The World’s Oldest & Tallest Surviving Wooden Pagoda

Ying County Buddhist Pagoda, situated in Shanxi Province in northern China’s Yellow Plateau, is the oldest surviving timber-frame pagoda in the world.

The pagoda was built in 1056 during the North Song Dynasty, measuring 67 metres tall and 30 metres in diameter, supported by a double-layered timber-frame structure, with 24 columns in the external supporting system and 8 columns forming the internal network. Both frames are further reinforced by timber bracings, beams, and short columns.

Such structure has helped the pagoda to survive a dozen major earthquakes in a thousand years, with 3 measuring more than 6 on the Richter scale.

Section of Ying County Buddhist Pagoda

Section of Ying County Buddhist Pagoda: the oldest surviving timber-frame pagoda in China today

Details of Ying County Buddhist Pagoda

Details of Ying County Buddhist Pagoda

Details of the pogoda dougong

Details of the pagoda dougong in exterior

pagoda dougong inside the building

Details of the pagoda dougong inside the building

Timber frame and non-load bearing walls

Timber frame and non-load bearing walls in classic Chinese architecture

Dougong is the essential part of classic Chinese timber-framed structure that uses interlocked wooden brackets rested on columns to support deep eaves and huge roof, while the walls in traditional Chinese buildings are commonly not load-bearing.

A 1: 0.15 model of the timber pagoda

A 1: 0.15 model of the timber pagoda

Dougong system has been widely used in traditional Chinese architecture since the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC). The highly developed Chinese carpentry craft with precision and quality since the time of Lu Ban allows the timber parts to be fitted together by joinery alone without glue or fasteners.

COMMENTS FORM GOOGLE PLUS:

Eric Horrobin
Without glue or nails, yet it can withstand an earthquake because of its ability to flex and shift while under great stresses.

I really do think it’s the clever construction free from being solid in joints that allow for movement in a major quake. We could learn a lot from these ancient craftsmen. 

All Things Chinese
This is certainly one of the major advantages of the nailless dougong system, coupled with freestanding columns.

How the timber pagoda was structured

This is how the timber pagoda was structured

Buddhist statues in the pagoda

Buddhist statues in the pagoda

A street leading up to the timber pagod

A street leading up to the timber pagoda in Shanxi Province in northern China

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS:

Eric Horrobin
This is truly representative of my view of Asian buildings, so different from the evolution of western buildings yet with many similarities. The Asian world has a distinct aesthetic.

All Things Chinese
The pagoda is 1,000-year-old, but I suspect the terrace houses on both sides are pretty new – the traditional Chinese street front houses with mixed commercial and residential usage wouldn’t have big dougong (brackets) like that.

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