A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves common to China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most often Buddhist but sometimes Taoist, and were often located in or near viharas. The pagoda traces its origins to the stupa of ancient India.
Chinese pagodas (Chinese: 塔; pinyin: Tǎ) are a traditional part of Chinese architecture. In addition to religious use, since ancient times Chinese pagodas have been praised for the spectacular views they offer, and many famous poems in Chinese history attest to the joy of scaling pagodas. The oldest and tallest were built of wood, but most that survived were built of brick or stone. Some pagodas were solid, and had no interior at all. Others were hollow and held within themselves an altar, with the larger frequently containing a smaller pagoda (pagodas were not inhabited buildings and had no "floors" or "rooms"). The pagoda's interior has a series of staircases that allow the visitor to ascend to the top of the building and to witness the view from an opening on one side at each story. Most have between three and 13 stories (almost always an odd number) and the classic gradual tiered eaves.
In some countries, the term may refer to other religious structures. In Vietnam and Cambodia, due to French translation, the English term pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship, although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist vihara. The architectural structure of the stupa has spread across Asia, taking on many diverse forms as details specific to different regions are incorporated into the overall design. Many Philippine bell towers are highly influenced by pagodas through Chinese workers hired by the Spaniards.