For decades, architectural historical scholarship on China's early Buddhist monasteries has been dominated by two sacred monument types: the pagoda that enshrined the Buddha's relics and the image hall that venerated iconic images of the Buddha.1 This narrow scope of inquiry may be attributed to the fact that, apart from a handful of masonry pagodas, almost nothing remains of these monasteries. Accordingly, scholars are forced to rely on textual sources, primarily from Buddhist and secular literature, and in most cases, these discuss only the buildings containing cultic objects—the monasteries' centers of devotional worship, referred to here as the principal buildings. The most valuable findings from these...

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