The three pagodas used to be situated in Chongsheng Temple at the foot of Diancang Mountain on the shores of Lake Erhai. The temple no longer exists, but the three pagodas, different in size and history, remain. Qianxun Pagoda, the biggest of the three, is described variously in historical records, but from its structure and shape, it must have been built after the Kaicheng period (836 to 840) of the Tang Dynasty and undergone repairs in the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. When the pagoda was repaired again in 1979, three copper plates, found in the bottom of the steeple, stated that the pagoda was repaired in 1000, 1142 and 1154. Also discovered were statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas, scriptures, seals, coins, a bronze mirror, porcelain, articles used in Buddhist ritual, musical instruments, daily-use articles, various kinds of small pagodas, and gold and silver ware. Unearthed from the pagoda's underground palace were ceramic Buddhist statues and pagodas and matrices for printing Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit.
Qianxun Pagoda is square with sixteen pent roofs above the huge first storey. The tubular interior is divided into sixteen storeys. The 59.6-metre-high pagoda is a typical multi-eave structure of the Tang Dynasty. The two-level pedestal supports a first storey with sides measuring 9.85 meters wide each. The method for piling up bricks for the sixteen-tier eaves was for the first layer to project from the wall. The second layer is in the shape of chevrons. The bricks then overlap one another, with each tier wider than the one below. Above the eaves are balconies. The eaves present smooth concave arcs, reflecting the style of Tang Dynasty pagodas. The contour of the whole pagoda is also in the shape of an elegant curve, with the top tapering off mildly, forming an excellent example of multi-eave pagodas in the Tang Dynasty. Sixteen-tier eaves are rarely seen in other pagodas.
Standing opposite each other, 97.5 meters apart, are two pagodas, 70 meters from Qianxun Pagoda. The three pagodas form a beautiful triangle. The two smaller pagodas are octagonal with ten multi-eave pent roofs. They were built later than the bigger one. From their structure and shape, they must have been built in the Dali period of the Song Dynasty style.