Book Review: Approach Guides - Stupa's Transformation Over Time

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I've got an extraordinary resource to share with you today on the architecture of the Buddhist Stupa. Approach Guides is one of our favorite travel guides. They dig deeply into the culture of a place, and fully explore a topic. My latest favorite of their extensive line of cultural guidebooks is the Stupa Form's Transformation Over Time.


In this downloadable travel guide, Approach Guides explores the history and architectural transformation of the Buddhist stupa form over time. Filled with photos (very important!), this guide is great background learning before a trip to Asia. In this guide, stupa transformations are reviewed for India, Sri Lanka, Gandhara (Pakistan), Tibet, China & Japan, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), and Indonesia (Java).

Did you know that the original stupa is in Sanchi, in Central India? It was constructed by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (304-232 BCE). The stupa form is based on a sacred burial site, and is composed of several key elements. The guide not only describes these, but also gives a clear, concise drawing to illustrate it. As Buddhism migrated out of India, it followed two routes, both which can be traced, stylistically, through stupa architecture.


Gyantse Stupa, Tibet

Gyantse Stupa, Tibet


With each geographic area, Approach Guides explores the history of Buddhism in the area, the stupa's appearance and changes, photos, and comparison to other architectural styles. Included in the transformation of the stupa over time is the anda, harmika, chhatra, and interior and exterior decorations. Are some of these terms new to you? They were new to me, too, but now I am reading them as a pro. In some Asian countries, the stupa is called a Pagoda. After living in Japan, the Japanese Pagoda shown really resonated with me, and I was interested to learn of the history there.


What was most useful to me was the ability of this guide to show me not only the transformations over time, but the cultural adaptations of each geographic area to transform the stupa. Cultural ideas of art, religion, and architecture are clearly shown with impressive photos of stupas across Asia.


I highly recommend this guide - it's the perfect mix of deep learning and cultural connections. 


For more information, please see:

The Stupa Form's Transformation over Time

Related Approach Guides
o “Indian Art & Architecture: Buddhist”
o “Ancient Buddhist Caves India & China”
o “Religion: Buddhism”
o “East-West Trade Connections”





NOTE: Approach Guides sent us a review copy of the Stupa Form's Transformation Over Time. Thanks!