The Five-Pagoda Temple, also called Jingangzuo Sheli Baota ("Precious Pagoda of the Buddhist Relics of the Diamond Throne"), was formerly only one of a number of buildings belonging to the now all but destroyed Cideng Temple – only the Five-Pagoda temple structure remains. The temple is a massive structure that looks more like a mausoleum with five, minaret-like pagodas atop it than a pagoda or a temple. The design of the Five-Pagoda Temple in Hohhot belongs, however, to the special "diamond throne" pagoda style of Indian Buddhist architecture. It, along with 5 other similar Five-Pagoda Temples round about the country, is a copy of the Gaya Temple in India.
The "mausoleum" part of the structure is called the "throne" on which the minaret-like pagodas stand. Of the six "diamond throne" pagodas, three are in Beijing, and one of these differs somewhat from the other five. The "diamond throne" pagoda in Hohhot belongs to the standard "diamond throne" pagoda style. All six of these unique pagodas are said to be done after the same building plan of a single Indian monk visiting China.
It is also said that a Buddhist pagoda is built according to the plan of the monk who designed it, yet the one "diamond throne" pagoda in Beijing differs from this plan, being less "Indian" and more Chinese in style than the others. This "unique among the unique" diamond throne pagoda in Beijing is also said to be the most beautiful of the six pagodas, yet they are all of them beautiful, owing in part to the massive nature of the building design, especially the "throne" part, which uncannily reminds one of Palladio's Villa Rotunda, built from 1566 to 1571 in Vincenza, Italy, though the two structures do not resemble each other at all. Construction of the Five-Pagoda Temple in Hohhot began in 1727, and was completed in 1732.
Built of stone and brick, the temple is 13 meters high and is composed of three parts: the base, the seat and the superstructures (the five pagodas). In the lower part of the seat are exquisite inscriptions of the Diamond Sutra, written in Mongolian, Tibetan and Sanskrit. The upper part of the base includes a niche with a statue of Buddha and four Bodhisattvas. Of the five superstructures, or pagodas, four of them, of equal height (5 storeys), occupy the four corners of the seat, while the fifth, the tallest at 7 storeys, occupies the center of the seat.
On the first floor of each of these pagodas are brick carvings of Buddha, the Bodhisattva and Bodhi trees, while on the floors above are a great number of special niches for statues of Buddha in varying sizes and shapes, totalling an impressive 1563 in all. In addition, an exquisitely rendered astronomical chart and two Buddhist scenes are carved delicately into a wall behind the pagodas.