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Japanese Architecture

Japanese Architecture

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Published by Minh Tu Nguyen

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Published by: Minh Tu Nguyen on May 12, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Japanese architecture has a very long history that reflects Japanese culture, climate and history. Themost recent discovery dated the first presence of people in Japan from the Old Stone Age. Due tothe evidence was found, ancient people made their dwellings with wooden frame work and coveredwith the branches of trees. The floor sunk into the ground about 16-40 inches and the dimension isabout 13-20 feet width.In the Neolithic time, huts appeared in some area of Japan. They were built at the ground level witha structure, which supported the roof and define the interior space by walls. Until the pre-Christiancenturies, huts were elevated from above the ground level due to the weather. However, thearchitectural method was kept the same. A long horizontal beam ran across the hut to hold the roof and it was supported by the crossed poles along the roof line.In Asuka Period (A.D.552-645), Japanese culture and architecture was influenced by Chinese. Budismwas introduced to Japan and religious architecture started to form. Moreover, Chinese architecturaltechniques, urban planning and house arrangement were also brought to Japan, along with ricecultivation. As the spread of rice cultivation in Japan, the population increased faster and morecomplex. They had more children and needed more space in the house. Thus, the houses wereexpanded in order to have more space for living and storing rice. In the fifth century, some emperialresidential building was erected in Asuka and Fujiwara. Together with public houses, residentialhouses, and temples, emperial building created an early appearance of a capital.Under Shotoky emperor, Buddism was supported by the royal and a numerous of Buddist templeswere constructed. One of the oldest wooden temples was Horyuji , built in 607, near Nara. It wasused as the private temple for Prince Shotoku and consisted 41 buildings, including five-story-pagoda (Goju-no-to), main worship hall (Kondo), lecture hall, and an inner gate. The plan followedChinese monastery layout with the principal entrance gate facing south and all main componentsaligning symmetrically through a north-south axis. Kondo was built in the style of Chinese worshiphalls in Tang dynasty. It is two-story high with a rectangle plan, lifted up by a stone platform. Thereare wenty eight pilasters holding up the ceramic tiled-hip-gablet roof.
 Heijokyo, modern day Nara was the first capital of the state, founded in 710 with a reactangle plan.Its structure and architecture were inspired by Chinese Tang palace. It contains a complex of buildings with a garden in the central and main building facing South. A few years later, it became anBuddhist centre and many monasteries were built. One of the most grandiose temples in Heijokyo atthat time was Toshodaiji, founded in 770 by Ganjin, a Chinese priest was summoned to Japan fromTang dynasty in order to re-establish the rules of Buddhism as well as train the priests . It is acombination of Chinese and Japanese architecture,using wood and stone. The Kondo (main hall) has8 pilars in front of the hall and four statues of Shinennozo in four corners of the hall. The network of temples in Japan represent a big development of architecture, art and craft as well as signalled adeep penetration of Buddhism and Chinese culture into Japan.In 784, the emperor Kwammu decided to move his residence to Nagaoka (Kyoto nowadays) and anew capital was contructed. In 794, the first foundation of the city was laid and a new urban begun.The layout was not really different from that of Nara with a 3.1 by 2.8 mile rectangle plan. However,Kyotos palaces, private dwellings and temple network had its own character, representing theoriginal Japanese taste and culture. Although the buildings were still inspired by Chinese models, theuse of materials, construction methods and techniques had a big turn with brick roofing tiles, thatchand tree bark roof covering, wooden structure, with motar and stone wall elements. The buildingwere supported by a system of pilasters underneath. The walls were extended from the mainsupports as the curtains, dividing the interior space. The measurement unit used at that time wasken, approximately 10 feet long. The buildings were placed symmetrically on a central axis with alarg inner garden. Under Chinese influence, the garden also had a lake, connecting two shores by asmall wooden or stone bridge. The lake was usually designed with rocks, which symbolizedmountains. Nowadays, this style of garden is quite popular, called Feng Shui lake. It harmonizesbetween nature and man-made things, between architecture and landscape, between vegetationand the other tectonics such as fountain, ponds, streams or rocks. In Asia, they believe it will bringhealth and good luck to the occupants in the house. An example for the residential architecture inHeian period was Byodoin. The pavilion was built in the 11
century with a series of halls andgalleries facing to the lake. The interior was painted and decorated with polychrome lacquer, mother of pearl and gilded copper. The beams were usually painted with lacquer or decorated with thin
metal sheets. Japanese architecture became more decorative, leading to a new direction in thehistory of Japanese architecture. The wooden structure originally left raw, was now painted in red orcinnabar and decorated with many details. Beams and hips now were curved and became morecomplex. The eaves were now supported by brackets and also placed between thepillars andarchitraves. In the mean time, two new architectural styles were introduced to Japan, which areIndian style (Tenjikuyo) and Chinese style from Southern China (Karayo). During the civil wars, a largenumber of temples were destroyed and now were reconstructed in Tenjikuyo style with largebeams placed rigidly orthogonal manner and an increase of bracket orders. On the other hand,Karayo style used the old rectangular plan with the main elements placed symmetrically along thecentral axis. However, Karayo buildings had some sculptural decoration, and typical yoke arch at theportico, which softened the ninearity of the structure and made the buildings became more artisticand decorative.In Muromachi period (1333-1573), Buddhism became less important and the number of pagodasalso declined. Along with Zen, a new style of Yan and Ming dynasties was introduced to Japan with aluxurious and ostentatious tendency. Gold and bright colours in interiors were used to symbolizethe wealth and richness of the upper class in the society at that time. One of the finest buildings inthis building was a three story building, Kinkakuji, which was founded in the end of 14
century. Itsinterior was richly decorated with lacquer and inlaid -golden pattern. The second and top roof werecovered by the austere bark. Another example for luxurious and decorative architecture in thisperiod was the silver pavilion, Ginkakuji in 15
century, which was founded for a circle of artists andmonks.The tea ceremony and tea tradition were introduced to Japan by Zen masters and became popular,following by the new formulation of tea hall and tea pavilion planning in residential architecture. Theslender rafters and pillars supported the whole roof structure. The outer walls were also achievedwith sliding door structure and created the wide broad open surfaces. Together with organicarchitectural style, garden design also developed. The central garden with lake, bridge and islandswere no longer preffered, but rather than Ryoanji garden, which can be viewed from different pointsof the building. The art of object placement in the garden was also varied, for example water withsand symbolized for ford or rocks standing in the water symbolized for islands.In 1542, the first European landed in Japan and brought their Western civilazation together withthem to Japan. Then, Japanese culture and architecture were no longer influenced by Chinese buttoward the Western styles. The floor plans, which had been raised on a stone platform, were nowconstructed on the ground level. The buildings had larger scale with thicker walls and higher level.Wooden structure was replaced by the reinforced mansionry structure standing on the massivestone foundation. Some examples of the architecture in Momoyama period (1573-1614) were thecastles of Matsumoto, Kumamoto and Hijemi.In Yedo period (1615- 1867), the castle of Yedo (Tokyo nowadays) was chosed to become a new seatof the Tokugawa shogunate. In first half of the 17
century, a number of feudal lords were invited tocollaborate with the government to build their new residences in Yedo and made it become thelargest city of the country in a century with a complex network of roads and canals. It representednot only the place of state administration but also the biggest trading centre. In 1700, the populationin Yedo reached to more than million. As the result, more residential buildings were required. The

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