of Aligug, his body was preserved in the Flesh Spirit Pagoda. Later, the spiritual pagoda of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school, was also enshrined in Ganden Monastery. Since the Fifth Dalai Lama, all the Dalai Lamas have adopted this method to build pagodas after their deaths, and enshrined them in the Potala Palace, and the shining golden dome on the top of the Potala Palace is the golden dome of the spiritual pagoda of these eight Dalai Lamas. Since the fourth Panchen Lama, successive Panchen Lamas have used spirit pagodas to preserve their remains, and in the Tashilhunpo Monastery, special spiritual pagodas have been built for these spirit towers. Another type of spiritual pagoda is where the remains of Buddhist monks are cremated and buried in the pagoda, called the stupa. Spirit pagodas embody a special burial method of the Tibetan people, and most monasteries in Tibetan areas have a variety of spirit towers of different sizes and natures. The Ling Pagoda is a kind of pagoda with the dual nature of stupa and pagoda burial, which is now only unique to Tibetan Buddhism in the world.