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Notes on the Geography of China: The Grand Axis of Imperial Beijing: Photo 14

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Terraces like these (xumi zuo) were not just a way of making visitors look up; they were intended to represent Mt. Meru, the center of the Buddhist universe. (The word xumi is the Chinese equivalent of Sumeru, "sublime Meru.") Their form is derived from the plinth on which statues of the Buddha sit: that plinth, too, is called xumi. Triple Sumeru terraces like this one are exceedingly rare, though they can also be found at the so-called Temple of Heaven and at the Yongle Emperor's tomb.

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