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A comparative Review of the Shinto and Buddhist Architectural Model

The important characteristics of civilization as regards historical evaluation of any region in the world can be shown to have a strict close relation with the architectural ideologies peculiar to that region. On the other hand, these ideologies are based on religious as well socioeconomic factors. These factor are the only required parameters for the adequate demonstration of cultural interactions, shared social values, and common political beliefs. A good instance of these facts and findings is portrayed in the Japans religious architectures such as the Buddhist temple architecture.

The Buddhist temples were built in a manner that depicts some sort of comprehensive interaction between Japan and the East Asian mainland. Thus, one can easily notice some striking similarities in the temple designs of China and Japan. Buddhism was inherited from India during the 6th century BCE ( Before Common Era ). It first gained popularity into multi-ethnic populations in China and was widely revered owing to its appealing virtue to which carried along the entire populace.

Its doctrine stresses that personal salvation is ultimately attainable if one can afford to deny himself some strong materialistic desires in oder to attain a strong interpersonal relationship with the deity. Furthermore, the influence of Buddhist structural designs to Japanese architecture can be traced to the 6th century Korean and Chinese temple design. These temples were built in dedication to the worship of Buddha. The compounds are characterized by several buildings, which were built for the sole purpose of housing Buddhist monks and so on. These buildings include the main hall or pagoda as well as the lecture hall.

It also exists in a bell tower, the dormitory, the dining hall and a storehouse for sutras. Japanese architecture is essentially categorized into four basic architectural modeling foundations influenced by the Buddhist architecture, the Shinto architecture, the Design concept and Modern architecture. The Shinto architecture whose traditional purpose was to serve as a shrine for “Shinto” is characterized by the presence of a shinden popularly known as “honden” or sanctuary. The Japanese national spirit (i. e. ancestral worship) is believed to be symbolically attached to this architectural model.

Thus, the number of Shinto shrines in Japan is estimated to be about one hundred thousand. The Shinto architecture in greatly characterized by a common belief, based upon the existence or presence of deities. “Shintoism is the belief that a kami (deity) lives in practically every natural object ranging from volcanoes and mountains, to waterfalls, rocks and trees. The kami is kept in Shinto shrines and are where people can worship”. 1 The organization of Shinto shrines is a direct function of the nature of the surroundings in which it is to be located.

Pairs of lion-like statues known as komainu in front of the main halls or the gates are very common features of these shrines. Traditional and General Perception of the Buddhist and Shinto Architecture Japanese locals are commonly known as faithful observers of the traditional rites of both the Shinto and Buddhist religions. Thus, the Shinto shrines for instance, are very common sites for hosting local festivals such as traditional wedding and funeral ceremonies, even if the couple were basically a Christians. This is the Japanese spirit as was earlier mentioned.

The above fact reveals that Shinto and Buddhist beliefs are no doubt a general way of life among Japanese and consequently influence their judgments as well as ideologies in all aspects of life, including their contemporary belief system, arts, traditional architecture, and garden design (including flower arrangements or ikebana). Other instances of the above facts are evident in such common Japanese practices as the use of wooden chopsticks for eating food, removing shoes before the entrance of buildings, and cultural festivals such as traditional wrestling ceremonies.

Thesis Statement The average contemporary Japanese architecture can be shown to derive its basic structural designs from the fifteenth century Buddhist designs that created delicate residential places, which include a complex roof structure and timber frame built to span large spaces thereby creating the physical framework for simple clean floor plans. This is a direct derivation of the both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, which demands the reverence of nature. Thus, the contemporary Japanese home have certain peculiarity in terms of interior architectural decorations.

Hence, they are always found to have tatami mats, shoji panels and small private garden, which came partly from the architectural patterns of the Daimyo rulers in designing spaces for enjoying nature and the simple pleasure of sharing a bowl of tea. As a statement of thesis, one can therefore infer that these homes and their surroundings are basically designed to accommodate social gatherings of various kinds. Thus, it can easily be noted that the traditional Japanese architectural design have little or no provision for private spaces.

This aspect of the design is in fact a unique identity that is championed by most of Japan’s traditional architects. Conceptual Evaluation of the Buddhist and Shinto Models of Architecture With the introduction of Buddhism which basically had its origin in India and china, Japan adopted an architectural pattern which owes its peculiarity to the Chinese religious temple designs. This pattern of architecture was used widely and the emulation continued throughout the eight century. This Chinese pattern of architecture also has a lot of influence on Shinto shrine architecture.

Thus it used the Gardner Chinese styles of the Buddhist temples. Eventually the integration of Shinto and Buddhist temples were introduced into one complex architectural design. Thus, the architectural designs found in today’s Japanese homes reveal some elements of Buddhist and Shinto architectural patterns. Historical Evaluation After the introduction of Buddhism in Japan in the year 538, there came an influx of architects based in the Korean peninsula. These architects uniquely demonstrated new techniques that reflected Buddhist architectural style of designs.

The influence of such foreign architectural ideologies continued and is usually categorized into various eras including Nara period (710-794), and Muromachi period (1333-1573). These are discussed in greater details below. Common Norms and Values correlating the Structural Designs It was mentioned earlier that both Buddhism and Shintoism share a common value for nature. Thus, their architectural designs are both characterized by the provision of gardens and other nature outfits. Thus the temples are always characterized by the a remarkable display of natures beauty.

Both religions also tries to covey several messages of spirituality to both members and prospective members. These messages are often portrayed using various artifacts which in most case are statues. The status may be used to convey various messages about the deities or about the holy sites and so on. Influences on the contemporary Japanese Architecture Architecture influences of the Nara period (710-794) are characterized by the Tang style whose basic nature included stable and balanced proportions. The design laid much emphasis on structure than ornamentation.

The lecture hall of Toshodaiji, a temple in Nara, is one of the finest representations of this style. The perfection of the shoin-zukuri style as a domestic architecture was witnessed during the Muromachi period (1333-1573). The style is the predecessor of the style of the contemporary Japanese architectural designs, which are characterized by tatami mats forming floor coverings. Japan is the one of the world’s leading economies and many who have no yet visited the region may start to wonder if modernization has left any visual remains of the traditional architectural design for which it is usually known for.

It is thus interesting to know that In spite of vast modern transformation, Japanese architectural traditions are far from being completely eradicated. Thus , there is are still preserved culture s such as those which are typical of most Asian countries and which include the removal shoes before the entrance of a home. This practice is widespread even to some Westernized homes. “The Meiji Restoration in 1868 introduced modern architectural techniques to Japan, but there was a reversal in this trend in the 1880’s with an outcry for more Asian models.

Change was reiterated after World War I, when architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruno Taut came to Japan, a reassessment of traditional Japanese architecture took place”. 2 Efforts to unite traditional and contemporary architectural ideologies continued after World War II, thus, there were such designs as those of Tange Kenzo’s design of the Yoyogi National Stadium Located in Tokyo. Kenzo who is considered one of Japans greatest pioneer of modern architecture, managed to blend traditional architecture with advances scientifically and technologically.

Japan today faces huge architectural challenges. The biggest challenge has now shifted from the mere struggle to preserve its architectural traditions in the face of modernity to the preservation of massive infrastructural destruction such as those caused by earthquake and other natural disasters. Thus trying to raise buildings that will resist these constraints is a steady challenge. However, the technological advancements for which Japan is known for has afforded it the ability to overcome most of these challenges.

Thus, Japan is Known to have used the latest earthquake technology at the time they built their first skyscraper in 1968, the Kasumigaseki Building. After this successful feat, other skyscrapers soon followed. Critical Analysis and Conclusion As mentioned earlier, Japanese architecture is essentially categorized into four basic architectural modeling foundations influenced by the Buddhist architecture, the Shinto architecture, the Design concept and Modern architecture.

The modern design concept seems to be faced with the stiffest challenges as compared to the previous eras of architectural development. This is because it fights several wars which include; efforts to preserve the cultural norms and values entailed in the traditional architectural designs of the Buddhist and Shinto religion, efforts to preserve nature which is a common reverence of an average Japanese society, and finally efforts to apply the best scientific approach to erect structures that will not be prone to attack from natural forces of disaster such as earthquakes.

End Notes 1. http://www. asianinfo. org/asianinfo/japan/architecture. htm 2. Ibid. Bibliography Hartz, P. Shinto; World Religions Facts on File. 1997 Picken, D. B. Japan’s Spiritual Roots. Tokyo: Kodansha International. 1980 Reader, I. Simple Guide To Shinto. England: Global Books, Ltd. 1998 Sokyo, O. Shinto, The Kami’s Way. Rutland, V. T: Charles E. Tuttle. 1995

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