As mentioned in the our post yesterday, Horyu-ji (法隆寺) in Nara (奈良) is home of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world. Horyu-ji itself is a large Buddhist temple complex comprises of the many buildings that were constructed at different times in its 1300 years history. It is also the first UNESCO World Heritage site that is registered in Japan.
The 32.5 meter tall Five-Storied Pagoda (五重塔) is one of the architectural symbols of the temple. It is recognized as the oldest surviving wood structure in the world along with its neighbouring Main Hall building called Kondo (金堂). Five stories pagodas are common in Japan. the roof of each story gets progressively smaller the higher up we go. They are designed to be seem from a distance. Pagodas are considered to be the most important structures in Buddhist temples. They originated from the Indian stupas and are keepers of sacred relics of the Buddha. As Buddhism spread through East Asia and eventually into Japan, the design and construction techniques has also evolved.
The Shinbashira (心柱), or the central pillar, runs through the center of the pagoda and connects all 5 stories. The pillar runs 3 meters deep into the ground and rest on a huge stone foundation. Because there are frequent earthquakes in Japan, the pillar uses flexible wooden joints to help the structure absorb the seismic energy. The Shinbashira is made of Japanese Cypress (Hinoki), It’s been discovered that this pillar was felled in the year 594!
There are many other noteworthy buildings in Horyu-ji and area. The ancient capital of Nara is just a short train ride away, so please don’t miss it when you visit Kyoto!
Even though Suikoushya International Craft School is now up and running in France, our Kyoto workshop will still continue to operate and we want to welcome you when you’re in Kyoto!
Here in Kyoto you can explore the many different wooden architectural treasures of Japan!