Tomb Pagoda for Taoist Priest Wang in Dunhuang of Gansu Province
The Pagoda, located opposite the Mogao grottoes in Dunhuang, resembles a Lamaist dagobe. Built in 1931, it may be the latest Lamaist dagoba in China. It was a rare practice to build tomb pagodas for Taoist priests, let alone Lamaist dagobas.
The priest was called Wang Yuanlu, a native of Macheng in Hubei Province. After he left home he came to Dunhuang. The priest usurped the right to the Mogao grottoes, a Buddhist historical site, for more than thirty years. He discovered a cave full of Buddhist scriptures and sold valuable classic Buddhist works to foreigners at nominal prices, inflicting huge losses on the Chinese nation's cultural heritage. Of course he performed some meritorious deeds for the Mogao grottoes as well. He did not seriously damage the murals and he had some religious structures built in front of the grottoes with the money he got from selling relics. But his faults outweighed his merits. His main aim was to promote religion by selling the relics in total disregard of their value.
Although the pagoda has the structure and shape of a Lamaist dagoba, it has characteristics of the time and area. A square base supports an octagonal pedestal. The main body of the pagoda is high and slender, giving it the look of a jar, totally different from inverted-bowl-style pagodas. Above the main body stands a tubular pavilion crowned with a gourd-shaped cupola, which is different from the steeple of a Buddhist pagoda. This shows that the pagoda's designer recognized the differences between Buddhism and Taoism and tried to make the pagoda look different, although it took the shape of a Lamaist dagoba.