• Published : 2016.12.15


This article compares two Iranian towers (burj) of the Saljuq period (c.1037-1194) with two Chinese Pagodas (t'a) of the Song dynasty (c.960-1279) in order to identify common cultural trends in medieval Iranian and Chinese architecture. To this end, the Iranian towers of Tuqrul in Rayy and Chihil Dukhtar in Damghan are compared with their Chinese counterparts of the Iron Pagoda in Kaifeng and the Pizhi Pagoda in Changqing. The two Iranian towers have much simpler architectural decorations compared to the splendid Song pagodas, which are decorated with statues and colorful paintings. The similarities in form, however, suggest common functions provided by the architecture. Both the Saljuq and Song towers had astronomical and military functions, position identification for travelers, and symbolic meanings, as well as their main functions as tombs. By applying comparative studies on the forms and functions of the Tuqrul and Chihil Dukhtar towers on the one hand, and the Iron and Pizhi Pagodas, on the other hand, this article aims to contribute new insights regarding common social trends shared by the medieval Iranian and Chinese and illustrated by their architecture. Extensive and distinguished publications on the general subject of art and architecture during the reign of the two dynasties under discussion already exist, as fully referenced below, but the specific comparative themes regarding the individual sites discussed here are the first in any study of this kind.


  1. Abruzzese, Donato, Lorenzo Miccoli, and Jianli Yuan. 2009. "Mechanical Behavior of Leaning Masonry Huzho Pagoda." Journal of Cultural Heritage no. 10:480-486.
  2. Abu al-Fada, Isma'il ibn Ali. 1966. Taqvim al-Buldan. Tehran: Bunyad-iFarhangi-yiiran.
  3. Anisi, Alireza. 2008. Early Islamic Architecture in Iran, 637-1059, The University of Edinburgh.
  4. Askari Chawurdi, Jawad. 2010. "Hunar, Farhangwa Tamaddun-i 'Asr-iSaljuqi." Ketab-iMah-i Hunar: 112-121.
  5. Azari Damirchi, Ala'al-Din. 1972. "Kabutarwa Kaboutarkhanaha-yi Esfahan." Hunarwa Mardum:34-37.
  6. Barthold, Vasilii Vladimirovich. 1984. An Historical Geography of Iran. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  7. Bastani, Parizi. 1989. Muhammad Ebrahim, Khatun-iHaftqal'aMajmueh Maqalat-iTarikhi. Tehran: Ruzbahan.
  8. Blair, Shiela, S.. 1992. The Monumental Inscriptions from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana. Vol. 5, Studies in Islamic Art and Architecture. Leiden: Brill,.
  9. Bloom, Jonathan. 2013. The Minaret. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  10. Brend, Barbara. 1991. Islamic Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  11. Broug, Eric. 2013. Islamic Geometric Design. New York: Thomas and Hudson.
  12. Campbell, James W. P. 2003. Brick: A World History. London: Thames & Hudson.
  13. Cotterell, Arthur. 2007. The Imperial Capitals of China, An Inside View of the Celestial Empire. Great Britain: Pimlico.
  14. Dotjee, Pema. 1996. Stupa and its Technology: A Tibeto-Buddhist Prospective. New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.
  15. E'temad al-Saltana, Muhammad Hasan. 1983. Matla' ai-Shams. Edited by Teimur Burhan Limudehi. Tehran: Farhangsara.
  16. Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, Anne Walthall, and James B. Palais. 2013. East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston: Houghton Miffiin.
  17. El-Said, Issam. 1993. Islamic Art and Architecture, the System of Geometric Design. Edited by Tarek EI-Bouri and Keith Gritchlow. Lebanon: Issam El-Said Foundation.
  18. Elias, Jamal, J. 1998 "Sufism." Iranian Studies no. 3-4:595-613.
  19. Ettinghausen, Richard, Oleg Graber, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. 2001. Islamic Art and Architecture. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  20. Glahn, Else. 1981. "Chinese Building Standards in the 12th Century." Scientific American (244): 132-141.
  21. Grabar, Oleg. 1966. "The Earliest Islamic Commemorative Structures." Ars Orientalis (6):7-46.
  22. Grabar, Oleg. 1973. The Formation of Islamic Art,. New Haven Yale University Press.
  23. Grover, Satish. 2004. Masterpieces of Traditional Indian Architecture,. Roli and Jassen BV: Lustre Press.
  24. Gunde, Richard. 2002. Culture and Customs of China. London: Greenwood Press.
  25. Hakim, Muhammad Khan. 1975. Ganj-i Danesh. Tehran: Zarrin.
  26. Hamawi, Yaqut ibn Abdullah. 1965. Mu'jam al-Buldan. Vol. 4. Tehran: Sa'di.
  27. Hamdullah, Mustowfi. 1957. Nuzhat al-Quloub. Edited by Muhammad Dabirsiaqi. Tehran: Tahouri.
  28. Haqiqat, Abdul Rafi'. 2001. Tarikh-iGhumes. Tehran: Kumes.
  29. Hatam, Qulam Ali. 2000. Me'mari-yi Eslami-yi Iran dardure-yi Saljuqian. Tehran: Jihad Daneshgahi.
  30. Hayami, Yoko. 2011. "Pagodas and Prophets: Contesting Sacred Space and Power among Buddhist Karen in Karen State." The Journal of Asian Studies (70):1083-1105.
  31. Hillenbrand, Robert. 1974. The Tomb Towers of Iran, University of Oxford.
  32. Hillenbrand, Robert. 1994. The Art of the Saljuqs in Iran as Anatolia. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers.
  33. Hillenbrand, Robert. 1999. Islamic Art and Architecture. London: Thames &Hudson.
  34. Hunarfar, Lutfullah. 1994. "Az Masjid-i Deilami-yi Jurjir ta Qubbe-yi Saljuqi Taj al-Mulk, Razha-yi Me'mari-yi Asil Irani." Hunar wa Me'mari (25): 67-78.
  35. Ibn, Faqih Hamedani, and Ahmad Ibn Muhammad. 1970. Mukhtasar al-Buldan. Translated by H. Masoud. Tehran Bunyad-i Farhangi-yi Iran.
  36. Jafri, Saiyid Zaheer Husain, and Helmut Reifled. 2006. The Islamic Path, Sujism, Politics and Society in India. New Delhi: Rainbow Publishers.
  37. Jawadi, Asiya. 1984. Me'mari-yi Iran, 84 Maqala be qalam-i 33 Pajouheshgar-iIrani. Tehran: Mojarrad.
  38. Khanikov, Nikolai. 1996. Safarnamaya Khanikov. Translated by Aqdas Yaqmaie and Abul Qasim Bigunah. Mashhad: Astan-i Quds.
  39. Khazaie, Muhammad. 2007. "Huzour-i Anasur-i Taz'ini Irani dar Ravand-i Sheklgiri-yi Taz'inat-i Me'mari Saljuqian Rum darAsiya-yi Saqir." Ketab-iMah-iHunar (103):40-44.
  40. Kiani, Muhammad Yousuf. 1995. Tarikh-i Hunar-i Me 'mari-yi Iran dardure-yi Eslami. Tehran: Samt.
  41. Le Strange, Guy 1976. The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate: Mesopotamia, Persia and Central Asia from the Moslem Conquest to the Time of the Timur. New York: AMS Press.
  42. Ledderose, Lothar. 2000. Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  43. Leeming, D. 2001. Journey to the West. In Dictionary of Asian Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  44. Leowe, Michael. 1990. The Pride that Was China. London: Sidgwick and Jackson.
  45. Lin, Hu. 2011. "Perceptions of Liao Urban Landscapes, Political Practices and Nomadic Empires." Archaeological Dialogues (18):223-243.
  46. Longhurst, A.H. 1979. The Story of Stupa. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.
  47. Michael, Franz. 1986. China through the Ages, History of a Civilization. Boulder West View Press.
  48. Mirzaie, Seyyed Ayatullah. 2007. "Muqayese-yi Barkhi Wijegihawa Karkerdha-yi Iran and England." Ulum-i Ej tema 'i-yi Allama (37): 109-144.
  49. MousaviHejazi, Pourjafar, and Muhammad Reza Bahar. 2002. "Ta'sirpaziri-yiNehzat-i Hunarwa Pishine-yi Englestanaz Hunar-i Eslami." Nashriye-yi Hunarha-yi Ziba (12): 118-129.
  50. Muhammadinejad, Marjan. 2011 "Burj-i Kabutarkhana." Rushd-i Amuzesh-i Hunar (28): 12-17.
  51. Muhit Tabatabaie, Seyyed Ahmad. 1987. "Burj-i Tuqrulya Maqbare-yi Ebrahim Khavas." Keihan-iFarhangi (40):28-29.
  52. Mujmal al-Tawarishwa al-Qesas. 1940. Edited by Muhammad TaqiBahar and Muhammad Ramezani. Tehran: Khawar.
  53. Nasr, Seyyed Hussein. 1966. "Mukhtasaridarbare-yi Tahqiqat-i Nuwindar Tarikh-i Nujoum-i Eslami." Ma 'aref Eslami (2).
  54. O'Kane, Bernard. Borj-iToqrol. Available from
  55. Pee, Christian de. 2009. "Purchase on Power: Imperial Space and Commercial Space in Song-Dynasty Kaifeng, 960-1127." Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (53).
  56. Peterson, Willard l., Andrew Plaks, and Ying-Shih Yu. 1994. The Power of Culture, Studies in Chinese Cultural History. Hong Kong:: Chinese University Press.
  57. Pirnia, Muhammad Karim. 2001. Sabkshenasi-yi Me'mari-yi Irani. Edited by Qulam Hussein Me'marian. Tehran: Pajouhandeh wa Me'mar.
  58. Pirnia, Muhammad Karim. 2005. Ashnaie be Me'mari-yi Eslami-yi Iran, Sakhtemanha-yi Duroun-shahriwa Buroun-shahri. Edited by Gulam Hussein Me'marian. Tehran: Soroush-iDanesh.
  59. Pope, Arthur Upham. 1967. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. Vol. VIII. Tehran: Asia Institute of Pahlavi University-American Institute of Persian Art and Archaeology.
  60. Prak, Maarten. 2011. "Mega-structures of the Middle Ages: the Construction of religious buildings in Europe and Asia, c. 1000-1500." Journal of Global History no. 6 (3):381-406.
  61. Qandi, Siawash. 2003. "Naqsh-i Kashi dar Me'mari-yiIrani." Hunarha-yi Tajassomi (20): 183-186.
  62. Qayoum, Seyyed. 1972. "Tarikhche-yi Me'maridardure-yi Salajeqe." Helal (117):69-77.
  63. Qijun, Wang. 2011. Chinese Architecture. Shanghai: Better Link Press.
  64. Ramezani, Vahida. 2005 "Barresi-yi Waziyat-i Me'maridar Iran ba Ta'kid bar Mathoumwa Karbari-yi Banaha." Tarikhpajouhi (24):13-44 .
  65. Ray, Himanshu Prabha. 2007. Sacred Landscapes in Asia, Shared Traditions, Multiple Histories. Mahohar: Indian International Center.
  66. Roberts, J.A.G. 2006. A History of China. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  67. Rossabi, Morris. 2014. A History of China. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
  68. Rukoui'e, Ezzatollah. 1999. "Negahi be Me'imari-yi Masajid Avvaliyewa Morouridar Se Masjid-i Saljuqi." Chista (157):497-503.
  69. Sarkar, H. 1966. Studies in Early Buddhist Architecture of India. Delhi: Munshiran Manoharial.
  70. Sharif, Human. 2007. "Mil-i Gunbad-i Qabous." Rushd-i Amuzesh-i Hunar (11):10-14.
  71. Shayestefar, Mahnaz. 2002. "Maqbare-yi Chihil Dukhtaran-i Damqan." Hunarha-yiTajasumi (16):64-68.
  72. Ssu-Ch'eng, Liang. 1984. Chinese Architecture, a Pictorial History. Cambridge: The Massachusetts of Technology.
  73. Sue, Yan, Hong Tie Zhao, Jian Yang Xue, and Xi Cheng Zhang. 2011. "Experimental Study on Stiffness of Dougong in Chinese Ancient Buildings." Advanced Materials Research (368):819-822.
  74. Sullivan, Michael. 1967. The Arts of China. Berkeley: University of Califomia Press.
  75. Tabasi, Muhsen, and Muhammad Reza Pourjafar. 2007. "Ta'sir-i Me'mari-yi Garmabeha-yi Iran bar Hamarnha-yi Eslami-yi Felestin." Mudarres-i Hunar (1):62-71.
  76. Tabatabaie, Jawad. 2006. Khwaja Nizam al-Mulk. Tehran: Tarh Noa.
  77. Thorp, Robert, L., and Richard Ellis Vinogrand. 2001. Chinese Art & Culture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, INC. Publishers.
  78. Tillotson, G.H.R. 1998. Paradigms of Indian Architecture, Space and Time in Representation and Design. England: Curzon Press.
  79. Tosa, K. 2000. Biruma-no-Weiza-Shinko, The Weikza Beliefs in Burma. Tokyo: Keiso-shobo.
  80. Varjavand, Parviz. 1987. Tazi'nat-i Me'mari-yi Eslami, Ajurkari, Me'mari-yi Iran, Hunar-i Eslami. Edited by Muhammad YusefKiani. Tehran: Ershad-iEslami.
  81. Yaqubi, Ahrnad ibnEshaq. 1968. AI-Buldan. Translated by Ebrahim Ayati. Tehran: TarjumawaN ashr-iKetab.
  82. Zahiri Neishabouri, Zahir al-Din. 2001. Zahiri Neishabouri, Zahir al-Din. Edited by Mirza Esma'il Afshar and Muhammad Ramezani. Tehran: Asatir.
  83. Zaki Muhammad, Hasan. 1941. Sanaye' Iran bad azEsalm. Translated by Muhammad Ali Khalili. Tehran: Eqbal.
  84. Zhewen, Lou. 1994. Ancient Pagodas in China. Beijing:: Foreign Languages Press.