George III's mother Augusta created a world-garden, which became the foundation of Kew Gardens. Augusta's creation included the Great Pagoda, which was the largest and most ambitious building in a 'royal circuit' of 16 structures. The structure was designed by architect Sir William Chambers.
Chambers’ designs for the Pagoda were influenced by prints he had seen there of the famous Porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing.
Pagodas are revered in traditional Chinese culture as the repository of relics or sacred writings and as place for contemplation.
Two Dragons, Great Pagoda at Kew (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces
The Kew Pagoda was inspired by the porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing, one of the wonders of the medieval world, and is not designed as a religious monument.
The newly restored Great Pagoda at Kew (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces
Rather, it was intended to be a window for the British people into Chinese culture.
The Great Pagoda at Kew was originally far more colourful than it is today, and was once adorned with 80 'iridescent' wooden dragons, which were removed in 1784 when repairs were undertaken to the building's roof.
None of the 80 dragons appear to have survived. In 2018, Historic Royal Palaces restored the dragons to the Pagoda once more, as part of this major conservation project.
Find out more and visit the Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens.