The miniature pagoda is composed of six parts. Each level is inlaid with turquoise, coral, and semi-precious stones. Inside the pagoda, a gold hair container rests on a white sandalwood stand, the surface of which is inscribed with a six-character Buddhist prayer and decorated with the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols. The pagoda is supported by a red sandalwood stand carved with lotus petals. The reign mark on the stand indicates that it was made in the Qianlong period.
In 1777, the emperor's birth mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing, died in the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanming yuan). To express his filial respect for his deceased mother, the Qianlong Emperor ordered that this miniature gold pagoda be made to store strands of hair from the empress dowager's head.
The pagoda consists of more than three thousand ingots of gold and was produced by the imperial workshops. Personally selecting the design of the pagoda, the Qianlong Emperor assigned his senior officials Fu Long'an (1746-1784) and Heshen (1750-1799) to supervise the project. Three months passed before the pagoda was finished and placed in a Buddhist sanctuary in the Palace of Longevity and Health (Shoukang gong), where the Empress Dowager had lived. The artisans who fashioned the gold pagoda combined welding and carving techniques to create a distinctive shape and exquisite patterns, which reveal the sophistication of the metal work of the Qianlong reign.