Japan may not have as many travelers as its developed counterparts, but its wealth of tourist destinations and World Heritage Sites is not in doubt. One such site is the Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area of Nara Prefecture.
The property is home to 2 temples – The Horyu-ji Temple and the Hokki-ji Temple. The Horyu-ji Temple occupies an area of 14.6 hectares and is home to about 21 ancient wooden structures. On the other hand, the Hokki-ji Temple is much smaller and occupies an area of 0.7 hectares. In the surrounding area, you are going to find some additional 27 wooden structures.
The Horyu-ji Buddhist monuments are the oldest Buddhist monuments in Japan, dating shortly after Buddhism was introduced in the country. The monuments have had a profound influence on the Buddhist architecture that came up after them.
Of the wooden structures found at Horyu-ji Temple, 11 date back to the 7th and 8th century…a fact that makes them the oldest wooden structures in the world. Despite fire having destroyed the original wooden structures in 670, there are structural remains found in the precinct of Wakakusa Garan on the south east of West Temple (Sai-in). The destroyed buildings were rebuilt immediately and work on the new buildings commenced to the early years of the 8th century.
The architectural design of the structures is similar to the Chines Bay System. This system involves post and lintel bracketing, a design used to transfer the heavy tiled roof’s weight to massive wooden columns. They feature some skillful use of entasis on columns.
Not only are these monuments important to history and art, but also in the illustration of adoption of Chinese Buddhist architecture into Japan. The introduction of Chinese Buddhism into Japan via Korean Peninsula was what led to the construction of Horyu-ji. The temple was always under the protection of the imperial family of Japan. In particular, the cult of Prince Shotoku that flourished in the 12th century attracted many pilgrims to the temple, earmarking it as one of the holiest places in Japanese Buddhism.
Whether you are in Japan for business or leisure, you are well advised to ensure you visit these important Japanese Buddhism monuments.