Lamaist Pagoda

One day in July, 1956, several young men paid a visit to Niushou Mountain located on the outskirts of Nanjing. When they rested under the pagoda of a Buddhist temple named Hongjue Temple, some stamped his feet unconsciously and heard a clear chop under his feet. Others present were aware that there may be a hollow space underground. So they reported it to management department f the temple. And the temple reported to Nanjing Museum soon. Then archeologists went sent to the temple for investigation by the museum. They found that, under the foot of Buddhist pagoda of Hongjue Temple, there was a round hold, whose diameter was 0.8 m and depth was 1 m. It's initially assessed that it was underground palace concealed under the pagoda of Hongjue Temple. From that underground palace the most striking among them was a gold-decorated Lamaism pagoda.

On pagoda body, there is an opening with a statue of Buddha in it. Under pagoda spire, there is a cover and its face, which is decorated with vertical curtain around. The auspicious clouds on both sides of pagoda body are holding two solemn statues of Bodhisattva. The gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda is laid on the pedestal with the shape of Summery. Various emblazonries in relief are engraved around the pedestal. Each of the four corners of pagoda is laid with a blue and white porcelain jar, all have raised parts in melon arris shape on the body with geometric designs in the middle. With their delicate shape and refined texture, they are rare and exquisite blue and white porcelains. According to experts, four corners of pedestal of common Lamaist pagoda are always laid with four small pagodas, forming the layout of five standing pagodas with the biggest Lamaist pagoda in the middle. But four small pagodas are substituted by four blue and white porcelain jars in this gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda. 

Archeologists had also found ashes and teeth of human beings in the underground palace of Hongjue Temple, by which experts thought that the gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda was designed specially for the oblation of decedent's ashes. Then who on earth was the decedent and why did the people use Lamaist pagoda for worship of decedent's ashes?

Experts held the idea that, the gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda was put into the underground palace when pagoda of Hongjue Temple was rebuilt in Ming Dynasty. There was nothing about the decedent directly recorded in the Lamaist pagoda, but the back of the pedestal was carved with the words of "presented by Buddhist Li Fushan, a eunuch in Yuyongjian Office in Ming Dynasty." Apparently, the gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda was presented by Li Fushan, a eunuch in Yuyongjian Office.

Whose religious name was Li Fushan, he was a eunuch in Yuyongjian Office responsible for construction of royal mausoleum of Ming Dynasty. He was also a good friend of Zheng He while he was living and they had been good friends for more than 30 years. After consulting various historical materials and studying carefully, experts hold the idea that the ahead worshiped in the fold-decorated Lamaist pagoda belong to Sanbao Eunuch Zheng He, a famous navigator in Ming Dynasty.

In 1371 A.D., Zheng He was born in a family of Hui nationality in Yunnan Province, China. His original name was Ma He. As Zhu Di was quite dissatisfied with the policy of cutting seigniors' power implemented by his nephew. Emperor Jianwen, Zhu Yunwen, he raised troops in 1399 A.D. and began attacking Nanjing, the capital of Ming Dynasty at that time. As Ma He made exploits again and again in this battle, he was promoted to be an eunuch in Neiguanjian Office at the fourth rank after Zhu Di drove his nephew. Emperor Jianwen away and succeeded to the throne. The emperor personally wrote and bestowed the character of "Zheng"  to him. Since then, Ma He's name ws changed into Zheng He. Soon after, Zheng He acknowledged an eminent monk of Tibetan Buddhism working for Zhu Di as his master and became a Buddhist. In order to develop diplomacy and extend influence of Ming Dynasty. Emperor Chengzu of Ming Dynasty, Zhu Di planned to send a large fleet to visit western counties. He declared that Zheng He was the principal of this fleet. At that time, Zhu Di made this decision because he knew about Zheng He's personality and capability very well. First of all was at the Mansion of Yan Prince when he was in his tens, he fought under the leadership of Zhu Di all over the country and made contributions in the wars. The emperor regarded him as a trusted subordinate. Besides, Zheng He himself had rich knowledge. He was familiar with history, geography, culture and religion of western countries. Before sailing to the Western seas, Zheng HE had visited Japan and Siam, which was today's Thailand. So, Zheng He had rich experience in diplomatic activities. Thirdly, Zheng He had certain experience in sailing and shipbuilding. When he worked as eunuch in the palace, he once supervised building of ship and thus had experience in shipbuilding. Before sailing to the Western seas, Zheng He also had sailed twice for a long distance on the sea, gathering experience in sailing. Fourthly, Zheng He was born in a family of Hui nationality, thus he was familiar with custom of Islamic countries. In addition, he also believed in Buddhism. And the countries and regions passed by in Zheng He's voyages to the Western seas  believed in either lslam or Buddhism. Sharing the same religion facilitated mutual communication between them. From 1405 to 1433 A.D., sent by Emperor Chengzu of Ming Dynasty, Zhu Di and his grandson Emperor Xuanzong, Zhu Zhanji, Zheng He had led large fleet to sail to the Western seas for seven times. Zheng He and his fleet had visited more than thirty countries and regions in Asia and Africa. They brought silk, porcelain and other objects to countries of Asia and Africa and brought special products of these countries back to China. Actions of Zheng He and his fleet in voyages to the Western seas not only showed national power of Chinese Ming Dynasty, but also established good countries visited by them, and improved economic and cultural exchanges between China and other countries. After the death of Emperor Chengzu, Zhu Di, in order to commend Zheng He for his contributions to the court. Emperor Xuanzong, Zhu Zhanji titled him as Sanbao Eunuch. In 1433 A.D., in the seventh voyage to the Western seas, Zheng He died of disease on his way home. According to documents, after Zheng He's remains were cremated in India, his ashes and teeth were brought back to China with the fleet. After hearing about the news, Emperor Xuanzong specially issued an imperial decree to permit his ashes and teeth being buried on Niushou Mountain, Nanjing. Li Tong, a eunuch in Yuyongjian built a tomb for Zheng He as required by the imperial decree. Because Zheng He belonged to Hui nationality and believed in Buddhism, Li Tong firstly built a cenotaph of Zheng He in the style of Hui nationality on Niushou Mountain for people to worship. That is today's Tomb of Zheng He. Then, Li Tong built the pagoda of Hongjue Temple according to etiquette system of Tibetan Buddhism to place the gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda which contains ashes and teeth of Zheng He.

On pedestal of the gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda which contains ashes of Zheng He, experts found a special pattern. Above the rough sea, a dignified and distinguished-looking dragon is flying in the clouds. In Chinese Ming Dynasty, dragon was the symbol of imperial power. So, common people had no right to use pattern of dragon. According to this, experts judge that the gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda should be granted by Emperor Xuanzong of Ming Dynasty. That proves Zheng He was treated in high grade after his death.

The dazzling body of the gold-decorated pagoda and clean, simple and elegant blue and white porcelain jar and the pattern of dragon which symbolizes imperial majesty make the whole gold-decorated Lamaist pagoda solemn and elegant. It shows superb craftsmanship of craftsmen in Ming Dynasty. The unearthed gold-decorated pagoda not only makes the daring sailing spirit of Zheng He known to later generations, but also becomes precious utensil for experts and scholars to study history and religion of Chinese Ming Dynasty.

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