The Manfeilong Pagodas, despite their name, are actually two stupa complexes situated in the Xishuangbanna region of China’s southwestern Yunnan Province. They are located on hilltops, about two miles apart, some 43 miles from Jinghong City near the borders of Myanmar (Burma) and Laos.
Technically, a pagoda is a multi-tiered temple or place of worship, while a stupa is designed for storing Buddhist relics and used for private meditation. Both of these stupas were built as a place to worship the right footprint of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, which according to legend can still be seen in a nearby rock. A large statue of Sakyamuni (below) looks outward over the valley.
Collectively, the structures are also known as the Bamboo Shoot Pagodas, due to their calabash-shaped forms, which from a distance resemble bamboo shoots emerging from the soil after a spring rain. The entrances to the structures feature a pair of giant sculpted guardian dragons and the stupas themselves are each decorated with colorful reliefs and paintings in the style of the local Dai ethnic minority.
Individually, the Manfeilong Pagodas are referred to as the White Pagoda and the Black Pagoda, due to their colors:
- The White Pagoda (top), built in AD 1204, was dedicated to a small, conservative branch of Buddhism, known as Hinayana. It consists of nine white stupas — a main central stupa (53 feet high) and eight surrounding stupas (30 feet high). Each stupa also supports a ring of silver bells at the top and features niches containing Buddha statues and reliefs of flying phoenixes. During the Water Splashing Festival, held in mid-April, the villagers from Manfeilong Village gather here to welcome in the new year (according to the Dai calendar) by splashing water on one another.
- The Black Pagoda (bottom), on the other hand, stands nearly 60 feet high. The pagoda, though originally black as its name implies, now appears either silver or gold, following multiple refurbishments.
- Visited: May 1998