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The History of the Great Pagoda

Designed in the 18th-century by English architect Sir William Chambers for the royal family. Chambers visited China twice and he was inspired by the buildings he saw. His designs for the Great Pagoda were influenced by prints he had seen there of the famous Porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing. The Great Pagoda was the largest and most ambitious building in a ‘royal circuit’ of 16 structures displaying architectural styles from around the world building the royal garden at Kew. Once completed in 1762, the 163ft tall building was so exotic that a suspicious public were unconvinced it would remain standing.

Pagodas are revered in traditional Chinese culture as the repository of relics or sacred writings and as place for contemplation. The Kew Pagoda was inspired by the porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing – one of the wonders of the medieval world – and is not designed as a religious monument; rather it was intended to be a window for the British people into Chinese culture.

The Great Pagoda at Kew was originally far more colourful than it is today, and was once adorned with eighty ‘iridescent’ wooden dragons which were removed in 1784 when repaired were undertaken to the building’s roof. None of the 80 dragons appear to have survived, beginning a 200 year hunt to rediscover and replace them. Historic Royal Palaces intends to restore the dragons to the Pagoda once more, as part of this major conservation project.

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Additional Photos by Danos kounenis (danos) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 13701 W: 295 N: 27478] (110395)
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