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A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE IRANIAN TOWERS OF THE SALJUQS AND THE CHINESE PAGODAS OF THE SONG DYNASTY

  • Published : 2016.12.15

Abstract

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.

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