This exhibition takes a closer look at the main buildings of five Japanese Temple Complexes. Temples are the places of worship in Japanese Buddhism, and are also used to display sacred Buddhist objects. It is believed that Buddhist images could have been brought to Japan as early as 522 (Beguin). Japanese Buddhism has made an abundant impact on Japanese culture and continues to influence society today. The architectural elements of Buddhist temples are meant to embody themes and teachings of Buddhism.
Most Buddhist temples in Japan are designed around four main architectural styles: Wayō, Daibutsuyō, Zenshūyō, and Setchūyō. Temples designed in the wayō style take a minimalistic approach to architecture. Natural timber and generally plain materials are used. Wayō architecture was made during the Heian period, between 794 CE and 1185 CE. Typically these structures feature thin columns and a low ceiling. A beam is run through the columns to reinforce the top parts of columns. The wayō style emphasizes more Japanese-style architecture than the features of Chinese-style architecture. Inside the structures inner space divisions are fluid, many feature screens and thin. A true connection is meant to be felt between the interior and exterior of the building.
In the late 12th and early 13th century CE, a more monumental style emerged. The daibutsuyō style was based on Song Dynasty architecture. Daibutsuyō style architecture is characterized by thick woodwork and penetrating tie beams. The ends of the penetrating tie beams are decorated with moldings also known as ‘kurigata’. The thick woodwork of the structure is typically left exposed to show its elements. This style takes a grander approach than the wayō style. Daibutsuyō style architecture utilizes horizontal elements.
Zenshūyō is another style that emerged in the late 12th or early 13th century CE. Zenshūyō style temples are based on contemporary Chinese architecture derived from the Song Dynasty. The style is named after the Zen sect of Buddhism that was introduced to Japan. These temples typically incorporate earthen floors, decorative curved pent roofs, pointed windows, and paneled doors. Slim columns and low ceilings are used to create calming spaces for meditating. The complexes have a generally linear layout. Kōzan-ji’s butsuden is the oldest extant building in the Zenshūyō style in Japan.
The last style of temple architecture incorporates a fusion of elements from the three other styles. This style was called setchūyō, and was used during the Muromachi period. By the end of the Muromachi period, Japanese Buddhist architecture and construction methods had been perfected and building types were conventionalized.
Although the temples are designed around a few different styles, there are some key features that distinguish these Japanese Buddhist temples. Characteristics of most Japanese Temples include post and lintel support, a gentle curved roof, and thin walls. The use of a single central pillar or column. embodies the Axis Mundi of Buddhism. Having the cardinal directions reflected through the structure is important. The most prominent examples of the iconic form are represented in Pagodas and Indian Stupas. Many of these temples are incorporated into complexes with several other structures that include a main hall, a pagoda, and other facilities for prayer and meditation. Many of these temple complexes are surrounded by a large wall and gates. Entering the complex is supposed to feel like a journey through meditation. These spaces are intended to evoke feelings of peace.
Title: Great Buddha Hall, Todai-ji temple complex
Category: Japanese Buddhist Architecture
Architectural style: Daibutsuyō
Location: Nara, Japan
Author Name: Felix Filnkössl
Date of Creation: 18 August 2010
Dimensions: 4,000 × 2,248 pixels
Image Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Todai-ji.jpg
The Great Buddha Hall at Todai-ji temple complex displays the grand features of the daibutsuyō architectural style. The Great Buddha hall houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha Vairocana statue. This Buddhist temple complex was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. Two towering guardians sit on top of the massive entryway of the temple, protecting the great Buddha. The great architects of Todaiji temple complex developed the Yakushiji axial plan with paired pagodas into one of greater complexity (Ikeuchi 2007). The hall was erected in the early 8th century CE, and later reconstructed in 1709. The Great Buddha hall was built at a very large scale, displaying the power and prestige of the imperial house of Japan. Columns are arrayed throughout the rectangular base to represent universal order. Many horizontal braces are run through vertical posts called Nuki to make the structure solid.
As a daibutsuyō style hall, structural elements are left exposed without the covering of a ceiling as decoration. The vast structure is made entirely of wood, commonly seen in Japanese architecture. Building structures out of wood was seen as a way to celebrate life. A gently sloping roof was used to help blend in the large structure to its natural surroundings. The roof tiles were carefully crafted to channel water to prevent erosion.
Title: Kondô, Fudôin Hiroshima
Category: Japanese Buddhist Architecture
Architectural style: Zenshūyō
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Author Name: Fraxinus2
Date of Creation: 11 October 2012
Dimensions: 1,771 × 1,240 pixels
Image Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fud%C3%B4in_3.jpg
Kondô Hall is the main hall of Fudôin Temple. This hall was built in the Zenshūyō architectural style. Kondô at Fudôin is an Important Cultural Property, as one of the few remaining historic structures in Hiroshima. After careful studies of historic documents and writing found on the ceilings, it is believed that Kondô Hall was originally built in Yamaguchi in 1540 at the site of Koshakuji Temple. The Kondô Hall was later relocated to its current location in Hiroshima when Ekei expanded the temple. The structure miraculously survived the atomic bomb drop in 1945 on the city. Kondô Hall is the only National Treasure in Hiroshima City. The structure features massive beams, the longest being over 7 meters (Davies). Kondô Hall has a irimoya, a unique combination of gable and hip roof with a mokoshi (an extra roof). The grand roof casts shadows on the ground below, adding to the sacred atmosphere. Oversized eaves give the interior a characteristic dimness, which contributes to the temple’s sacred atmosphere. Paintings of angels and dragons fill the ceilings. This structure appears less conspicuous and more meditative than the other styles of architecture. This structure houses the statue of Yakushi Nyorai, also known as the Medicine Buddha. The statue was carved by the pioneer sculptor Jocho, who was a famous Japanese sculptor in the early 11th century.
Title: Kakurin-ji Temple Main hall
Category: Japanese Buddhist Architecture
Architectural style: Setchūyō
Location: Kakogawa, Japan
Author Name: 663highland
Date of Creation: 7 December 2008
Dimensions: 4,592 × 3,056 pixels
Image Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kakogawa_Kakurinji12n4592.jpg
Kakurin-ji Temple is the 20th temple of the Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage. Kakurin-ji is incredibly difficult to reach due to its location at the top of a steep mountain. Sitting at 550 meters elevation, the temple is the 5th highest structure on the pilgrimage route. The Main Hall at Kakurin-ji Temple embodies the Setchūyō architectural style used to design Japanese Buddhist temples. The Main Hall, which was named a National Treasure of Japan, was built in 1397. The Main Hall was designed with the East Asian hip-and-gable roof, the structure stands tall off the ground and appears to float. The roof is a bold feature of the structure. With the location high on a mountain and the unique architecture a sacred Buddhist space is created. A beautiful three-storey pagoda sits to the right of the Main Hall.
Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), Todai-ji temple complex
(4,000 × 2,248 pixels, file size: 5.91 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Image Author: Felix Filnkössl
Date: 18 August 2010
Fudôin Hiroshima Kondô
(1,771 × 1,240 pixels, file size: 521 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Image Author: Fraxinus2
Date: 11 October 2012
Kakurinji Buddhist temple in Kakogawa
(4,592 × 3,056 pixels, file size: 10.49 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Image Author: 663highland
Date: 7 December 2008
Temple of Golden Pavilion Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
(5,312 × 2,988 pixels, file size: 4.89 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Image Author : Ondraness
Date: 9 September 2019
Temple Byōdō-in (Uji, Japan)
(2,400 × 1,600 pixels, file size: 3.53 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Image Source: Le temple Byodo-in (Uji, Japon)
Image Author: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Date: 15 May 2018
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