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Wooden pagodas are the traditional devotional buildings of Japan

Posted in Architecture, Politics, Religion on Wednesday, 30 May 2012

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This edited article about Horyu-ji originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 714 published on 20 September 1975.

Hayato Ikeda, picture, image, illustration

Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda pictured next to a traditional Japanese pagoda

The vast temple of Horyu-ji is to be found at Nara in Southern Japan. It covers a huge area and is made up of many wooden buildings and one spectacular main pagoda.

With forests covering 60% of Japan, it is understandable that nearly all the older buildings there are of wood. Because Japan is prone to earthquakes, wooden buildings are easy to replace.

Wood has been the basic building material throughout the history of Japan. The grains and textures of the structural members are never covered in paint. Rather, they are polished and varnished to enhance their natural lustre and beauty.

In 538 A.D. Buddhism spread from Asia to Japan and exerted a tremendous influence on arts and architecture. As a result of this, the temple of Horyu-ji was built in 607 A.D. The design of the pagoda with one roof upon another supported by deep eaves, symbolises clouds rising heavenwards.

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