"The Three Pagodas, one of the state preservations of cultural relics, is a famous sight in China about one kilometer to the north of the old town of Dali in the west of Yunnan, towering over the site where used to be the Chongsheng Temple, a temple for the royal families during the period of Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom (738 AD - 1254 AD). The 16 storied main pagoda is a magnificent hollow brick Buddhis structure with close square eaves, named the Qianxun Pagoda ( a 1,000 foot high pagoda) on account of its height of 69.13 meters. It was built during the period of Fengyou of Nanzhao Kingdom (823 AD - 859 AD), and there were 11,400 bronze statures of Buddha for worship in this pagoda at that time according to historical records. During the period of Dali Kingdom (938 AD - 1254 AD) two 10 storied hollow brick pagodas with close octagonal eaves were built, one to the north of the main pagoda, the other to the south. Both of them are 42.19 meters in height. Hence the popular name of the pagodas: the Three Pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple. About 700 precious relics were found under the pagodas and on their tops when they were renovated in 1978 -1980. The Three Pagodas, the oldest structure in Yunnan having stood the the test of time including several violent earthquakes, will be the proof of the wisdom and creativeness of Chinese nationalities in Yunnan, and of the cultural exchange between the ancient Chinese people in Yunnan and the interior of China".

And so the official story of the Three Pagodas is told. But the real story is more interesting.

Back in the 800's AD, a very violent earthquake shook the ancient area of Dali. It is said that the local peoples of that time had been very scared of this "huge creature" which apparently had been "unhappy", and had therefore, "shaken the earth". So, in response to this, they decided to build a structure which would appease the gods, and, hopefully, either appease this huge creature, or, keep him away. The first pagoda was built to house many Buddha statues, and its sole purpose was one of earthquake prevention.

It was interesting how they built this thousand foot high pagoda, considering the fact that they did not have any scaffolding at that time. Instead, they used earth. They built a small section of the pagoda, then piled huge amounts of dirt around it, which, then facilitated the building of the next section. As they built the next section, they continued to pile dirt around it, so that they could again, stand around it, and construct what they needed to construct. They continued this process until they completed the thousand foot high pagoda. At that time, when the pagoda was completed, they then removed all the dirt that they had pile around the structure.

The other two smaller pagodas were built at a later date, using the same construction method. However, the purpose of the next two pagodas had been different. They were used, as most pagodas are, as burial places for the monks of the Chongsheng Temple. The original pagoda's purpose, that of earthquake prevention, continued on.

With the combination of the Three Pagodas, the Chongsheng Temple, the ancient city of Dali, the huge beautiful Er Hai lake, and the magnificent Cang Shan mountains surrounding all of it, the whole area is just magnificently stunning. Pictures cannot describe the feeling of awe one gets standing on the grounds. It is easy to see why the Chinese feel that this is one possible locations for the fabled Shangri La.

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