AskDefine | Define pagoda

Dictionary Definition

pagoda n : an Asian temple; usually a pyramidal tower with an upward curving roof

User Contributed Dictionary



From (bot-kade), an idol temple, from (bot, idol) + (kade, temple).


  1. An Asian religious building, especially a multistory Buddhist tower, erected as a shrine or temple.
  2. An ornamental structure, of that design, erected in a park or garden.

Derived terms


See also



pagoda (p: pagode)
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  1. pagoda




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pagoda (p: pagode)
  1. pagoda

Cyrillic spelling



  1. pagoda

Extensive Definition

A pagoda is the general term in the English language for a tiered tower with multiple eaves common in Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist, and were often located in or near temples. This term may refer to other religious structures in some countries. In Myanmar and Thailand, "pagoda" usually means the same as stupa or chatiya, while in Vietnam, "pagoda" is a more generic term referring to a place of worship. The modern pagoda is an evolution of the Ancient Indian stupa, 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.


The word is first attested for in English in the period c. 1625–35; introduced from the Portuguese pagode, temple, from the Persian butkada (but idol + kada temple, dwelling.) Another etymology, found in many English language dictionaries, is modern English pagoda from Portuguese (via Dravidian), from Sanskrit bhagavati, feminine of bhagavat "blessed" < bhaga "good fortune."

History of the Pagoda

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.


Chinese iconography is noticeable in Chinese pagoda as well as other East Asian pagoda architectures. The image of the Shakyamuni Buddha in the abhaya mudra is also noticeable in some Pagodas. Buddhist iconography can be observed throughout the pagoda symbolism.
In an article on Buddhist elements in Han art, Wu Hung suggests that in these tombs, Buddhist iconography 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. This tendency may have played a role in their perception as spiritually charged places. Many pagodas have a decorated finial at the top of the structure. The finial is designed in such a way as to have symbolic meaning within Buddhism; for example, it may include designs representing a lotus. The finial also functions as a lightning rod, and thus helps to both attract lightning and protect the pagoda from lightning damage. Early pagodas were constructed out of wood, but steadily progressed to sturdier materials, which helped protect against fires and rot.
Pagodas traditionally have an odd number of floors, a famous exception being the eighteenth century pagoda "folly" designed by Sir William Chambers at Kew Gardens in London.

Land of Pagodas

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is famous for its pagoda-studded landscape, and is thus called as the Land of Pagodas. The Shwedagon Pagoda and the Pagodas of Bagan are amongst the most famous and reverred pagodas in the world.

Some famous pagodas

Modern skyscrapers that evoke pagoda architecture:



  • The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture By John Kieschnick. Published 2003. Princeton University Press . ISBN 0691096767.
  • A World History of Architecture By Michael W. Fazio, Marian Moffett, Lawrence Wodehouse. Published 2003. McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0071417516.
  • Psycho-cosmic symbolism of the Buddhist stupa, AB Govinda, 1976, Emeryville, California. Dharma Publications.
pagoda in Bengali: প্যাগোডা
pagoda in Danish: Pagode
pagoda in German: Pagode
pagoda in Spanish: Pagoda
pagoda in Esperanto: Pagodo
pagoda in French: Pagode
pagoda in Korean: 탑파
pagoda in Croatian: Pagoda
pagoda in Indonesian: Pagoda
pagoda in Italian: Pagoda
pagoda in Luxembourgish: Pagod
pagoda in Lithuanian: Pagoda
pagoda in Dutch: Pagode
pagoda in Norwegian: Pagode
pagoda in Japanese: 仏塔
pagoda in Portuguese: Pagode (templo)
pagoda in Russian: Пагода
pagoda in Serbian: Пагода
pagoda in Serbo-Croatian: Pagoda
pagoda in Swedish: Pagod
pagoda in Vietnamese: Chùa
pagoda in Turkish: Pagoda
pagoda in Ukrainian: Пагода
pagoda in Urdu: پگوڈا
pagoda in Chinese: 塔

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alcove, antenna tower, barbican, belfry, bell tower, belvedere, campanile, colossus, column, cupola, derrick, dewal, dome, fane, fire tower, garden, gazebo, girja, kiack, lantern, lighthouse, martello, martello tower, masjid, mast, minaret, monument, mosque, obelisk, observation tower, pantheon, pilaster, pillar, pinnacle, pole, pylon, pyramid, shaft, shul, skyscraper, spire, standpipe, steeple, stupa, synagogue, tabernacle, television mast, temple, tope, tour, tower, turret, water tower, windmill tower
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