Kevin Stratton Art 262 Fall 2013 Fred Sigman Sacred Art & Architecture
Text of Art 262 - Sacred Art & Architecture
The Todai-ji Temple of the Nara Period Kevin Stratton Art 262 Fred Sigman
Basic Architectural Principles Over the course of Japans history, many architectural styles have been adopted as well as created that have all lead to the current state of Japanese architecture. Like almost all other cultures, Japanese architects adhered to certain cultural beliefs, ideas and principles that helped to define a notorious style of architecture. These 6 principles are the principles that Japanese architects adhered to while designing and building the elegant structures that are scattered throughout Japan. Preference for Natural Materials and Settings Restraint and Exuberance Attention to Detail Indigenous and Foreign Influences Preserving the Past Status and Function
Japanese Architectural Periods When it comes to documenting history, many cultures choose to break up their history into periods based on significant events and Japan is no different. Japans history as a nation has been broken into several periods of time, each opening or closing with an imperative event that would eventually shape the Japanese culture. Japans history has been broken into these periods: Pre-Buddhist Periods 2. Asuka Period 3. Hakuho Period 4. Nara Period 5. Heian Period 6. Kamakura Period 7. Muromachi Period 8. Azuchi-Momoyama period 9. Tokugawa or Edo Period 10. Modern Period 1. Throughout the rest of this presentation I am going to focus on the Nara and Heian periods of architecture. I chose these two periods because they essentially show the transformation of Japanese architecture and the influence the Buddhist religion had on it.
Shoso-In (Azekura Log-Cabin Style)
Influences from Korea and China Buddhism was first introduced to Japan in the 6th century from the Korean state of Paekche. This refined religion was welcomed by the Yamato Court as they thought it would help them to advocate a more centralized government. Once the people of Japan acknowledged Buddhism as a mainstream religion in the 7th century, the architecture that followed led to beautiful palaces and temples filled with extravagant art that told the story of Buddha. This is the Shitennoji Temple, one of the earliest temples built after Buddhism was introduced to the state of Japan. This temple consists of a gate, Pagoda, main hall and lecture hall.
Asuka Period (538-645 AD) In 538, Buddhism was introduced to Japan. The period of time between the introduction to Buddhism and the Taika Reform of 645 is known as the Asuka Period. During the Asuka Period, Japan was thoroughly transformed as it came under the influence of continental civilization. When Buddhism was introduced, a difference erupted between the Mononbe and Soga clans pertaining to which religion would be chosen as the official religion of Japan. This debate occurred around the time Japan was experiencing a rapid evolution of influential clans to a centralized nation known as the Yamato State. The Soga clan favored Buddhism and eventually prevailed over the Mononobe clan. The Yamato Court used Buddhism as a political tool to help consolidate its own power. Prince Shotku was appointed Regent by the Empress Suiko in 593. His interest in the Buddhist religion and philosophical aspects trumped the need of political power. Shotku actively promoted the new religion by bringing in craftsman from Korea and China to build Buddhist Temples and furnish them with murals and sculptures. The two main compounds constructed by Shotoku were Horyuji Temple near Nara and the Shitennoji Temple in Osaka which was shown briefly on the previous page. Although the Hakuho Period followed the Asuka Period, I felt that the Asuka Period was the main factor in the rise of Buddhist architecture and art.
Japanese Roof Types The most common roof types used in Japanese architecture are displayed below. PreBuddhist shrines used the gable roof while the hipped-and-gable roof became the popular roof after the introduction of Buddhism. Gable Roof Hipped Roof Hipped-and-Gable Roof Pyramidal Roof Octagonal Roof
Nara Period (710-794 AD) Despite several moves back and forth between Heijokyo and other locations, Heijokyo remained the capital of Japan for 74 years. The capital was moved to Nagaokakyo in 784. The Nara Period was the apex in which Japanese efforts to mimic Chinese cultural and political models were in full swing. The new capital city was modeled after the Tang Capital at Changan and a complex legal system established the ideal order of social relationships and obligations amongst the state. Because of this mimicked model, a society of heirarchy was established. The first several decades of the 8th century were accompanied by political complication, power struggles, attempts to over throw the government and disease epidemics. This antagonistic atmosphere led emperor Shomu to strengthen the spiritual collective that he perceived to be offered by the Buddhist religion. In 741 he established the Kokubunji system. The Kokubunji System would help to build a monastery in each of the Japanese provinces that would all fall under a central authority in Nara. In 743 he began the planning of the Todai Temple, the central authority in his Kokubunji System. The central image of this temple would be a giant bronze statue of the Birushana Buddha. Shomu envisioned religion as a supportive and integrated power of the state. His plan to combine the church and state eventually back fired in which temples were able to acquire wealth and power in return allowing the governing Buddha priests to interfere with state affairs.
Todai-ji Temple (Nara, Japan) The Todai-ji Temple was built by Emperor Shomu from 724-749 when Nara was the capital of Japan. The Todai-ji Temple represented the culmination of Imperial Buddhist architecture at its time.
Daibutsu Buddha The Daibutsu Buddha weighs 250 tons and stands just over 30 meters tall. The hair of the Buddha is constructed of 966 bronze balls. During the construction of the Buddha, Japan almost went bankrupt due to amount of bronze being used to build the statue.
Todai-ji Gate Statues These statues rest just inside the main gate of the Todai-ji Temple. These are said to be the Heavenly Kings. Both statues are around 8 meters tall and where carved in 1203.
Todai-ji Pillars These pillars are known as the healing pillars. The popular belief among people at the time was that if you could fit through the small cut out in the pillars you would be guaranteed a place in heaven. More than just a popular belief, these pillars are the inner foundation of the temple, supporting a majority of the structure.
Todai-ji Belfry The belfry was built in 752 for the ceremony of the Diabutsu Buddha. It is a single room Iramoya-style structure. The bell itself is 4 meters tall, 2.7 meters across and weighs a whopping 26 tons. It is the second largest bell in Japan. The bell is usually rang when saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the New Year.
Eaves Bracketing Many people see these beams underneath historic Japanese buildings and wonder what they are. These beams are whats known as Eaves Bracketing. This was a the way that the Japanese architects were able to build such large and over hanging roofs. These complex systems of beams would allow the building to suspend much more weight then the simple postand-lintel system I talked about earlier.
Sources Young, David. Introduction to Japanese Architecture. Singapore: Periplus Editions. 2004 Sadler, A.L. Japanese Architecture: A Short History. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing. 2009