Why do they put pagodas in Zen gardens? What is a Pagoda anyway?
To the western mind a pagoda is similar to a cathedral. During the Middle Ages in Europe the Christian Church had a problem. The Crusades into the holy land produced a rather lucrative market for holy artifacts and relics of the various saints. Worshipers felt that these relics provided healing, prosperity and happiness if people prayed in their presence. So, Church leaders started building cathedrals, shrines, and monasteries as a constant reminder of God, his saints, and the power of the church.
A pagoda is an Asian counterpart. Buddhist missionaries and laymen built pagodas to help spread the teachings of Buddha. Various sized pagodas are found from Bangladesh to South East Asia and China through the Korean Peninsula to Japan. These structures housed important ashes or sacred relic of the Buddhist traditions.
Thus, the ability to shrink one down and place it in a garden as a statue is as natural as finding a cross, or statue of a saint in a Christian meditation garden. It is a reminder to focus on the teaching, stories, or ideas the garden represents.
Pagoda designs descend from and contain local cultural alterations in appearance from the early Buddhist stupas found in India. Pagodas are a place of gathering and a physical reminder of the teachings of the Buddha. It is worth noting that Taoists also use pagodas for their shrines and artifacts too.
Most pagodas are found inside temple complexes of varying sizes and contain various shrines. The taller pagodas are generally fitted with a metal roof “hat” that made them susceptible to lightning strikes. This was often on purpose to give that extra dramatic “pow” of the divine when lightning struck the tower.
These structures last. Their designs are well suited for extreme natural conditions such as typhoons, lightning, and even earthquake prone regions. Only a major fire has any real chance of destroying these structures.
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For further information about Pagodas try
I used both sites and a little history knowledge as references to this article.