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he prehistory of India is largely an account of shelter and feed the population. Rising forty feet above the

T settlements along the Indus Valley and its

associated coastal plain, now part of the modern
countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where
various regional cultures flourished from ca. 3000 BCE. Its
mature phase lasted about 1000 years, starting in about
plain, Mohenjo-Daro's citadel also had a great stepped
bath measuring thirty by forty feet that is thought to have
served some ritual function . However, there are no clearly
identified large shrines or temples like those found in
Egypt or Mesopotamia. Small figurines suggest a reverence
2700 BCE, when Harappa (in the northeast portion of the for trees and animals, a mother goddess cult, and a male
valley) and Mohenjo-Daro (on the Indus, nearly 400 god that may be the precursor of the later Hindu deity
miles to the southwest) seem to have functioned as the Shiva. Water and fire may have been associated with
leading cities of an extensive region. Many details about rituals that are still not understood.
the culture remain sketchy, for there is no agreement In contrast to both Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Indus
among scholars concerning the decipherment of the settlements seem to have been relatively egalitarian soci-
Harappan script, which has over 400 characters; in any eties. There are neither palaces nor royal tombs, and no
case, much of the surviving writing is found on personal great temple complexes to indicate a concentration of
seals, which hold little promise of revealing much about power and wealth. Excavated residential areas of Mohenjo-
the civilization. The basis of the economy was agriculture, Daro, the best-preserved and most extensive city, esti-
facilitated by irrigation and periodic flooding of the rivers. mated to have had a population of 40,000, show tightly
There was also commerce, both internal and with packed houses organized around internal courtyards that
settlements in southern Arabia and Mesopotamia, as a were open to the sky for light and air. The plans vary, but
result of which some external cultural influences were all houses presented virtually blank fac;:ades to the street,
adopted. Literate civilization in the Indus Valley was later as external openings were set high in the perimeter walls.
in developing and of shorter duration than in Rooms were small, perhaps because there was a scarcity of
Mesopotamia or Egypt, but the region over which it wood to serve as beams for second floors and roof
exercised control was larger. Over 1000 Harappan sites framing. While the buildings themselves do not seem
have been identified across an area of nearly 500,000 elegant in terms of architectural refinement, the clear
square miles. urban layout, careful provision of a water supply through
Archaeology reveals that Harappan settlements were wells, and drainage and sewer systems are without parallel
laid out according to an orderly grid oriented to the cardi- at the time and are marks of an efficient, highly organized
nal directions. Orthogonal town plans are generally an society.
indication of a high level of central governmental control, Reasons for the rapid decline of Harappan culture by
and that seems to have been the case in Harappan culture. about 1700 BCE are disputed, but natural factors (changes
Buildings were durable, being constructed of fired bricks in river courses, failure of irrigation systems, earthquakes)
of uniform size throughout the region, and houses were and incursions by northern ethnic groups appear to have
provided with underground drains connected to a well-
planned sewer system. As the cities were built on plains
beside the river, flooding seems to have been a constant
menace. Mohenjo-Daro (Figs. 3.1-3 .2) was repaired at
least nine times after damaging floods . Cities accordingly
featured a walled, terraced citadel on high ground, pro- Chronology
vided with ceremonial buildings, large public storehouses
beginning of cultures in the Indus Valley 3000 BCE
for grain, and mills which could be used in time of peril to
occupation of Mohenjo-Daro 2400-2000 BCE
composition of the Vedas 1500-900 BCE
life of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) 563-483 BCE
Alexander the Great in the Indus Valley 326 BCE
construction of the Great Stupa, Sanchi begun 250 BCE
Ka nd ariya Mahadeva Temple, Khajuraho, 1025- 50. sculpting of the Great Buddha, Bamiyan 7th century CE
This view shows the plinth and entrance terrace in the construction of Ankhor Wat begun ca. 1120 CE
~~eground. From this angle, the orderly progression of roof
sses simulates a mountain range.





Granary !!
3.1 Plan of Mohenjo-Daro, Indus Valley, ca. 2400-2000 SCE. ::
The city was located on a plain beside the river, with a higher
citadel section (left) that featured granaries and a large ii
stepped bath. Shaded areas represent residential quarters ,~======-==rr---
that have been excavated, with one section (top center),
showing orthogonal outlines of the foundations. As the
valley was subject to flooding, storage of foodstuffs on a !!
high point was a sensible precaution.
3.2 View of the remains of Mohenjo-Daro, Indus Valley,
ca. 2400-2000 BCE.
Excavations of Mohenjo-Daro began in the 19201. when
archaeologists uncovered remains of the citadel and portions
of the lower-lying residential area. Bricks made to a uniform
size are the major construction materials used. 100m

1100 ft

64 CHA l'I Ei'. 3 TH[ ARCH l fEC lURE or ANC IEN l I ND I A A

played a part. Harappan cities ceased to be inhabited, and RELIG IONS OF INDIA
over the ne,'Ct two centuries the counttyside was raided by
nomads from the north. In about 1500 BCE migrations by Since religious buildings assume such a prominent posi -
A1yan tribes from eastern Iran began, and the Aryans even- tion in Indian architecture, it is necessary to understand
tually spread over the Indian subcontinent, displacing the rudiments of the faiths that inspired their construc-
indigenous settlements. By 500 BCE their lndo-European tion . During the sixth century BCE , the Indian subconti-
language, the original root of many of the languages of nent witnessed the development of three major religions
Europe as well as Sanskrit in India, had displaced native that all shared a general belief in the transmigration of
tongues, a sign of cultural dominance. There was an ethnic souls. This doctrine, which was as pervasive in India as the
factor here too: the invading Aryans were light-skinned in belief in life after death was in ancient Egypt, held that
comparison to the darker-skinned native Indian popula- living souls passed through an endless cycle of rebirth and
tions. The distinction between conqueror and conquered suffering. In somewhat differing ways, Hinduism, Bud-
became the earliest basis for the caste system that still dhism, and Jainism proposed means by which people
operates in Indian society today. could transcend the sorrow of temporal existence.
Out of the confusion attending the migrations arose
numerous small principalities. At about the time Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Alexander the Great was leading his army to the Indus Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
(326 BCE) , a young member of the Mamya tribe, Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit
Chandragupta, succeeded in bringing much of northern for ever;
India under his command, eventually controlling most of Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it
what today is Pakistan and the eastern sections of seems!
Afghanistan as well. The empire continued to expand into Who knoweth it exhaustless, self-sustained,
southern India under his son and then grandson, Asoka Immortal, indestructible,-shall such say, "I have killed a
(reigned 272 - 232 BCE), perhaps the greatest prince of the man, or caused to kill?"
Maurya line and, as far as architecture is concerned, the Nay, but as when one layeth his worn-out robes away,
first ruler of consequence. Asoka advanced the art of And, taking new ones, sayeth, "These will I wear to-day 1"
building in stone, bringing masons and stonecutters from So putteth by the spirit lightly its garb of flesh,
Persia to construct monumental freestanding pillars, And passeth to inherit a residence afresh.
excavate caves for religious hermitages, and improve Bhagavad Gita (translated by Sir Edwin Arnold)
Buddhist shrines. His works have survived, and they will
be considered below in the discussion of early Buddhist The common background for all three religions was a
architecture. synthesis of traditional beliefs indigenous to the Indian
A study of the ancient architecture in India and South- peninsula and sacrificial cults brought by Aryans from the
east Asia is to a very large extent an examination of the north. The oldest sacred writings, the Vedas, date from
development of temple architecture, for there are few 1500 to 900 BCE. They contain hymns and prescribe
structures not erected for religious purposes that have sur- rituals for worship of a pantheon of gods identified with
vived the passage of time. Temples were the primary build- the natural elements. From an early date, there was also a
ings erected in durable materials, stone and brick, while cosmology that invoked the joining of male and female as
houses and even palaces were constructed of less perma- a metaphor for the union of the individual with the Uni-
nent wood, thatch, or stuccoed rubble and are therefore versal. Simple shrines gave physical expression to this idea
preserved only incidentally as, for example, in the back- through a linga, or upright stone emblematic of the male
grounds of scenes carved on temples. Princes, kings, and element, surrounded at the base by a yoni, or concentric
occasionally wealthy merchants were the major patrons of circles representing the female principle. Observation of
masonry temples, and thus architectural developments religious rites and sacrifices required to maintain proper
and religious preferences are closely related to political relationships between people and the gods was entrusted
dynasties. In the period under consideration (up until to a group of priests or Brahmins, who came to hold con-
about 1000 CE), the Indian subcontinent was not a siderable power within society. Ascetic cults that devel-
unified country, although a certain level of cultural conti- oped during this period promoted the view that the
nuity was afforded by religious ties. A closer examination physical world is but a small part of a much greater cycle
of Indian architecture would recognize the development of birth, death, and rebirth, and they offered their follow-
of regional styles and the influences of powerful dynasties, ers guidance for escaping repeated reincarnations.
but these will be given less emphasis here in the interests Partly in reaction to the dominance of the Brahmin
priests and their elaborate rituals, a number of individuals
of creating a broad overview.
sought simpler means to religious understanding and
ethical living. Two lasting religious movements-Jainism,
which is still practiced by about two million Indians, and

Buddhism, one of the world's m ajor religions, which is reverence to the gods and the elimination of passions. Of
now vinually ext inct in India but flourishes elsewhere- the innumerable Hindu deities, many with mul tiple and
were founded by identifiable historic;il figures. Jainism sharply differing aspects, there a re three supreme gods:
was inspired by the life of Vardhamana, also known as Sh iva. Vishnu. and Brahma. Shiva, the great lo rd w hose
~lahavira (great hero) and Jina (the victor) . In 546 BCE essential characteristic is procreative energy, but w ho can
Vardhama na found his version of the path to salvation in also be the great destroyer, has as his conson Devi, the
a complete rejection of the complex form ulations of the mother goddess. whose alternate form includes Kali the
Brahm ins. He taught that escape from the world's unhap- destroyer. Shiva's mount is the bull Nandi. Vishnu is the
pi ness was attainable o nly through rigorous asceticism to creator who embodies mercy and goodness, som etimes
purify the soul a nd by maintaining reverence for all living youthful romance, but who also has powers of destruc-
creatures. His followers, m ostly merchants and bankers tion . His conson , Lakshmi, is the goddess of wealth, and
whose livelihoods enabled them to avoid a ll forms of vio- his mount is the eagle Caruda. Brahma, the creator who is
lence against an imals, established Jainism (literally, reli- reborn period ically from a lotus growing in the navel of
gion of Jina), in which panicipants seek to acquire the sleeping Vishnu, has as his conson Sarasvati, patroness
spiritual merit th rough charity, good works, and, when- of learning and music.
ever possible, monastic retreats. In architectural terms,
Jaini temples never developed a distinctive style, borrow-
ing elem ents instead from o ther religio us groups. EA RLY BUDD HIST SHRINES
In co ntra~t. th e re ligion fo unded by Siddhanha
Gautama (c;i. 563-ca. 483 RCE ) was destined to become a The Buddha had no t prescribed any panicular architec-
major influence o n architecture, no t o nly in India, but tural seuing for worship, but his disciples established
also in Sri Lanka, C hina, Tibet, and southeast Asia. Bo rn shrines to give permanent form to thei r religion. The first
into a wealthy fami ly, Gautama left his wife and fonune to shrines were created after the death of the Buddha, when
travel as a beggar and seek a n understand ing of the causes his cremated remains were divided by his followers and
of suffering. After six years o f ascetic monification and placed in ten locations associated with his life and teach-
con templation, he achieved enlightenment while siuing ing. To mark these places, a si mple mo und of rubble and
under th e bodhi tree. Gauta ma's Four Noble Truths pro- eanh known as a stupa was erected over the relics, in a
claimed that the world was wonhless, that ignorance must manner compa rable to traditional chaityas, or village
be overcome, that vain craving could be renounced memo rials, where the ashes of deceased leaders were
th rough yoga, and that the true path 10 salvatio n lay in the placed in a mound, often located on the outskins of their
middl e way between self-indulgence and self-monifi ca- seulement. It was this traditional form and placement that
ti o n. These Truths, in conjunctio n with the Eight-fold Way served as the genesis of later Buddhist architecture. In
( righ t views, resolve, speech, conduct, livelihood, effo n , time, Buddhist monks settled in the vicinity of stupas to
reco ll ectio n, and meditation) , fo rmed the basis of his form viharas, or small monasteries of individual cells
teachings, which were intended 10 enable his disciples 10 organized around open coun s. Their rituals included
overcome worldly suffering caused by hum an desires and walking around (circumambulat ing) the stu pa whil e
thu~ to achieve nirvana o r liberatio n fro m the eternal cycle chanting verses fro m scripture. A processional path, gener-
of birth and rebinh. Buddhism, the religion he inspired, ally followed in a clockwise direction, remains central to
took its nam e fro m the word "Buddha, " the Enlightened Buddhist temple design .
One, the nam e given to Gautama aft er hi s conversio n. As
initially expounded, the religion required neither complex
worship rituab nor a specifi c architectural context. 3.3 Diagram illustrating the origin of the stupa.
·11ie religio n of the Brahm ins, which evolved into Hin- The traditional pract,ce of placmg stones and eanh
over the graves of distingu11hed people e1'0lved ,nto
duism, responded to Jainism and Buddhism by incorpo-
the construction of a hemispherical form that
rating popul ar d evotio nal images o f gods and spirits into incorporated the cosmolog,cal associations of a rncle
it~ rituals of worship and making these rituals relate more (,n plan). the world mountain and dome of the
heavens. and the ven,cal world a1is.
closely to people's daily lives. 1linduism, which remains
the major religion in India today, had no single founder,
and it ~till has no clearly defined religious hierarchy.
Esst'nt ia l 10 it~ bdil'.fs are 11ccep1ance of the Vedas as sacred
tt'x ts, and mai ntenance of the caste structure, whereby
society i~ o rga nized immutably into four classes (priests,
wa rriors, merchants/ craftsmen, and laborers) . Hindus
hold that e;ich ind ividua l accumul ates the consequences
of bo th good and b;id actio ns thro ugh a series of lifetimes
and pursue\ freedom fro m the cycle of rebinh through

Ii,. ,· l,

/ :ii!~~-
/?.,-_-:. .. ,-~

3.4 Great Stupa, Sanchi, ca. 250 BCE- 250 CE.

The elevation-like view shows a torana (gate), a portion of
the verdica (fence), and, on top of the mound, the chatra Verdica or fence
(stylized bodhi tree), which symbolizes the tree under which
the Buddha received enlightenment.

3.5 Plan of the Great Stupa, Sanchi, ca. 250 ecE-250 CE.
This plan shows the four gates and their bent-axis entry
design that creates a swastika, perhaps linked to ancient sun
symbols. Openings correspond to the cardinal directions. Harmica or railing
Stairs on the south side lead to the elevated
circumambulation path used by priests.

The oldest smv1vmg Buddhist stupas were enlarged

with successive coverings or constructed anew during the
reign of Asoka, the early Indian emperor who was con-
verted to Buddhism. Through his contacts with Persian
architecture and the Hellenistic world, Asoka brought to
India builders proficient in the art of stonework, which
until this time had not been used in construction. He also
caused the roads leading to Buddhist shrines to be marked
with tall columns inscribed with Buddhist teachings,
4 Circumambulation path

known afterward as Asoka columns. These featured orna- O~-== ==JO~ft
mental carving clearly modeled on Persian originals (see
Fig. 1.17) . Whereas the columns in Persian architecture
supported a roof, in India they were freestanding elements
used as commemorative markers in the landscape. which the Buddha received enlightenment. The triple
Under Asoka's patronage, the original simple stupas parasol was emblematic of royalty, and its supporting stalk
were enlarged and new shrines were created. All were reg- symbolized the axis of the world passing through the
ularized into hemispherical forms, reflecting the simplic- precise center of the hemispherical form of the stupa,
ity of the circle in plan, section, and elevation and creating symbol of the heavenly dome.
a symbolic link to the cyclical nature of existence (Fig. The monastery at Sanchi, founded by Asoka and
3.3). To provide for greater permanence, the stupas were enlarged over the next 500 years, illustrates the funda-
faced with brick or stone. To indicate their sacred charac- mental elements of Buddhist shrines in India. The Great
ter, they were protected by a verdica, or enclosing fence, Stupa, originally constructed as a mound about seventy
that delimited the path for circumambulation . And to feet in diameter, grew to become a dome that was almost
mark their special association with the Buddha, they were 120 feet in diameter and fifty-four feet in height (Figs.
crowned with a harmica, or square railing, and a chatra, 3.4- 3.5) . At its top, the stupa is crowned by a chatra set
or three-tiered umbrella form, stylized stone versions of inside a harmica. Its base is encircled by a two-tiered
the sacred enclosure fence and famous bodhi tree under ambulatory: the upper level is reserved for priests, leaving



materials employed for the shrines, viharns were con-

structed of wood, and only their masonry foundations
survive 10 indicate their layouts, which in many respects are
an enlargement of the courtyard house already familiar
from the early Indus Valley constructions and also used
throughout Mediterranean civilizations. Buddhist monks
lived in simple cell s that were grouped around a square or
rectangular open cou rt containing community facil ities,
including the water supply. Sanchi also featured several
enclosed chaitya halls, buildings permitting year-round
devotions by enclosing a small stupa al th e end of a rec-
tangular hall. The end of the hall embracing the stupa was
curved to refl ect the shape contained within, and thus
created an architectural form that could be erected as a free-
standing structure raised on a base, or plinth, as in the so-
ca lled Temple 18 at Sanchi, or excavated from solid rock, as
in the temples cut into cliffs at Ajanta, Ellora, and Karli.

3.7 The verdica and torana, Sanchi, ca. lSO ecc-150 CL

A1 seen from the inside, the space for circumambulation is
effectively screened from the outside world by the stone
rails of the fence.

3.6 The torana (gate) and verdica (fence), Sanchi, ca. lSO
ecc-lSO cc.
l he verdica "compo1ed of massive 11one1, treated in a
manner analogous to wooden comtruct,on, wh,le the
torana1 are richly carved.

the ground level p.11h for pilgrim use. Enclos ing the stupa
is a m;issive stone verd ica (Fig. 3.6), nine feet in height,
with fo ur carved g.11es ;it the c;irdinal points of th e
romp.1ss. The co nstructi on of this fence shows how early
m;isons were influen ced by wooden constructi on. Oct.1go-
11al upright posts ;ind rounded horizontal rails repli cate
forms already famili ;i r in wood, reinterpreted here 0 11 a
much l.1rger srn le. The elabornte toranas, or entra nce gates
(Fig. 3.7), ;idded in ;ibout 25 BCE, reflect bamboo proto-
types. When built in stone, however, the size incre;ised ;ind
it became possible, as here, to embellish th e work with
c;i rved 11gures representing l.luddhist legends, symbolism
1h.1 l may have been inspired by simil;ir work on Asoka
columns. The relative l.1ck of modeling on the 11gures
makes these gates seem more the work of wood ca rvers
than m;iso nry sculptors. All fo ur gates are set in front of
the enci rcling fence, and they ;ire p.1rt of a st.1ggered, or
ben t-.1xis, approach designed to reduce distr.1ctions
outside the sncred enclosure fro m disturbing the medita-
tions of pilgrims circumnmbulating the stupa.
Th e shrine al Sanchi is an accumulation of buildings
constructed over time, incl uding three stupas and viharas
for the monks (Fig. 3.8). In cont rnst to th e pemrnnent

I II Id' 11 I! l
68 TIii AR ( lllr[(]Ul!f o r AN(ILNI I ND I A AND SOU Tll f:ASf ASIA
Temple 45 built
within a vihara

Stupa 3 Great Stupa Temple 17 Temple 18 Temple 40

(Little Stupa)

3.8 Reconstruction view of the temple complex, Sanchi.

In the center is the Great Stupa, and to the right is the so-
called Temple 40, an early chaitya hall. The rectangular plan
3.9 Plan of and section through the cave temple, Karli,
building at the upper left is a vihara, a residence for monks,
ca. 100 BCE.
of which only the foundations remain.
Excavated in a rock cliff, this temple consists of a chaitya
hall with an ambulatory around the stupa shrine at the rear.
Two freestand ing columns (one now gone) flanked the
entrance. while stone and teakwood carvings screened the
opening to the cave.
Construction of these cave-temples coincided with a
period when the rulers of India's principalities favored
Brahmin practices, and Buddhism was the religion pri-
marily of wealthy merchants. Even though Buddhist
shrines were thus financed by substantial donations, the
monks increasingly sought remote sites for construction to
avoid conflicts with Brahmins. Rock cliffs and gorges pro-
vided isolated locations, and the living rock contained
durable material for masons to carve without their having
to enclose space with stone beams. At the great cave-
temple of Karli (Fig. 3.9), which dates from the first
century BCE, the chaitya hall faithfully replicates the form
and details of wooden architecture that provided its pro-
totype, including the semicircular arched ceiling patterned
after flexible bamboo structures. Karli's dimensions,
however, exceed those of wooden buildings of the period:
the hall is forty-five feet wide, a difficult span to achieve in ·r.•
timber, but one that presented no problem to the excava- ~ - , ,I
tors. Starting from the cliff face, which was smoothed and e
shaped to resemble the fac;:ade of a chaitya hall, workers
drove two tunnels 150 feet into the cliff to establish the
length of the temple, then enlarged the excavation to 0 rom
create a barrel-shaped ceiling with arched "ribs." Rock on 0
------ 60 ft


by C. Murray Smart

raders transported Indian iconography of China was in flu enced heave n. The ccntr.:il image of the

T design and iconography cast

by sea to Sou thea st Asia and
Indonesia and west through the
directly by the figures at Bamlyan .
The two Buddh.:i s illustra te th e cos-
mopo litan nature of the 13uddhist art
fresco ,1bovc the Bucldh.:i ·s he.:id Is a
sun god driving a ch ariot clr,1wn by
horses and ,,ttcnclcd by w inged .:ingcls.
mountain passes to Central Asia by at 13amiyan. They arc quite differe nt in It could be Apollo. or Surya. the Hi ndu
Si lk Road carava ns. The ma in text here style. In every respect except Its size, sun god . or pcrh.:ips Mithra . the
dea ls with the most spectacular exam- the sm.:illcr figure Is J typical Ganclh.:i - Persian sun god. ·Iwo of the fom
ples of Indian architecture in South - r.:in Buddha figure of the second or fl.:inklng ,,ngcl s h,wc hum.:in form and
east Asia-the grea t works at third century C E. Its construction Is arc inspired by Persian and Mcdltcr-
l3orobudur and Angkor. Equally Impor- Interesting. Only the b,1slc ,1rm.:iturc of r,1nc,111 prototypes; the other two ,,re
tant , however, is the great Buddhist th e body w as c.:irvcd; over the rough deri ved from Greek h.1 rples ,111d h,wc
pilgrimage complex of Bamiyan In ston e body and he.:id, f,1cl.:i l features bi rds ' feet.
w hat Is today Afghanista n; It was here and volumin ous clr.:ipery folds were The clr,,pl' r y llf the larger Llucldh,1
that the co lossal image of the Buddha modeled In pl .i stcr m.iclc of mud .incl was modeled on ropl' S ,1 tt,1chl•cl to
first appeared. 13a mlyan was th e str.:iw. The figure w.:is finished wit h J woock n dowel s drlwn Into till' stolll'
western terminus of three of the trade co.i tlng of lime- pla ster which was arm.iturt'. The r,•sult .in enormous
routes that connected China , India, painted ,incl gilded. At thl' thm• of rl·pllca of a l.ite G,1 13udclha
the Near East. and the type In wh ich the robe w,,s
Western world . At 13amiyan , rl'cll1n•cl to ,, ser ies of lilll'S
a great monastic comp lex th,11 clung to .incl revc,1lccl
more than a mile long wa s thl' body form brnl'Jth. Th is
carved Into a sandstone cliff st.,tue Is two et•n turil' S or
overlooking a fertile valley morl' l.iter In origin than the
between the I iindu Kush to sm.ilkr flgurl' : it prob,1bly
the ca st and the Koh - I- llaba cl,1tes from the fifth crntury
mountain range to tht• north - t: E. It st.incls In., trefoil
west. T he si te was visited in niche th,1 I creates ., cloubk•
th e seventh century by the h,11l1 .,bou t thl' b,1dy ,incl
Chinese pilgrim X u,1nzang hl•ad; thi s cloubk h,11t, was
w ho described It In glowing mud, rnplecl In both Chin,,
terms. Another famo us ,111d l,1p,111 .
visitor, Genghis Khan , app,1r- Thl'Sl' two figu res .ll'l' thl'
ently found less to admire: first L1f 111.:iny t:l1loss,1I
legend has it that he massa- I111,,gl'S of till· lluddha th,1 1
cred the en tire popu lation, WlHild appl',1I· througlwut
turning 13a miy,rn into tht· thl' lluddh lst world . llot h
deserted comp lex of today. Crl'l'Cl' ,111d Rllllll' prl,dUl'l'd
The mona ste ry Is tcrm i l'uk•ss,1I flglll'l'S th,1 1 Sl' rwd
nated at each end by a ,.,, l . .,. ,l s pI'llllll yp,·s. Am i lust ,ls
coloss,1I 13uddha statlIe (Fig. ~~ ~ till' rnk1ss.1I pl•rtr.1 II s,·ulp-
3. IOJ. The figure at the llll\'S llf i\lllll,111 l' i111'l'l'll rS
J.10 G11•,1t liuddh,1, 1l,1111lya11, AfKhartl1l ,111,
eastern end, deslgnall•d "Sakyamun l" 1wI'l' illll'll1bl ll• p11rtr,1 y tlwm .i s
l~lc Gr,ndhnr• •,(11001. '/ lh ttrtll11y.
by I isOan- tsang, Is 120 feet t,111; the lh•lr,hl l/lh (17111). dlvl1ll' ruk·rs l•f thl• 1Vl1rld , ihl' l\,1111ly.111
more spectacul,1r fi gure at the westl'rll fl)!lll'l' S pl•rtI\1y thl· lluddh.i .i s l'usmlc
end, w hich I l s0,1n - tsang simply c,1lk•d 111,111. till' Sllllrl'l' .,ml suhs1,,1ll'l' 1,f till'
" the Buddha," is 171 feet tall. It ls thl' I f,;fl.:in ts,, nf( ~ vlsll. lhl' :,l,ltlll' w.1 :: lll'li Vl'l'Sl',
larger figure that Is of grl•,1 ter hnpllr n1111pk' ll·ly l'llVl'l'l.'d wlih f\l•ld lt-,,f ,lll\l l111 fl1rIu11,1tl'ly, Hilll'l' thi s l'SS,1y w,, s
tance, no t only becau s,· of its si ze. hut 1m•I,1I orn,1111l'11t~. k ,1dlng him Ill lhl' wrlill'll , lhl' fu 11d.1 111l'lll:1llst Muslim
also because Its iconography ;111d r. tylc l'm.>m•ou :; l'Lllll'lu :;l,111 Ih,1I II w:H, 111;1dl 0
Sl'l'I flll'llll'l'ly 11 1 l'LI\Vl'I' Ill t\ff;h.11 1lst,111 .
were repllcatl' d in sma ll souwnlr nf mi:I,1I. th l' ·I;111 h,111 , 1k·::t1\ 1y,·d hl•lh llf lhl'Sl'
~ta tu ,·s and cxportl·d to the honw Ah lntl'l'l':alnf: ,1:; Ih,• ::i,1I11l' ,11\ · ihl' I1w n,k,:-::,,1I lll1ddli.1 fif!lll'l'S 111 ~ll\li .
countries of visiting pilgrim s, A , ·0111 - fr,lf',llll'll (:; 11f fl'l':il'\I l h,ll rl'l11,lill . l l l'lf:i Sinn · tlw l' Vl'l'lh1\ 1w l,f thl' '1',1llh,1n,
pa rison of thl' ll aml y,,n figurc~ wi th 11.1lly, til l' nil'he In whid1 lhl' flg1ll'l' lhl'rl' h:1:; hl'l' ll 1.,11< li1ll'l'll.lll111i.1lly l lf
those of the Oun I luang caves in ~1.1ndh 1v:1t, l'L1111pk·tL·ly .:uwr1·d with 1\ •::I1 1ri11f: th1· ::t.Il t1l'::, hut 1111 pl.1iit,
China reveal ~ that the nuddhl•;t p,1I11Ilnf:H 1,ymhl1ll zl 11g ihl' v.1ult 11f h,IW Yl'I h1·1·11 ,111I11.11111,·1•d.
the chamber floor was cut away and columns carved as corresponding need for a large enclosed space. Rather, th e
workers completed excavating the entire interior space. temple as a three-dimensional form in the landscape
Rubble extracted from the cliff became material for con- becomes a focal point for community life, much as a
struction of a platform extending to the cave's entrance, a Christian church might serve social and artistic purposes
recessed, arched porch marked by paired freestanding as well as religious functions .
columns supporting lion sculptures. This porch was Some of the earliest surviving Hindu shrines are found
adorned by relief carvings and ( originally) painted scenes in the rock-cut temples of Udaigiri, near Sanchi, and these
from the life of the Buddha. Inside the chaitya hall, the rel - show clear influence from Buddhist work. Temple 17 al
atively dim light penetrating through high grilles in Sanchi, dating from the early fifth century CE, is model ed
the windows allows the pilgrim to discern slowly the enor- on the rock-cut temples at Udaigiri, set on a plinth and
mity of the space, measured by the stately rhythm of featuring a square sanctuary preceded by a pillared porch .
colonnades and dominated at the far recess by a stupa This two-chambered temple form is amplified and embell -
carved with the image of the Buddha. The architects of the ished in virtually all later developments. The sanctuary is
temple at Karli achieved that elusive synthesis of space, typically quite small. Known as the garbhagriha, or
light, and detail that characterizes the finest buildings of womb-chamber, it contains a sacred image or element as a
any era. symbol of the god's presence. If proper rituals are not
observed, the god may choose to inhabit another place, so
worship involves priestly ceremonies that welcome, enter-
HINDU TEMPLES tain, and honor the deity with music, food , dancing, the
EARLY BUILDI NGS recital of religious texts, and the singing of hymns. The
covered porch provides a transition between the outside
Buddhist and Hindu traditions have a long hist01y of world and the sanctuary, and on its pillars and the exterior
coexistence on the Indian subcontinent, and among follow- walls of the temple the visitor can generally find sculpted
ers of various sects there has been a certain commin- panels and images that complement the image of the deity
gling of beliefs as well as temple forms . Although within .
Hinduism draws strongly on some of the most ancient Hindu gods are believed to have a particular affinity for
indigenous beliefs, it only developed a particular architec- mountains and caves. As builders became more skillful in
tural expression for itself later. Buddhists built the earliest working in stone (or occasionally brick), they gave increas-
surviving shrines and thereby established the model on ingly elaborate formal expression to the vertical mound
which early Hindu architecture was based, but from
the fifth century CE onward, Hinduism became the domi-
nant religion in India. Today few Buddhist sects remain
As in Buddhist practice, the Hindu temple creates a
link between the gods and the worshiper. However, unlike
the Buddhists, who focus on the life and teachings of one
leader, Hindus venerate a multitude of deities including
Vishnu, a solar deity. Their temples are simultaneously
dwellings of the god, places for worship, and objects of
worship in themselves. Aspects of the cosmos ( and thus of
the gods) are incorporated into the temple by the use of
specific forms, sacred geometry, careful orientation, and
axial alignments. Most Hindu temple designs include
forms that are symbolic of the holy mountain, the sacred
cave, and the cosmic axis (Fig. 3.11 ). Geometry derived
from a subdivided square or mandala is commonly used,
together with a single unit that sets all proportions.
Numbers associated with the gods are important in con-
structing and interpreting the mandala, which provides
links to divine proportions, hence harmony with the
cosmos. Temple complexes are usually aligned on the car- 3.11 Diagram illustrating the basis for most Hindu
dinal points, representing the four corners of the earth, temples.

with the major entrances facing east. Priests perform This axonometric view shows a womb-chamber [garbhagriha)
that radiates energy to the cardinal and ordinal directions: a
sacred rites at regular times for the benefit of the entire passage for circumambulati on in a clockwise direction: and
community, and private devotions may be offered at any the sacred mountain defining a central vertical axis that
time. Since there is no congregational worship, there is no towers over the garbhagriha.

-___:;~~---- ,- ~
._...,,"'i,a..,.._ -
- .J.
. •,
I •. -
' ~ ":i~
,. : - 1- .....__ ·-. -=-=--.- -
3.12 L1dkhan Temple, Aihole, 7th century Ct.
Not Ke that a columned porch precedes the pillared main
hall of the temple, translating into stone architectural forms
prcv1ou1ly built rn wood as vrllage assembly halls.

(mo unt;i in) ,tr1s111g over th e s;i nctu ;iry (cave). As an

ex;imple of this process, consider the l.adkh;in Temple
(Fig. 3. 12), built in the seventh crn tu ry C.E il l Aihol e,
which preserves in its sto nework the traces o f a wooden
vi ll;ige assembly hall 1ha1 served ;is its model. The m;iso ns
resolved q uestions of overall form ;ind building det;iils ;is
a carpenter wo uld. When 1r;insl;i ted int o sto ne, however,
the ligh t and pli;int wooden structure bcc;i mc oversc;i led
and heavy.

l.;i ter I lindu temples rise more d r;i m;itica ll y, ;is builders
exploi tccl ;ird1itectur.1l fo rm ;is the basis for sculptur;i l
embcllish111 en1, sweeping masses upward in imitatio n of
entire mo untain mnges. Al l!hit;irgaon, the brick Vishnu
·1emplt', dating pt'rlrnps to th e firs t h;ilf of the fift h centu ry,
presents ;111 ea rly ex;i mple of a more pro111inent super-
structu re creeled over 1he sanctuary ( Fig. .1. 13 ). Even in its
.m nwwh;i t ruined state, the 1e111ple's profile shows an
un1n is1akahle allusio n to 111011n1ain forms. The passage
m n11crting the sanctuary and the porch is u1111sual fo r
incorpora ting true-arch constructi o n. Most Indian temples
are built using posH1nd-lin1 el o r corbeling techn iques, hut
1his h:mplt- de11Hrns1rates th at builders had knowledge of
th e arch even though it w;is se ld o ,11 e111ployed. Th e sourn ·
"f lh t' charncteristic shildiara, or mount ain-pe;ik roof, of 3.13 Vishnu Temple, Bhltargaon, Sth ceniury CE.

111a11m· Indi an 1e111pks has bt'l'n tracn l 10 lightweigh t Constr ucted m b11ck, thr1 1s one of the c,ulie11 ll111du
temples 10 have ,1 towering m,111 constr ucted over the
1h;11 dwd ba111i>oo s1r11ctures with rnrving sides ris ing fro 111 garbh.igrlha.

72 II A I' I I' 1111 /\1\(II I II C I UUI 01 AN(IINI I NIJ I A AND ~O U l lifAST A~IA
i+-12"----...!'-t'!--- or garbhagriha

--=--- - Assembly hall

1- --- Hall of offerings

--- -----
- --- . . .- 60 ft

3.14 Temple, Khajuraho, 10th century. 3.15 Plan of the Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneshwar,
Dominant here is the shikhara roof commonly found over ca. 1050-1150.
the garbhagriha of many Hindu temples. Its towering form More elaborate than some, this temple plan has three
creates a symbolic holy mountain over the sacred cave. separate halls preceding the garbhagriha at the end of the
processional axis. Each hall is provided with a distinctive roof
profile so that the composition builds to the high sh ikhara.
a square base. No matter how elaborate the masonry
temple forms became, with their exteriors covered with
carved ornament and walls adorned with sculpture, the massive central shikhara over the sanctuary, whose form is
essence of a square sanctuary housed under the curving echoed on a smaller scale by the subsidiary shrines erected
shikhara roof, preceded by one or more columnar halls or inside the walled rectangular temple precinct. Within the
porches in axial alignment, remains the distinctive design worshiper's field of vision, there are sculpted figures carved
paradigm for the Hindu temple (Fig. 3.14) . The enor- with a high degree of detail as well as sensuous beauty to
mously thick masonry walls required to sustain the tower- enrich the wall surfaces. Unlike a number of other historic
ing roof amplified the womb-like seclusion of the central temples, this massive shrine remains in active use.
shrine room, enveloping the chamber within the sacred At Khajuraho, royal city of the Chandella Dynasty,
mountain. there were at least twenty-five temples constructed over a
Two temple groups dating from the eighth to thirteenth 200-year period, with sculptural programs reflecting lavish
centuries illustrate the prolific magnificence of northern artistic patronage as well as devotion to mystic Tantric
Hindu architecture. Bhubaneshwar, in the state of Orissa, rites. Among the best-preserved is the Lakshmana Temple
has over a hundred temples constructed across a period of (ca. 950) (Fig. 3 .16), raised on a rectangular platform
five centuries. The plan of the celebrated Lingaraja Temple anchored by four small shrines at the corners. The axial
(mid-eleventh to mid-twelfth century) is an elaboration of approach from the east brings the visitor up several flights
the two-celled form, with three pillared halls on axis pre- of steps, whose ascent is repeated in the successively rising
ceding the sanctuary. From east to west, these comprise a roof forms over an initial open porch, a second porch, a
hall of offerings, a hall of dance, an assembly hall, and great pillared hall, and finally the internal sanctuaiy. The
finally the sanctuary proper (Fig. 3 .15). Pyramidal roofs devotee may circumambulate the sanctuary by following
over the halls resemble foothills, contrasting with the an enclosed passage surrounding the shrine room . Light


3.16 Lakshmana Temple. Khajuraho. ca. 950.
The temple stands on a platform. or plinth. a stylobate ,n
ancient Greek architecture. Sh11ne1 at the corners reflect the
ma,n 1h11ne at a d,m,nished scale

fo r 1he ambulatory is prov ided by ope ni ngs placed above

eye level so 1ha1 the elabo rate in1eri o r wall scul pture may
be seen wi1hout admitting distractio ns fro m th e external
wo rld . Images represented here include many anima1ed
scenes of loving couples, generally interp reted as both a
literal reprcsentalio n ofTantric practices (which incl uded
sexual in1ercourse) and a symbo l o f the rapturous uni on
o f 1he hum an wilh th e d ivine that was a goa l of I lin du
1hcology ( Figs. 3 . 17 - 3. I 8) .
All the Hindu temples considered 1hus fa r are products
o f dy nasties who rul ed pri mari ly in th e no rth and centra l
seclio ns o f Ind ia. In the south, a disti nctive regional style
developed that fea tured roofs with rounded fi nials, wa lls
wilh engaged columns o r pil.1s1ers for a rticul a1io n, muhi-
columned halls, and 1emple complexes th al had sc1s of
concen1ric walls with massive ga1eway entrances. /\s wi1h
architecture in no rthern India, the o rigin of 1h is s1yle can
be traced to the early seventh -century rock-cul 1emples t' A
that generally fea1ured a pillared ha ll as a prelude 10 a
sanctu ary set deep in the interior. In cave archi1ecture, the
pi llared hall fun ctio ned much like a portico or porch, a ..' J1
transi1 io n be1ween the o utside world and 1he shrine. (The

3.17 (above) Kandariya Mahadeva Temple. Khajuraho.

ca. 1025- S0.
Upper levels of the roof are carved wrth geome111c
ornament. wh,ch has the effect of makrng the massive form
seem lighter while accentuating its contours. Sculpted
figures populate the lower. f11eze-lrke bands.

3.18 Kandariya Mahadeva Temple. Khajuraho. ca. 1025- S0.

In ,ts lower regrsters. where figures are close enough to be
seen by visitors, figural sculpture features prominently. Not,ce
the figures· sway,ng. s-shaped postures.


--:::--:- ~-~ '; ,~,
.;:;~-· -·-

3.19 Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, and Arjuna Ratha,

Mahabalipuram, 7th century.
These three monolithic temples, cut from granite outcroppings,
replicate in stone an earlier temple architecture in wood. Note
the chaitya-like roof on the Bhima Ratha that resembles thatch.
Repetition of selected forms unites all three temples.
working stone had reached a high level of sophistication
and taste.
What began at small scale was continued at much
early temple of Ladkhan at Aihole may well have served as greater size in the eleventh-century Brihadeshvara Templ e
a model for the scheme.) The same stone-cutting skills at Tanjore (Figs. 3.20-3 .21 ). Here the builders succeeded
that were used to excavate cave temples were put to more in erecting a tower over the garbhagriha that was three
sculptural use in about 650, when a remarkable set of times the height (200 feet) of anything else that had been
diminutive temples was carved out of a granite ridge at attempted prior to that time. The base is substantial, an
Mahabalipuram . The Dharmaraja, Shima, and Arjuna eighty-two-foot square in plan, but there is a processional
temples seen in Figure 3 .19, known as rathas (wheeled space around the central shrine included in the lower
carts or chariots), are similar to large-scale architectural story, so it is not a solid mass. Half-columns and niches
models, and each one is different. Some are obviously define a two-story elevation rising above the base, while
derived from the barrel-vaulted roofs of chaitya halls, uncounted roof levels recede as they ascend in the tower-
while others are based on simple wooden shrines or elab- ing pyramid roof, which is capped by a monolith weigh-
orations of centralized designs. All are set on a raised base ing over eighty tons that forms a dome-like finial. As one
and m ake use of engaged columns or pilasters for wall might expect, the temple complex is axially arranged, with
articulation. Images of deities, mythological beings, and a porch and two multi-columned halls precedi ng the
the royal family ( the Pallavas) who commissioned the shrine proper. A separate pillared shrine honoring Nandi
work are set in recesses defined by the pilasters. Multiple the sacred bull is placed on axis between the temple and
roofs in layers add verticality to the forms . When one real - the great entrance gate. The enclosing wall is composed of
izes how much of the hard granite was cut away to create a continuous double colonnade, and several lesser
these diminutive masterpieces, it is apparent that the art of temples occupy corners of the courtyard.

Shrine or Srisubramanya Shrine of Chandeshvara

;;:;..;~=~......._H-'......_........,i..ii_H--'uu.,u.i.,~~;_;_;__;_;_;~,..:_;;_:_;_.:..:..;;;..:.:...:..:..;.:~:..u_;__;;~~~....·----·•....•....• ......~·...
• ·~·~·
•• :
ance gate or gopura

SO m
- ·· - -- --- --- · - - - - - ~-- 150ft
3.20 (above) Plan of Brihadeshvara Temple, Tanjore, 3.21 (below) Brihadeshvara Temple, Tanjore, 11th century.
11th century. Seen beyond the Shrine of Chandeshvara, the pyramidal
Compare this plan to that of the Lakshmana Temple at shikhara roof over the main shrine rises from a square base,
Khajuraho to see how all elements of the temple have towering over 200 feet to dominate the extensive temple.
been greatly increased in size. The central axis is defined Its domed top is cut from a single piece of granite in a form
by a gopura or towering entrance gate on the east side. that resembles a Buddhist stupa.

f I I A I' I l I( I
ANGKOR WAT feet. Visitors wishing to make a complete pilgrimage
according to Hindu practice would walk about thirteen
Hinduism spread to other regions in Southeast Asia miles to visit all the galleries within the complex. Begun in
through the activity of Indian merchants, just as was the ca. 1120 as a temple to Vishnu, Angkor Wat was finished
case with Buddhism, and the religion remains a force in as the royal shrine of the Khmer Dynasty that ruled Cam-
those regions today. Among the numerous monuments of bodia at that time before being converted to Buddhist
Hindu art outside the Indian subcontinent, one of the worship.
most impressive is the vast temple of Angkor Wat in Cam- Earlier Khmer temples consisted of a tower sanctuary
bodia, which represents a fusion of Indian religion and within a walled enclosure. The tower again represented the
native Khmer tradition (Fig. 3.22) . The scale of the project sacred mountain, while the garbhagriha inside evoked the
makes it one of the largest religious structures ever built, holy cave at the center of the cosmos. This theme was elab-
with a rectangular perimeter wall measuring 4275 by 4920 orated in later temples that featured multiple tower sanc-
tuaries on a terrace. Later still, forms resembling step
pyramids gave more vivid expression to the concept of the
cosmic mountain. Until the construction of Angkor Wat,
the most extensive interpretation of these themes in
Khmer architecture came in temples that placed the tower
sanctuary at the summit of a stepped pyramid, with open
galleries for circumambulation extending around all four
sides. Angkor takes this organization as the point of depar-
Third enclosure galleries
ture for an even more magnificent articulation, adding
multiple towers, extended cruciform galleries, corner
pavilions, and elaborate entrance gates to the central
tower and elevated platform (Fig. 3.23) . At the heart of the
composition is a 215-foot-tall central tower over the main
shrine (Fig. 3.24), built on a pyramid base whose corners
are marked by four stepped towers that collectively are
meant to symbolize Mount Mehru, the home of the gods.
Second Two additional sets of square concentric galleries sur-
enclosure round this core, punctuated by entrance gates in the
centers of the four sides to reinforce the cardinal direc-
tions. The main axial approach passes through a square
courtyard featuring artificial ponds before entering the
second gallery and ascending the steep stairs to the inner-
Crucifor m *
Pool "'I~~~;.;~~-..., courtyard : : most platform sanctuary. A moat nearly two-and-a-half
'. : Library Library miles in length encircles the entire site, symbolizing the
oceans out of which the mountain rises.
Angkor Wat is built entirely in stone, and since it does
not employ arched construction, only corbeling, there are
no large interior spaces. Once laid, the stone became the
domain of sculptors, who adorned walls and even roofs
with ornament and shallow relief carvings. Some of the
subjects are drawn from epics familiar within Hindu tra-
dition, but these are blended with references to Khmer
cosmology, and the whole serves as a mortuary shrine for
Suryavarman II, the king who commissioned the work. In
India, Hinduism never involved the concept of a god-king
or ancestor worship, but these aspects are part of the Cam-
bodian tradition and inform the design of Angkor Wat.
Overall, the form captures the qualities both of horizontal
~--- - ....2,oom
O -- - • 300ft expanse and vertical expression in a single composition.
The architecture is symmetrical, balanced, and grand, the
culminating expression of religious concepts begun cen-
3.22 Plan of Angkor Wat, begun ca. 1120.
turies earlier in India.
The clarity of this design is remarkable. Nested sets of
galleries focus on the main shrine, the symbolic
representation of Mount Mehru, home of the gods.

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3.24 Central tower of the main shrine,
Angkor Wat, begun ca. 1120.
This tower was constructed over a garbhagriha
or womb-chamber that is the core of every
Hindu temple.

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Metaphor is also useful as we look deeper, beneath the In the end, we can learn much about design intentions
surface ornamentation to the underlying ordering princi- and design principles by viewing this Eastern work, both
ples. Consider the giant stupa at Borobudur and the palace as an intrinsic part of the culture that produced it and as a
at Angkor Wat. Both have plans that amplify gridded universal result of human longings and aspirations and
geometries to the level of tapestry-like woven-ness, such perceptions of the physical world and efforts to organize
that the larger application of a systematic weft and warp is it. And this duality of viewpoint will be equally informa-
comparable to the detailed application of ornament, as if tive in the chapter that follows on the architecture of
there were a single organic directive. China and Japan .

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hina is vast in size and has the largest population

although the textiles themselves have long since vanished.
of any country on earth. We tend to regard it as an The next millennium saw the development of larger
ancient culture because, even though historic houses that still fall within the same architectural vocabu-
civilization developed there slightly later than in la1y of timber frame, earthen plastering, and thatch.
Mesopotamia or Egypt, China holds the distinction From these humble prehistoric origins came the leg-
among civilizations of having maintained the highest endary beginning of Chinese history with the Shang
degree of cultural continuity across the 4000 years of its Dynasty, which emerged in about 1766 BCE to dominate
existence. China's nearly ten million square miles contain the Yellow River Valley and extend its control as far south
varied geographical conditions and over fifty ethnic as the Yangtze Kiang. Shang technology included skill in
groups, but its society has generally been defined by the bronze casting and pictograph writing preserved on oracle
Han Chinese. Unified government under strong emperors bones (the shoulder blades of sheep) . With the Shang
encouraged uniformity in many societal structures, begins the series of dynastic successions-Zhou, Han,
including city design and building practices, and Chinese Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing, to name the major
architectural traditions were remarkably stable over the ones-that dominated Chinese history until the early
centuries until the forcible intrusion of Western culture in twentieth century.
the nineteenth century and the toppling of the last In China, the primary impetus for building came from
emperor in 1911 . the government (the imperial court and the state) rather
For buildings from the period before about 2000 BCE, than from religious organizations or private patrons. The
there is little information because so many of the sites are most obvious manifestation of this pattern of investment
still occupied and thus excavations necessary , to under- is the Great Wall, begun in pieces by feudal lords, unified
stand early architecture have not yet been made. Archaeol- by the first Qin emperor in 221 BC E, and largely rebuilt
ogists have found remains of farming and craft villages in and extended during the Ming Dynasty (1 368-1644 CE)
the Yellow River Valley, most notably at Banpo, where (see page 80) . It is an astonishing piece of construction,
small houses with both circular and rectangular plans almost 4000 miles long, ranging from the coast through
have been reconstructed based on foundation remains varied terrain to its terminus in the Gobi Desert. Origi-
(Fig. 4 .1 ) . The rectangular houses were sunk a half-story nally it was largely made with rammed earth, but during
into the ground and had truncated, pyramidal roofs ( no the Ming Dynasty the height of most of the wall was raised
walls) of lightweight wooden members lashed together at and given its present casing of brick or stone. As it exists
the top. Earth-sheltering helped to stabilize the interior
temperature in both summer and winter. Smoke from the
central hearth escaped through a gap at the apex of the
t'.12:1:& ··m-s·l& $ :. & - ; ¥i
overriding, thatch-covered gable roof, and the sloping
entranceway was protected by another gable roof. The cir- Chronology
cular huts had side walls of wattle covered inside and out beginning of cultures in the Indus Valley 3000 BCE
by a thick layer of clay for insulation, and the same treat- 1766 BCE-1123 BCE
Shang Dynasty
ment was given to the truncated, conical roof, with an
Han Dynasty 202 BCE-221 CE
opening left at the peak for ventilation and covered by a
construction of the Great Wall 221 BCE-1368 CE
gable roof, just as was the case with the rectangular
life of Confucius 551-479 BCE
houses. The doorway was recessed, and some houses seem
composition of the Kao Gong Ji 5th century CE
to have had internal partitions or screens. Painted pottery
Tang Dynasty 618- 906 CE
remains suggest that skilled ceramists were working in
construction of the lse Shrine begun 690
these villages, and there are indications of weaving,
Song Dynasty 960-1279
composition of the Yingzao-fashi 1103
Yuan Dynasty 1280-1368
Great Wall of China, 221 BCE-1368 CE. Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
Watchtowers and wall sections with battlements snake across construction of Imperial and Forbidden 15th century
the rugged terrain. The crenellations provide protection on cities at Beijing
the north side wh ile on the south side (toward China) the
t=a.= ...
~ • ;; :IC! J:!E ,l 111:l :l
parapet is lower and unfortified.



--- ------
o -·- ----

4.1 Reconstructions of Neolithic houses. Banpo, ca. 2000 BCE.

The1e reconstructions show rectangular and circular designs. As
was the case with prehistoric houses in western Europe. these
dwellings used readily available materials-wood. thatch. and
earth- to provide shelter. Acentral hearth is also part of many
houses at Banpo.

today, the Great 'v\lall varies from nineteen to thirty- nine

feet in height, with an average width at the top of sixteen
feet. The north-faci ng side is capped by crenellated battle-
ments, with watchtowers at inter.1als co nnected by a road
extending along the top. In the event of attack, beacons 4.2 P.isod,1. Darn. Sichuan provin<:l!. 11th C\'ntury.
could be used to summon reinforcements from garrison Th~ P..1i,'O<lis tie<t><I 01,,rni,,,tiun 1s ultnn,\ti!h t).1,c'<.l ~" th"
ch,1t1,, 01 sl\'h:,><l lxxlhi ti\-.: s~t ,ltop hxkm ,tup.,s. It~
camps that were strategically located on the southern side.
p,11 ,,l'Olic pmflk m,11 .liso '""" srnnscthn\, t,, the sh,l.h,11.1
Only a highly organized, powerful state could co mmand 1cofs uf Hin,Ju t,·mpln
the resources required to constrnct and maintain an engi-
neering work on this scale. One should not be surprised 10
find the Chinese achieving sim ilarly consistent building
standards in more modest projects. views ,1t1d c.xp.:ri,·11, 1·s ,ire b,1s,·d l>n the 1m1dcl l't, n·i,kd t,~-
Indigenous Chinese rel igious 1r.1ditions were based on naturc. itself. In rontr,1s1, th.: phil l1sophy 1·xp11\t1Hkd by
a belief in life after death, ancestor worship, and animism Co nfucius rdkd 1111 n.-spert tix ,1utlHwi1y ,1s rst,1hlish,·d by
(a reverence for natural fea tures such as lrt'es, rocks, and the st.lie. Its in11,11cly 1\\t1setv,11iw t1·11e1s h,1\"\' d1Hnin,11cd
hills, as well as cosmic elements including the sky, sun, Chinese s11ri,II ,1t1d pl1li1 k,1l s1rurtu1,·s tlm,u~hout h ish11v.
and moo n) . Fro m ea rly times, indigenmts religions h,1d Those in p11w.:r ,11\' 1,, ,1,·1 h,·111·n1k111ly \It\ b1·h,llf ,,r thd r
included the concept already mentioned in the chapter on subjects, ,ltld lirdin,1ry p,·,,11k ,II\ ' 1,, sl\\lw 111, 1p,·r dd~·r-
Indian architecture of the co mplementary du ,1lity of enc1· tu tlw superi11r wisd,,111 ,1nd un1krst,111din~ 111' tlh·ir
female and male, or 1•i11 and )'11118, which carrks over as ,111 rewred k,1d,·rs. AmYSl\\r 11·1..irship ,111d 1"1.'sp1·rt t, ,r ,11w's
artistic principle into architecture and landscape design . ciders in till' 1:1mily, h,1ll111 ,1rks lif ,\ ll'l'll -l11\ k1"1.' d l \1n l1t-
Chinese philosophy received its de,Ht'St ,1rtkulation in cian f,1tt1ily, h,1d ,.-x,11·1 11,1r,1lkls in 1lw w tw r,11 i1't1 th,\\
the fifth century B C E th ro ugh the lives ,rnd writings l)f society in g1·t1et\1I ,,,wd 11, thr 1"1.' i~ning 1't111'1'l°l.'r, 1\'g,1t\kd
two sages, l~1otzu and Confucius. Lmtzu's philosophy, ,IS ,1 ,·irtu ,11 dl'it y ll'h,isc wdt',1t\' \\',IS vn1d,1I 1,,r thl' s1,1hil
Daoism, was mystica l in appro,1ch, set'king h,1rn1l1 t1y of ity 11f tlw sl,ll1'. U 1i1ws1' l"i ty 1'l.11'11 ing ,1th.I 1r,1dlth1n,1l
hum an action and tlw world th rough the study of nature. h,,us.: dl'sigt1 ,·mb,,,l kd t :11t1t'11d;lt\ pri nd pks in 1h,·ir
Daoist philosophy is largely an1i -r,llil111,1I and ,lnti -,nlllwr- l,1y1 1lltS ,ltld ,IXi,il ,11igtll\\l'l\lS \lr buildlni~s.
itarian, as may be sern in the / Clii11:,:, m /l,1,1/; Pf Ch1111.~,·s, While t :,,t1l11ri.111is111 ,ltld P ,1<1ist11 ,II \ ' '"'t 1l'lk i,,11s in
an orack text consultt'd in conjunction with the casting 11f till' \\'l'stern S1'11s1· ,if till' 11'1"\\\ th,-,, ,1t, · 1ihil,,s,11,1\i<-s th ,11
coi ns to determint' what part should he read for gttid,1tll:1' h,1\"\' inlh11·11r1\l th1' 11\ 1\' 111,1111· 11t•11pk think. li1tddhis111
in finding answers 10 perplexing qt11'stkms. i\spects uf would hl',\ >IIH' tin.' t\h>st wid,·s111 ,-.1d ,>11~,111 i: 1•d 1dlgh111 in
Daois m may be fo und p,1rti cul.1rl y in thl' Chitll'S1' t :hi11,1. tr.111st11itl1'd hi ti \\' 1\ \ll llt\\' d111i11g 1h,· lirsl <11'
approach 10 garden design, whert' r,m{ully rnntriwd s,Y,1t1d ,\'t1t11ri1•s 1' F lw llll't\'h,1t11 ,\ 11-.11·,111s IIH\\" i111~,il1111t:

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1, • , 4.4 Pagoda, Fogong Monastery, Shanxi province, 1056.
": ~~ ;~--:~: '.•-~6;'••:~~ __,;: .'. _! ' ;L~•~:~: _~:~"Z f~,-.~,.-.-_, :, This view of the massive pagoda reveals the construction of
alternating layers of wood frame and horizontal logs with
cantilevers creating five roof-and-gallery levels.

4.3 Pagoda, Fogong Monastery, Shanxi province, 1056.

Like the pagoda at Dazu, this pagoda's organ ization is based multi-storied watchtowers from Chinese military con-
on the stacking up of smaller, often repetitive elements.
struction. As a religious structure, the pagoda became a
graceful multi-story building with layered roofs. Early ver-
sions can be found as carved pillars inside cave temples.
the Silk Roads across Central Asia, connecting China, The pagoda's original purpose, to house relics and sacred
Persia, and India. Architectural ideas accompanied Bud- writings, was expanded to make the structure into a verti-
dhist teachings, resulting in Chinese buildings that have cal marker in the landscape (Fig. 4.2) . Among the earliest
roots in Indian practice. For example, the northern Indian freestanding examples is the 130-foot-tall Songyue Pagoda
cave temples around Gandhara, furnished with towering at Dengfeng, built in 523, the oldest surviving brick struc-
images of the Buddha, inspired similar cave temples with ture in the country. This is a tapering, twelve-sided, para-
gigantic statues built in China as early as the fourth bolic cylinder, hollow through the center, with fifteen tiers
century CE . At Yungang (near Datang), over twenty large of roofs but without means of access to the top . The para-
caves were cut into the steep sandstone cliffs during the bolic shape may have been inspired by shikhara roofs on
fifth and sixth centuries. In their carved images and detail- Hindu temples, and the rounded finial shows close affin-
ing, they exhibit artistic influences from India-elephants, ity to Indian stupa designs. The Longhua Pagoda in Shang-
lotus plants, scrolling vines-as well as dwindled aspects hai (977) has a brick core and wooden perimeter galleries
of Hellenistic art, such as acanthus leaf foliage. Modern for viewing the landscape. The ends of the roof tiers can-
photographs cannot do justice to the original conception tilever outward and upward in a graceful fashion that was
of these cave fac;:ades, as their appearance has been to become characteristic of Chinese roof profiles. The
damaged by erosion over the centuries. pagoda at the Fogong Monaste1y in Shanxi province
More widespread than the creation of cave temples was (1056) is the oldest su1viving pagoda constructed entirely
the practice of building Buddhist temple complexes with a in wood and one of the tallest wooden constructions in
hall for venerating images of the Buddha and a separate the world (Figs. 4.3 - 4.4) . The 220-foot-tall octagonal
pagoda, or tower, erected over relics symbolic of the bu ilding rises five levels in ten structural tiers, alternating
Buddha's presence. The pagoda was inspired by the upright posts with cantilevered roofs and balconies. On the
parasol-like finials atop northern Indian stupas and by exterior, these levels are expressed as intricately bracketed


overhanging roofs and galleries that contrast with trabeated
wall sections. The entire structure tapers slightly to the
center, which contributes to stability and also gives the
impression of greater height.


Although the earliest surviving Chinese buildings date
only from the sixth century C E, there is archaeological and
written evidence of older practices. Ceramic objects found
in Han-Dynasty burials were cast in the form of houses
or watchtowers, preserving some indication of long-van-
ished timber structures. Wood was the primary material of
early Chinese architecture, and it was used most often in
post-and -beam construction . Roof structures were based
on a series of beams set in parallel tiers, augmented over
time by intricate bracketing for beam-column junctions
and cantilevered overhangs. A modular unit called the jian
(with variable dimensions) was defined as the basic Bracket set
measure in construction (Fig. 4 .5) . More elaborate build-
ings contained additional jian, usually in odd numbers so
Column - - ->.1 1
that the distinction ·of a central bay was preserved, much
as the even number of columns on Greek temples empha- Platfo,
sized a space between the central pair. Since the structure
was separate from the system of enclosure, Chinese build- 4.6a Longitudinal section through and plan of the main
ings have a certain interior freedom in plan , as light- hall, Nanchan Monastery, Shanxi province, 782.
Among the oldest surviving buildings in China, the main hall
weight, non-load-bearing walls can be located in response
of the temple is set on an axis in the position of greatest
to internal needs. importance, preceded by two courtyards and level changes.
Except for the humblest single-jian houses, Chinese
buildings tend to occur in ensembles organized around
courtyards. Different fun ctions are generally located in
separate structures linked through connecting corridors or
set in careful relation to common open spaces, rather than
being contained under a common roof. From the exterior,
there is little to distinguish buildings with different
functions. Chinese architecture relies on axial arrange-

4.5 Diagram of a typical Chinese house.

The jian serves as the basic unit for wooden construction.
Houses tend to be built with separate pavil ions for different
functions. This diagram shows the modular basis of the
house presented in Fig. 4.17.

4.6b Elevation of and transverse section through the

main hall, Nanchan Monastery, Shanxi province, 782.
These orthographic views show details of the roof
bracketing system. Note al so the slight curvature given to
the roof ridge and the wider spacing applied to the central
intercolumniation, both of which give the structure grace
and liveliness.


ment, formal cues, and sequencing to establish domi - brackets, the first one cantilevered parallel to the hall's lon -
nance, for few buildings (aside from watchtowers and gitudinal axis and the second cantilevered parallel to the
pagodas) are over one story tall. hall's transverse axis. This sequence could then be
Chinese builders developed sophisticated systems of repeated, beginning with a second dou, with the bracket
timber construction by the time of the Sui and Tang set overhanging farther each time. In some cases, ang, or
Dynasties, and during the Song Dynasty functionaries cod- downward-sloping arms, further enlivened the brackets.
ified related practices in the Yingzao-fashi , a book of build- The completed bracket sets supported beams and
ing standards. As described in this text, a timber hall such purlins that, in turn, supported the fourth building part:
as that at the Nanchan Monastery (see Figs. 4.6a, b) was to the roof and its covering of glazed tiles in a variety of
have four parts, beginning with a raised platform, like the colors. The ridge and the often curving hips where the roof
ancient Greek stylobate, that announced the building's planes intersected were covered with special tiles and
importance. Columns rose from this platform to bracket embellished with animal sculptures and with curving
sets, interlocking suppo1ts that both allowed the roof to finials, comparable to the acroteria on ancient Greek
overhang for protection of the wooden construction from temples. Ornament also appeared on ceilings and around
the weather and exhibited the sophisticated Chinese
joinery that transcended construction and even decoration
to become art. The bracket sets began with dou or wooden
blocks that sat atop the columns, not unlike a capital in 4.7 East Hall, Foguang Monastery, Shanxi Province, 857.
Here the landscape has been terraced to create a higher
Classical architecture. The dou supported pairs of gong or platform for the main hall, which as one might expect is set
on axis in the position of greatest importance.

. "
._;_ ·. ~-- .... ;~·.- . ~ :.:.-~-:~·!l.:~-~ ---~


wi ndows and on doors as panel ing or lattice-work in the

for m of squares, diamonds, and parallelograms.
The Yi11gwo-jr1s/1i also prescribed color schemes and th e
character of ornamental painting, with most remain ing
exa mples dating fro m the Qing Dynasty. The three Qing
pai nt ing styles are /r exi, x11a11zi, and S11zlro11 . In the /1exi
sty le, golden d rago ns in va rious stylized postures repre-
sented the highest level of nobil ity. Other motifs include a
d1evron-like 'W' pattern, phoenixes, grass, and painted
elevatio ns of bracket sets. Artists used "powder dribbling"
to make raised lines that received gold lea f. Paint colors
became vivid and included the well -known Chinese red,
dark blue, and leaf green. Xuanzi painting fea tures so-
called "whirl ing fl owers" as well as dragons and brocades
and a hierarchical orde ring of co lor from gold and jade-
like blue-green down to blue, green, bl ack, and white.
Suzhou pai nting is less stylized, featuring images of houses,
pavilions, garden bu ildings, and linea r spaces as well as
fruits and fl owers, animals, insects, and celesti al beings.
Colors again descend in impo rtance down fro m gold, the
most prestigious.
Both Confucian and Dao ist principles are evident in
Chinese attenti on to building placement. Orientatio n to
the cardinal directio ns is common, wi th prin cipal bu ild-
ings tend ing to face south to take maxi mum advantage of
the sun and prevail ing winds. Buildi ngs of secondary 4.8 East Hall, Foguang Monastery. Shanxi province. 857.
importance face east or west, shielded wherever possi ble The broad eaves present an opportunity for the ex tensive
brackets supporting the roof struc ture to be displayed.
by generous overhangs or vegetation. The approach axis
extends from south to north, and a southern courtyard
ensures that the most important roo ms have ampl e expo-
sure to light and air. This rather predictable arrangement ments is part of the optical refin ement fo und in all
gives physical expression to Confucian idea ls of hierarchy Chinese building. It might ap pro priately be co mpared to
while also incorporating Daoist teachi ngs rega rdi ng har- the use of entasis and opti cal co rrecti o ns o n Gret'k
monious living with respect to natu ra l fo rces. Feng shui, templ es. Simil ar refin ements are seen at the east hall of the
the Chinese art of adjusting the buildi ng to particul ar fea - Foguang Mo nastery, constructed in 857 (Figs. 4.7-4 .8). Its
tures of the individ ual site and its microcl imate, is but a hillside site requi red terrac ing o f the co mplex, so the main
furth er elabo ration of the Daoist principle that hum an hall is elevated above the approaching courtyards. The
actio ns should be in accord wi th th e cosmos. front elevation is seven bays wide, wi th exceptio nally deep
The earl iest extant examples of wooden build ings are overh anging eaves that cantilever over th irteen feet fro m
Buddhist temple hall s on Wutai mountain in Shanxi the sup port ing column face.
province. The main hall of the Nanchan Mo nastery, dated )inci, which includes the Hall of the Sam·d lvlotlwr, is
to 782, is a relatively modest structu re of three bays, about a temple co mplex at Ta iyuan, erected in 1023- 32 to honor
th irty-eight by thi rty-two fee t overall, set in a south -fac ing ancestors in the Co nfucian trad itio n (Fig. 4.'J ). Tlw sill' is
courtyard with fla nking structures (Figs. 4.6a, b ). When the hilly, with a runn ing strea m that encouraged the dl'signcrs
hal l's doo rs are opened, the courtya rd provides a space fo r to integrate water fea tu res wi th num t'rous pavilio ns sur-
worshi pers to view from outside the statues housed inside ro unding the main hall. Even with in an irrcgul.1r l,111d-
the hall. Monks ci rcumambulate the altar and pl ace offer- scape, however, the idea of a processio nal .1xis is (,Hl'f°ully
ings on the platform . The hall's central bay has extra width maintained as a uni f)1 ing idea. Thr visi tor ltrst p,ISSL'S ,1
to emphasize its axial pl acement, and its roof has wide, stage fo r perfo rmances, crosses a stonl' bridgr and tl'rr,1n·,
fl aring eaves, crowned by a ridge with curvi ng, hoo ked enters a hall ft1r offerings, and fi n.illy n osses ,1 fo ur-w,1y
ends. Essen tially ho rizontal eave and ridge lines have been bridge over a square pool bl'fore rnrn untL·ri ng the I l,111 t) f
transfo rmed into a subtl e upward curve by the add itio n of the Sacred Mothn (Fig. 4. 10 ) . 1krl' the ,1rr hitt·rts h,1w
extra eave rafters and layered bracketing, thereby creating a supported the temple roof nn ,Ill l'l,1hm.llt' systL·m Llf
feeling of delicacy and ligh tness. The end colum ns are trans fe r bea ms, so that no i111eriL11· rn lumns i11tt·rrup1 thL·
even slightly incl ined to the ce nter of the hall. The te n- space fo r th e large statul's nf till' SatTed I\ ILithL·r ll ,111krd by
dency to build curves rather than perfectly straigh t ele- her cou rt ly attl't1d,111ts.

86 'I \ I' I( I rHr I I; ,\ [) I r I \) N ·\ I ,\ R ( 11I I f \ I 11R I \) I l II I N \ \ N I' .\ I' .\ N

______,_/_=- - Central axis

'Jl.Jr=::::cf:'1£:t~ ~ri;:___::::,,--.;;::::=---- Hall of the Sacred Mother

iiijc;'J;,.~P,- - - - - - -----\\- Four-way bridge

~KJ~~~J~~SFf===l_\ __ Hall for offerings

_ _::~d__..~------rr- Stage

'~';) N
¥} ~
- f - - - ~-


150 ft

4.9 Site plan of the Jinci temple complex, Taiyuan, Shanxi

province, 1023-32.
The central axis in the center of the plan organizes the
pavilions and bridge that precede the Hall of the Sacred
Mother (top center). Water features are shaded on this plan. PRI NC IPLES OF CITY PLANN ING
Among the earliest manuscripts to have survived in China
4.10 Hall of the Sacred Mother, Jinci temple complex, is a treatise on city planning. Known as the Kao Gong Ji, or
Taiyuan, Shanxi province, 1023-32. The Artificer's Record, it was composed in the fifth century
Carved dragons coil around the wooden columns. The CE as a guide for establishing a city based on Confucian
double-roof structure indicates the hall's importance. teachings. According to the book, a capital city should be
oriented to the cardinal directions and have a square plan
roughly 4000 feet on each side. In the wall that surrounds
the city, there should be three gates in each side, and roads
projecting out from these establish the grid of the city's
plan (Fig. 4.11 ). The central road on the south is the
entrance for the major thoroughfare, nine cart lanes wide,
which runs north to the palace complex. The palace itself
is walled off from the rest of the city, preceded by an
(~ ~~". I impressive courtyard and flanked by places of worship: the
ancestral temple (to the east), and an altar to the earth (to
the west). The city's marketplace is to the north of the
palace compound. Otherwise, there are no public open
spaces. Walls and a moat around the city provide protec-
tion from enemies without, while walls around the palace
and residential blocks establish barriers that clarify the
social hierarchy. (Unsurprisingly, the Chinese use the
same word for city and wall.)
For an application of these principles, one may
examine the plans of Chang'an (modern Xian), con-
structed in the sixth century as the capital of the mighty
Tang Dynasty (Fig. 4.12). In its day it was among the
richest and grandest cities in the world, with the urban
area covering some thirty square miles. Its plan conforms
in almost eve1y respect with the principles articulated in
the Kao Gong Ji: square layout, grid streets, three entrances
in each side, and a 150-foot-wide tree-lined central artery
leading from the center of the south wall to the palace
along the northern side of the city. The administrative

Imperial residence

Administrative cent er

East market

West market

4.11 Diagram of an ancient Chinese city.

This idealized schematic plan has three gates in each of the
sides of the square forming the city walls. Straight streets
leading from the gates establish a regular grid that divides
the city into blocks.

center housed government offices and reinforced the

north-south axis. Behind it to the north were the imperial
residence of the crown prince and support spaces. An
ext ension on the northeast side o f the city contained the
Darning Gong, the palace of the Tang emperors. Beyond
this palace to the north was the Imperial Park, covering an
area larger than that of the city proper. Within the city
EB 0-- -----6000lOOOm

walls, the pl an comprised 108 residential blocks, each of - - - --- ft

wh ich had boundary walls formed by the buildings

within . Market areas were provided on bo th the east and
the west side of town .
Although much of Tang Ch ang'an is known only from
ard1aeology, Beijing preserves to this day plan features that
stem from the design o f Chang'an (Fig. 4 . 13) . Beijing's site
has been occupied since about 2400 BCE , and it has
served intermittently as a northern capital si nce the third ii
and fourth centuri es BCE . From 11 53 to 1215 CE it was [
the capital of the Golden Ho rde, the Mo ngo ls who
breached the Great Wall, overthrew the Song Dynasty, and
ruled as the Yuan Dynas ty. In 13 68, the Ming emperors
Imperial City
d rove out the Mongols, then reestablished Beijing as their Coal Hill - ,___-#..,?,:__JL
11 l
cap ital city in 1403 . They contracted the northern bound- Inner city

ary, slightly enlarged the area to the so uth, and built a new Forbidden
set of perimeter walls, twelve-and-a-half miles in extent. A

4.12 (above right) Plan of Chang'an, 6th century.

The basic features of the ancient Chinese capital conform to
the diagram in Fig. 4.11, with the major except ion that the
palace complex is set in the middle of the north side, Chien M~
terminating the north-south axis. The Confucian ideal of Gate
hierarchy is clearly embodied in this plan.
Outer ci ty
4.13 Plan of Beijing, 15th century.
The processional axis begins on the south side at the Yung
Ting Men Gate and continues for over three miles to the
imperial audience hall in the center of the palace, or
Forbidden City. Although no one outside of the court would Temple of Agriculture Temple of Heaven
walk the remaining route to the north. the axis continues
through the private palaces of the emperor and empress, Yung Ting Men Gate
across Coal Hill, and finall y to the Drum Tower outside the and outer city wall
Imperial City.


Hall of Mental Cultivation
Hall of Heavenly Purity

Hall of Preserving Harmony

Hall of Middle Harmony

Taihe Men Gate

(Gateof Supreme Harmony)

4.14 Plan of the Imperial and Forbidden cities of Beijing,

15th century.
Note the alternating sequence of gates and courts through
which ambassadors would pass before reaching the Hall of
Supreme Harmony, where the emperor received state
visitors. Amoat (shaded on this plan) surrounds the walls of
Tian'an Men Square - - -- N

$ - .- -


the Forbidden City.

new ceremonial axis line was created to focus on Coal Hill tion engendered by the sequence of walls to the Outer
(Prospect Hill), an artificial mound that rises above the City, the Inner City, the Imperial City, and finally the For-
surrounding landscape and has five pavilions for viewing bidden City.
the city. In 1552, to accommodate the growing popula- The gate to the Imperial City is known as the Tianan
tion, construction on a new nine-mile-long wall to enclose Men; the square directly in front of it has been greatly
the southern suburbs (the so-called outer city) was com- enlarged since imperial times to create a space for mass
pleted. Even though much of existing Beijing is not partic- spectacles. Beyond it is an enclosed courtyard with trees,
ularly ancient by Chinese standards, almost all of it was through which visitors pass to reach the Duan Men Gate,
executed in keeping with older traditions, so the city is an which leads to an elongated rectangular court. In the orig-
excellent three-dimensional realization of classical inal scheme, there were temples in the large areas to the
left and right: on the west were the Altars of Agriculture,
Chinese city-planning principles.
Visitors arriving in Beijing for an audience with the and on the east was the temple to the imperial ancestors.
imperial court passed through four separate walled areas (The latter has now been replaced by the People's Palace of
in traversing the ceremonial axis road. First came the Culture.) At the end of the court is the imposing Wu Men
Outer City wall, then the gates to the Inner City and the Gate, guarded by towers and flanking walls built over the
Imperial City (Fig. 4.14), before the palace, or Forbidden moat that surrounds the Forbidden City. Once through its
City, was reached. (The palace was termed "forbidden" portals, visitors traverse a paved courtyard with a curved
because it was off-limits to the common people.) Moats stream crossed by five bridges to reach the Taihe Men Gate,
further augmented the feeling of separation and protec- antechamber to the imperial audience hall, or Hall of


4.15 Hall of Supreme Harmony, Forbidden City, Beijing,
15th century.
The axial stairway with a carved central section wa1 reserved experience of the sequence that gives it measured dignity
for the emperor, whose throne raised on a dais stood at the
center of the hall . and power. It may also be interpreted as a supreme
expression of Confucian teachings regarding hierarchy
and deference to authority.

Supreme Harmony (Ta ihe Dian) (Fig. 4.15) . As befitted

th e status of the emperor, this hall is large and richly HOUSES AND GARDENS
adorned, flanked by lesser structures creating a cross-axis,
and elevated o n a tripl e podium made accessible by stairs The emperor's halls in the Forbidden City have a great deal
and a carved ramp over which the emperor was carried by in common with the houses inhabited by his more
his retinue. Alth ough all th e buildings to the north of the humble subjects, for the ordinary house in Beijing was
Hall of Supreme Harmony were private, for use by the also constructed of wood and set within a walled com-
imperial family and courtiers, the axis continues through pound reached by a gate from the street (Fig. 4 .17) . Halls
two smaller hall s used to prepa re the emperor for audi - serving the various needs of an extended family were orga-
ences, then through gates to a walled triple-hall com - nized around one or more courtyards. On axis, and in the
pound containing personal palaces of the emperor and largest hall, were living quarters for the patriarch, flanked
empress before reach ing the moat and northern wall of by side halls for use as residences of his sons and their
the Forbidden City. Direct ly behind rises Coal Hill. fa mil ies. (A married d aughter joined her husband's
There are of course many additional structures within family.) Courtyards provided adjunct spaces for living,
th e Forbidden City-over 9000 by one count, making it the being used in good weather for dining or other group
largest ensemb le of histori c bui ldings in the country. The activities. When possible, the whole compound faced to
most skill ed craftsmen and richest materials were the south , just as does the Forbidden City. Commoners'
em pl oyed in th eir construction, a fact that China's social - houses would, of course, have been much smaller, simpler
ist government rega rds with both pride and regret, realiz- in construction, and much more reserved in their decora-
ing that those who labored here did so "to cater for the tion, but the architectural principles governing house
decadent living of the ruling cl asses. " Nevertheless, the design applied to the palace as well.
Forbidden C ity has been carefully preserved as a museum . Traditional Chinese house design placed great empha-
At the point where visitors enter into the imperial pres- sis on family privacy. Residential streets were typically
ence in th e Taihe Dian , they have traversed a distance of lined by high walls enclosing each house, relieved only by
just over three miles from the Outer City gate. This whole entrance gates, which were often identified by family crests
axi al approach was consciously designed to provide a suit- and perhaps a touch of colorful decoration . Rarely was this
ably impressi ve sett ing fo r emperors who considered entrance set on axis, for to have done so would have
themselves the mightiest rulers on earth . At no point can exposed the entire front courtyard area to publ ic view
one see th e en tire route or the final destination . The axis when the gate was open . Access was more commonly to
unfolds instead as a staged series of spaces, progressing the side, facing a screen wall . In larger households, a
logically from o ne to the next, and it is the cumulative servant would control the entrance of visitors at the gate,


by Robert M . Craig

n the early twelfth century c E

I (South ern Song Dynasty) , the

scholar poet Mi Fu ( 1051 - 1107) was
appointed magistrate of the Wu Wei
the famed Chinese-American architect,
1.M. Pei. When Pei built the Fragrant
Hills Hotel in Beijing ( 1979-80) , he
incorporated such garden devices as
rocks in their Suzhou and Wuxi
gardens, and imperial emissaries
sometimes transported huge rocks via
the Grand Canal from southeastern
district of China and was invited to /au chuang, traditional decorative China to as far north as Beijing, where
greet his fellow officials and their windows marked by patterned grills. they may still be seen in the imperial
guests prior to taking up his post. He But it was not /au chuang but Elder garden of the Forbidden City, in
entered the official precincts but was Brother Rock that inhabited Pei 's nearby Baihai park, and even in the
immediately distracted by a nineteenth-century Summer
magnificent rock which orna- Palace of the Qing-Dynasty
mented the garden . Ignoring empress dowager.
all around him , Mi Fu bowed A Taihu rock might be
low in front of the great sited in a garden pond not
stone, paying homage to so much as an ornament as
nature rather than to man , a symbolic representation of
and addressed the stone the islands of the Eastern
respectfully as " Shixiong," or Sea where the immortals
"Elder Brother Rock. " (Fig. dwelt. In Chinese mythology,
4. 16) it is on these islands that
The (perhaps apocryphal) the gods distilled the elixir
story of Mi Fu inspired vitae, or " life force," what
Chinese literati, painters, the Chinese called Qi. As
poets, and garden architects, natural as breath itself, Qi is
whose themes and designs embodied in all the universe:
universalized the central role heaven , earth , mountains,
of nature in Chinese thought . and water. The garden
Chinese and Japanese becomes both a representa-
gardens, and the architecture tion of the cosmos and a
they contain , are marked by metaphoric and quintessen-
continuity and a commitment tial embodiment of Daoist
to tradition , rather than by concepts of natural order.
the changing historic styles Taihu rocks were shaped by
characteristic of the West. water and wind over the
4.16 Chinese garden with pavilion and Taihu rock,
The Chinese term for landscape, shan Suzhou, 1522-1666. centuries ; contorted and grotesque,
shui, means " mountains and water," they were admired for their perfora -
and the traditional Chinese garden , of tions and holes, their textures and
which the best are to be found in family garden in Suzhou , the Lion marks evidencing geologic time. The
Suzhou , is essentially a " hill and Grove. Many imagined they saw in the amorphous shapes, both animate and
water garden ." On the simplest level , Taihu (water-washed) stones forms inanimate, transform inert rock to
this is created by the excavation of a reminiscent of lion shapes : cubs organic nature. Elder Brother Rock
pond and the piling up of the exca- cavorting and lion manes in profile. was an embodiment of Qi. The world
vated earth to form an adjacent artifi- The Lion Grove was planned by the created by Chinese garden designers
cial hill. As Ji Cheng, author of the fourteenth-century painter Ni Tsan was a microcosm of the cosmic uni -
seventeenth-century treatise Yuan Ye , (Zan) and was developed and repeat- verse of matter and spirit, heaven
or Craft of Gardens , wrote : " to have edly rebuilt over the centuries of the and earth , male and female, yin and
mountains situated beside a pool is Ming and Qing Dynasties. Retaining its yang-one becoming the other in an
the finest sight in a garden ... Never traditional features, it survives today eternal oscillation as natural as the
say there are no Immortals on earth ." as the garden par excellence for Taihu tides or the diurnal movement of day
These hills and mountains often took stonework . becoming night.
the form of rockeries (elaborate com- In his treatise on garden design , Ji Inspired by such Daoist concepts,
positions of piled-up stones creating Cheng noted that the Chinese had Frank Lloyd Wright perceived building
an artificial craggy hillock) , and the been collecting rocks since ancient in stone to be organic, an architecture
most renowned garden of rocke ries is times and prized especially the at one with nature. He was, like Mi Fu
the so-called Lion Grove, the garden in grotesque, eroded stones from Lake before him, bowing in homage to Elder
Suzhou once owned by the family of Tai. Private individuals placed Taihu Brother Rock .
garden within the walled compound_ In landscape design,
the Confucian precepts o f hierarchy and dom inance gave
way to Daoist principles, as the irregular and p icturesque
were culti\·ated in the quest. for a relaxing
setting that would foster the free exploration of thoughts
and feelings in a state of meditation upon nature (Figs.
4. I 8-4 .19). The formality that gm·emed ,inually all
building design was ne\-er applied to landscape design,
and the principles of yin and yang are a.1:ended to all ele-
ments. Yin encompassed not only the feminine, but also
such items as the moon, night, eanh, water, moisture,
darkness, shadows, and plant materials that refleaed these
properties. Yang. by contrast, stood for items interpreted as
having masruline traits: sunshine. fire, heat, brighmess,
solidity, and landscape materials "ith these properties.
While some gardens, such as the famous ones in Suzhou,
cover extensive tracts, eYen the smallest space could be

4.18 Plan of the garden of the Master of the Fishing Nets. Suzhou.
18th century.
The hm1Gnss are ~ ~ ~ esrarts.. ·n~ ctho 2--""2
scattered Wl ~ rr.GJ-£8 th.:t 91'"',:;geili c ~ e rl2ilE.lism. a.s ri i"l Go~
Entrance of me eoorm:::u, C2Jc that has !l€€:l taIBJ in me'.r clBign 2.r,d

\ '- ---~
4.17 Plan of a typical house, Beijing, 15th century.
This extended plan shows how the independent pavilions are
~ ...
organized around courts. Note that the entrance from the
street is off, thus preventing those who called at the
gate from intruding on family privacy.
B11ion of the Mero ;!.Jm'W15
aJxf the Bre-=_ze COOllirlg

and a servants' hall might be constructed against the

street-facing wall. The precise use of any of the assorted i
halls comprising the house varied according to the
number of occupants and their activities. The regular
module of wood frame construction used throughout per-
mitted ready subdivision of interior spaces, for the walls,
even those on the exterior, were constructed of thin
wooden panels with solid and open sections. Windows
were made of heavy paper that could be stored away
during the summer months to encourage the free circula-
tion of air. Broad overhanging eaves sheltered verandas
that extended internal space to the exterior. In winter,
however, the houses must have been both cold and drafty,
for few had reliable means for being heated. Instead,
people wore layers of quilted and fur-lined garments to
keep warm both indoors and out. In rural areas, where
brick or adobe was employed for construction, houses
often had underfloor flues to provide heat during the cold
months, but this arrangement was not suitable for build-
ings of timber construction.
The houses of more well -to-do or extended families
grew by the addition of courtyards of varying size. Some
might be paved and others planted with a carefully 0 Wm
selected tree. Those who could afford it might have a 0
- - - - - -- Wft
0 0 O 0


4.19 Pavilion of the Moon Arriving
and the Breeze Coming, the garden
of the Master of the Fishing Nets,
Suzhou, 18th century.
The irregular and picturesque have
been carefully cultivated to create
contrast, with rocks, water, and
plants selected on Daoist principles.

made into a garden by the placement of unusually shaped civil service. Such wealthy and cultured individuals were
rocks, a tree, sand, perhaps a water feature, and a few responsible for the masterpiece at Suzhou.
selected plants. Garden design became an art form rooted In the eighteenth-century landscape of rural Fujian
in the imitation of the scenic values of natural forms, province, located in mountainous southeast China, the
exploiting properties inherent in the site. In larger gardens, rural population built tulou, courtyard houses made of
the experience of the visitor was carefully sequenced and rammed earth. These distinctive structures were built to
controlled through attention to paving textures, viewing house multiple families brought together for their common
points, framing devices (gates) for controlling vistas, and defense. Some have square plans, some circular, with walls
the like. Even though the whole garden was consciously up to eight feet thick Remaining examples of the circular
designed, the aim was to have it appear as if it had grown type (Fig. 4.20) vary in size and number of stories, with the
wholly out of nature. Designing the landscape was con- largest exceeding 200 feet in diameter and being subdivided
sidered a far more intellectual exercise than architectural into more than seventy rooms. Continuous porches face
design, so making gardens became a suitable pursuit for the courtyard, which is still used today for communal
poets, philosophers, and men who had risen high in the cooking and washing and agricultural processing.

4.20 Tulou houses, Hajing county,

Fujian province.
Houses like these remind us that
there are certain architectural
constants, such as the courtyard,
which have appeared repeated ly
across cultures and time. They also
demonstrate the never-ending
inventiveness of the human mind in
organizing the activities of daily life.


- ~- •,--,•- - •,7•-
Le<ture hall ---ll-+-: : CJ : :
~-=.==-~-- . . . . . . . . •- ~

Sutra repository Japan occupies an archipelago off the coast of Korea and
China. It comprises four main islands and a thousand
smaller ones scattered over nearly 800 miles. In prehistoric
times, it was joined to the mainland by land bridges at
various locations. Volcanic eruptions raised a chain of
mountains, of which Mount Fuji is the most celebrated,
that forms the spine of most of the islands; volcanoes and

earthquakes associated with underlying plate tectonics
have been and continue to be sources of disturbances and
Golden Hall
at times disasters. Although archaeologists have identified
four ethnic groups among the earliest settlers in the archi-
~ ......... East wing
pelago, these have long since merged to produce a rela-
West wing
,., tively homogeneous population that, like China, enjoyed
lengthy governmental autonomy and minimal contact
Corridor with other cultures until the mid-nineteenth century. In
Inner gateway
matters of architecture, there was early influence from
China, particularly associated with the importation of
Somh ... > Bt:======= 2Sm
Buddhism, and there are also elements in common with
0 71ft
Korea, which functioned as an intermediary between
China and Japan during the early centuries CE.
4.21 Plan of Horyuji temple complex, near Nara, 670- 714.
Japan's native religion is Shinto (the way of the gods),
Note that the composition does not follow strict symmetry.
which reveres natural forces essential to agriculture
using instead a balanced asymmetry in which the verticality
of the pagoda counters the lower and more massive Golden through rituals and celebrations at shrines. Although the
Hall. The colonnades defining the perimeter wall were added religion was already well established when its oral tradi-
later, and they incorporate previously freestanding pavilions
tions were first recorded early in the eighth century CE ,
for bells and sacred texts.
there is evidence that its myths and practices were used to
help forge previously disparate farming and fishing settle-
ments into a united people; with the rise of a powerful
4.22 Horjuyi temple complex, near Nara, 670-714. central government modeled on that of Tang China, the
This bird's-eye view shows the complex roof structure and ruling priest-king styled himself as emperor and claimed
eave brackets that were based on Chinese temple designs. direct lineal descent from the sun goddess, Amaterasu. (As
part of the settlement of World War II, this claim was
renounced by Japan's emperor in 1945.) But, while Shinto
was the official state religion, from the sixth century CE
onward it was colored by Buddhism, and in practice the
two religions grew to overlap considerably in the ensuing

The geographic spread of Japan's islands ensures that there
is considerable diversity in their climates, from northern
Hokkaido where snow and cold are features of long
winters, to humid subtropical conditions on the southern
islands. Wood has always been the primary building mat-
erial, both because it was readily available and easy to
work, and also because flexible wooden structures as built
in Japan without significant diagona l bracing are more
stable than masonry under ea rthquake conditions. Fire
and natural deterioration have left few buildings extant
from l'arlier than the eighth cen1u1y, when the major
archit~·c1u ra l influl'llcc was that of China . Post-;rnd -lintd
building systems based on t'l:lboi-;11l'ly brarkett·d co nstruc-
tion Wfrl' usfd in the t:arlkst surviving Buddhist temple

94 1
11 ,1 I' I I 1, ·\ I 11 I I R A I) I I I () N /\ I /\ \l C 11 1 ·1 l l I U ii I O r ( H\NA A N I) I A p A N

4.23 Pagoda, Horyuji temple complex, near
Nara, 670-714.
The slight upward curves of the eaves accentuate
the gracefulness of the apparently hovering roof
forms. Asingle wooden support extends from the
base to the finia l of the building.

complex, that of Horyuji near Nara (670-714) (Figs. interior height of the building (Fig. 4.23 ), and the
4.21-4.22) . The temple buildings are set within a court- pagoda's gracefully flaring eaves are supported by can-
yard defined by a covered perimeter corridor and made tilevered cloud-pattern bracket arms. There is no means
accessible through an inner gateway (chumon) . Although for ascending to the upper levels, so the pagoda's architec-
the axiality one would expect from Chinese influence is tural function is strictly that of a vertical element in the
there, the symmetry gives way to balanced asymmetry: a overall composition .
five-story pagoda on the left counters the so-called Golden A larger-scale elaboration of this scheme may be seen at
Hall (kondo ), which is larger in plan but not as tall as the the monastery ofTodaiji, begun in 760 at Nara as part of a
pagoda. Beyond these freestanding structures is the cen- state-encouraged program to construct Buddhist monas-
trally placed assembly or lecture hall (kodo ), used for teries in every province of the country, with this being the
instructing monks associated with the temple. Small pavil- major temple in the capital. The monastery included two
ions for housing the sutras, or sacred texts, and a bell, now symmetrically placed, seven-story pagodas fo1ward of the
incorporated into the corridor enclosure, were originally inner courtyard enclosing the Golden or Great Buddha
freestanding, as was the lecture hall, so the monastery as Hall ( Daibutsuden) and kodo, all three set on axis. Smaller
initially constructed had a simple rectangular enclosure structures for the monks' living quarters and dining hall
wall. As in Chinese practice, the pagoda contained sym- flanked the kodo on three sides. The vast Great Buddha
bolic relics of the Buddha, while the Golden Hall was the Hall housed a monumental gilt bronze statue, fifty-three
repository for religious images. Ho1yuji 's pagoda is con- feet high, ofVairocana, the Buddha of the Ideal World. The
structed around a single wooden support that rises the full hall that survives today is a reconstruction from about



4~ . ,I 1.. :--
I .... \ :, ·~• ~--..;:/ ► l

I\!.>.:~~·- :~~ ·~:;:~~~ (~ .

r-' ~\\..- '- ,J\
- ~~ '<-) .' -:lft~ ·,.:,.r ,l
....~ : il'j
1w j ~
.,,,,J\v,,.//" , ,
,:i' ;!.< ~~ X ' •· '
4.24 Great South Gate, Todaiji Monastery, Nara, ca. 1200.
-- ~ ;._ ,. •. ' -· --= "' .;' .

~~:: :~
The roof structure of this building reflects influences from
contemporary work in Song-Dynasty China. Eight layers of
L .
: ' \ ;; r ,
--~- ~J :·~/

~ ~
cantilevered brackets support the projecting eave of the
lower roof, and another seven layers support the upper eave.
Bracket ends have a distinctive reverse-curve profile typical
of the Great Buddha style.
. ._
-· ~,~-
- -...;,1:f:i:-.
-~ .:-,, ;t .,,
. .
,.,.Wti .,
"' ..
! 1'i <
, , 1 •

4.25 Interior of the Phoenix Hall, Uji, 1053.

1700 at only two-thirds the size of the original, yet it is still This view from below shows the Buddha sitting on a lotus
counted among the largest wooden buildings in the world. flower in the lake of paradise. The sumptuous materials and
intricate details of carved and gilded figures were employed
In overall des ign and detail, the influence of Chinese
in pious anticipation of a better world to come.
temple design is evident. Todaiji was destroyed in 1180

and rebuilt in a mann er paralleling that of Song-Dynasty
China, which in Japan became known as the Great Buddha was an ap t image, for many believed that the year 1052
style, best exemplified in the Great South Gate completed had marked the beginning of an era of spiritual decline,
in 1199 (Fig. 4.24) . Here the eave brackets are directly set when hope for escape from the cycle of birth and rebirth
into the supporting columns that, in turn , are linked to was lost. Only Amida was thought to have powers suffi-
each other by a succession of ti e beams extending as cient to save humanity, so this period was a particularly
tenons through the centers of the posts. Inside, there is no fruitful one for constructing Amida halls.
dropped ceiling and thus the entire roof structure is visible The Phoenix Hall's plan is symmetrical, consisting of a
from below, including sh ort rafters th at radiate at the central hall with open L-shaped wings stretching from
corners to create the cantilevered overhang. Main posts rise either side and a covered corridor attached to the rear like
to the full height of the structure where, at the peak, a a tail. In elevation, the roof planes and bracketing system
series of so-called rainbow beams with frog-leg struts are create the feeling of upward lift, as if to capture the sensa-
stacked to support the ridge. tion of flight. The central hall appears to be two stories tall
Pure Land Buddhism arose during the tenth century because of its double roof layers, but in fact it is a single
from an esoteric sect that sought an ideal world (the Pure high space designed to provide an impressive setting for a
Land) through devotion to Amida Buddha, the Lord of the gilded wooden statue of Amida, over nine feet tall, seated
Western Paradise. The movement attracted pious and on a lotus throne in front of a golden mandorla frame and
wealthy nobles, who erected halls on their estates to house under an elaborately carved wooden canopy (Fig. 4.25) .
an image of Amida, and increasingly the designers of these The wooden structure is painted red with golden accents,
halls sought to capture the magnificence of paradise set off by white infill panels, a color scheme that parallels
through elaborate and richly finished architecture. Such Chinese practice. The side wings rise up two stories, termi -
was the case with the Phoenix Hall (Hoodo) of the nating in gable-roof pavilions and capped by turrets at the
Byodoin, located at Uji (just south of Kyoto) , constructed corners of the L shape. Viewed across the reflecting pond
in 1053 by the Fujiwara family as part of the transforma- onto which the hall fronts, the golden image set amid this
tion of an existing villa into a family temple. The plan and graceful and delicate architecture conveys th e feeli ng of
massing of the building were inspired by the phoenix, a rising to that perfect paradise to which its patrons aspired .
mythical bird that rises from the ashes of destruction . This


SHINTO SHRINES the sun and the earth were necessary for agricultural pros-
perity, this union of opposites was in keeping with con-
In contrast to the elaborate Chinese-inspired Buddhist cepts of harmony and balance. The layout for each shrine
temple designs stand the Shinto shrines, typically small in is similar: four concentric sets of fences surround the
scale and mod est in architectural character. The most cele- shrine, each entered through a gateway (torii), and the
brated is the Ise Shrine at Uji-Yamada, which has been pre- buildings are symmetrically disposed to each side of a
cisely rebuilt at twenty-year intervals since its founding in central axis. At the center is the main sanctuary, flanked by
690 CE , thus preserving its earliest form with reasonable east and west treasure houses. Subsidiary buildings
exactitude, although scholars concede there have been contain a kitchen and hall of offerings, used by the priests
some minor changes over time. Ise actually consists of two to prepare the daily offering of food for presentation to
shrines set about four miles apart: the Outer Shrine the deity. White stones cover the courtyard in which the
(Geku) dedicated to Toyouke, goddess of agriculture and shrine buildings are set, and the tranquility and emptiness
the earth, and the Inner Shrine (Naiku) dedicated to of the site are not disturbed by visitors, who remain
Amaterasu, goddess of the sun (Figs. 4.26-4.28) . As both outside the fenced enclosure. Immediately adjacent to the

4.26 Inner Precinct, lse Shrine, Uji-Yamada,

690 CE-present.
In this view of the fence and treasure-house roofs, archaic
forms of wooden construction are visible in all of the
buildings. The shrine is part of a large complex beside the
Isuzu River containing accommodations for pilgrims and
priests. It is constructed anew every twenty years on
adjacent rectangular sites, where the central post under the
main building is retained from the previous rebuilding.

4.27 (left) Elevations and plans of Main Sanctuary, lse

Shrine, Uji-Yamada, 690 CE-present.
The simple elegance of the proportions and materials used
for these buildings has come to represent the quintessence
of Japanese architecture.

4.28 Main Sanctuary, lse Shrine, Uji-Yamada,

690 CE-present.
Here you can see the chigi , or crossed-gable end rafters, and
katsuogi, the short horizontal tapered wooden logs set on
top of the ridge.

. -

· - --·--- -~- -~ - IOm
- JO ft


- - - Gues1room

shrine is a cleared area, identical in size, which is the site

for the next rebuilding. Anteroom - - - -
Many historians see in the lse shrine buildings the very
essence of Japanese architecture. Here, building traditions
were preserved and ideas were germinated that would be
explored elsewhere in later periods. The architecture prob- ,~~-~+-~1K.,,-!4-- - Sit ting room

ably evolved from vernacular designs for granaries, util!-

tarian buildings that were raised on posts to protect their Veranda _ __,_,, 111
·=+1,=a.--- Storeroom
contents from damp and vermin . In agricultural cultures,
it is not uncommon to find more care lavished on the con-
Formal living room - -- t--+-
struction of granaries than houses, for the community's
survival depends on stored grain and sufficient seed to
,~~~-::J"1tl.l--- - Large living room
plant the fields in the following year. Raised-floor struc- Wooden platform
tures were also characteristic of early imperial palaces,
another association that was appropriate to a shrine hon-
oring the imperial ancestor. lse refines this building type Earthen floor area - - - --t'-'-,.,.;::;.;:.:;i •,\b··r-:\/'o.l

to a high art form , creating serene gabled-roof structures

with elegant yet simple detailing.
At the Inner Precinct, the main sanctuary or shoden is
raised over a central post that supports the heart of the Ji.:::f'--"-'c;....,c.+-- Hearth
shrine: a boat-shaped chest containing a mirror emblem-
atic of the sun goddess and of the imperial family, who
claimed descent from her. (This central post is all that
remains on the site when the shrine is rebuilt on the adja-
cent plot of land. Covered and protected by a diminutive
roof, it awaits the next cycle of construction, when it will
again be the center of the sanctuary.) Only the emperor is tom
allowed to enter the innermost shrine building. The 0
- -= _-:., =--~ --
JO ft
cypress wood of which the shrine is constructed is left
unpainted, although the exposed surfaces are finished
with a great deal of refinement. Metal ornaments applied 4.29 Plan of the Yoshimura House, near Osaka ca. 1620.
Minka were divided into two parts. an earth-floored section
on the exterior reflect influence from Tang-Dynasty China.
(shaded in this drawing) where animals were kept and
The weight of the roof rests on the shrine's exterior board cooking was done, and the raised-floor living area. covered
walls, which over the years will settle and contract so that in modular tatami.
the posts and beams touch and thus assume a share of the
structural load. Rafter extensions (chigi) at the gable ends
recall the form of earlier bamboo structures, where rafter
ends would cross after being lashed together. Horizontal life that show streets lined with one-stmy row houses,
tapered logs (katsuogi) originally set atop the ridge as often with shops along tl1e street frontage, as commerce
weights to keep the thatch roof from blowing off in storms was an important adjunct to governmental activity. The
became decorative elements whose number signaled the constmction is simple, with wooden posts resting on
importance of the building. Thus features that originated foundation stones supporting a plank-covered gabled
as practical reflections of construction necessities became roof. Floors were of earth, although most houses may have
highly refined expressions of simplicity, with enormous had a raised wooden floor in at least one room . Enclosing
care being taken over even the smallest detail. This charac- walls were of wattle and daub or other lightweight screen-
teristic continues in most traditional Japanese architecture. ing, with curtains hanging over entrance doors to provide
Through ritual dismantling and re-creation, Ise represents a sense of privacy. Windows facing the street Wt'fl' set
continuity yet remains ever new. above eye level to admit light but prohibit people from
looking inside. A small garden might have been locatrd
behind the house.
JAPANESE HOU SES AND CASTLES Mansions of the wealthy had much in common with
Chinese houses. Commonly occupying an rntire city block,
Houses within the capital and other Japanese cities were they were oriented to the south, with an ,1xi,1I 111,1in lull
built of impermanent materials. As a result of frequent (shinden) facing a courtyard and flanked by side h.1lls.
fires and natural decay, none has survived to the present. although conditions particular to each site most oftrn did
Contemporary scroll paintings capture images of urban not permit absolute symmetry of all parts. l'ninH'll'r w,1lls

98 lHAP. [R T H( TRAD II I ONA I ARCII IHC l URL 01 CHIN,\ ANl' ' •\ l' .\N
4.30 Interior of a traditional house, Japan, 19th century.
This view shows sliding walls and the raised-floor section
covered with tatami. Shelves and storage units hold
household equipment, and furniture is minimal by Western

4.31 Traditional house (minka), Japan, probably 19th

This minka has a thatched gable roof with a large monitor
rising above the ridge to provide additional light and air for
the interior. Such roofs are characteristic of minka found in
Yamanashi Prefecture, to the west of Tokyo.

ensured privacy from the street, and the buildings were from ground damp. High roofs of thatch, bark, split
often complemented by a pond and extensive landscaping. bamboo, or wooden shingles were desirable to cast off
Traditional building techniques and materials that rain and handle snow (in the north), and gable peak vents
have long since vanished from urban locations have sur- permitted smoke from the hearth to escape. Minka are
vived in houses in the countryside. Japan has an unusually generally modular, and the dimensions of tatami (rice-
rich array of minka (wooden folk houses) that collectively straw woven floor mats roughly three by six feet) deter-
illustrate regional diversity as well as the pre-modern mined room proportions and sizes. Elaborations of the
living conditions of ordinary people (Figs. 4.29-4.31 ). In basic scheme introduced secondary living/dining areas,
many cases, minka sheltered animals as well as people, guest rooms, and sleeping rooms that could be partitioned
with barn or stabling areas connected to the living quar- by lightweight screens. Although minka seldom have the
ters. In its simplest form, the living space consisted of two formal symmetry that characterizes Chinese houses, they
areas, an earth-floor section around a central hearth, the have the same flexibility in plan. The typical Japanese
chief source of heat and the center of food preparation, house had little furniture. Floor cushions were used for
and a living section with raised wooden flooring to protect seating, and mattresses for sleeping were rolled out of the


fort,fied wmdor

~crtress ,,.,all


7',/J h

4.32 Ptan of Egret'\ (itl t , H1mt11. 1609

rtw. IS Oh(' Of fhf' ~It-J I '..Uf ,111nz lf"lr(1 t , 4 1 C<1~~1r-'.. I~'.
d,·fr·n'..(•\ II Kl udt· .1 f-.ho ,,n d.jrh1\Hj) 4f'1 ,~ A'.'..: ,,. 4.33 View up to t he donjon complex at Egret's Catie,
\ tun(' fou11dJt1om . Wt t1 ;1• \1J:A-f'.Tl 1Y TtJf ,. •·· -,,r.,/l ('; , ,.....t--d H,meji, 1609.
.,,,,hth1c ~ loy(•II of r,lo·.t•·r
Slone foundat,011, suppor l wooden upper 11orie1 of th11
c.111le. bu,11 on a hrgh poinl rn 1he land1cape. The approach
10 1111: 11 protern·d by battered 1tone walls and dcfen11ve
w.1y during tltc d ay, ~o roo1n, co 11 ld he ad,1p ted 1·.i,il>• 10 po" 1,om w,1h ,qu,1,e oprning1 ror cannons.
snv1: mul1 iple functiom. Tlw hl·,1111y of thn(' hot"e~ Ii,·, in
1lwir simplici ty, r ar1: fu l aurntion 10 <ll'ta il. ,111d !111: .1 ni,11y
th.11 .1 ppe.Hs whl'n .1 fr,1llirl' is mad,· of 111,· nattar,il it rq~11 - lo111Hlations li> r till' Cl'll tral donjon , heav ily fort ified gate-
laritics of th e buildi ng m.11criab. It i~ 110 wo11dn tl1.11 ways, a11d w,tlkd enrlosurl's p ro1ec1ed by m oa ts. What set
Wl'sll'rn arr h itl'rts .is divl'rsc as Fr.rn k l.loyd Wrigl11 a11d J,1pa 1tl'Sl' castles apa rt from forti fi ca tions elsewhe re was
l\lil'S v,111 da Ro hl' h.1Vl' fo u nd inspir.llio n in till' for111~ the ir rdi,IIHT on timbl'r as th l' primary structura l material.
and d etai ls o f tr,1ditio nal lapa n csl' architenure. Fou nda tions and 1he lower courses o f walls were sto ne,
Japanl'sc architect ure and an oftl'n reOect quali til'~ of bu t the bulk o f the supe rstructure was wood . In a ll cases,
composure and repose, terms that Jo not really d escribe the wooden structu re was made more fire-res ista nt with
m edieval Japa nese history. l\s the im perial fami ly ,vas re l- sand and pebbles before receiving a th ick layer of plaster.
,lli\'cl y weak in the thirtee nth through seventeen th cen - The castle a t 1-l imeji is composed of concentric layers of
turies, feudal warlords co mpe ted for co ntrol over th e walls a nd moats, enclosing residen ti a l areas in the ou ter
country, and th e incessant warfare contributed to the con- layer, quarters fo r cou rt retainers in th e second ring, a nd
strunion o f a remarkab le series of castles, twelve of which th e donjon complex with its four towers at the center.
survive fro m th e la te s ixteen th and seventeenth cen tu ries. Within this cen tral section, a maze of passages connects
Based on earli e r fo rtificatio ns that a re no lo nger exta nt, the strongholds to confuse intruders. At in tervals, th ere are
th ese castl es are unusual in that th ey were built to accom- overhanging galleries from which rocks o r o ther materials
modate and resist firearms that had been in troduced by cou ld be d ropped o n those below. Walls a re supplied with
Portuguese trade rs in the course o f the sixteenth century. archer's s li ts and loopholes fo r fi ri ng weapons, and p ro-
The castl e at llimeji ( I 609) is the m ost spectacula r (Figs. jecting tu rrets were used for su rveillance. The donjo n itself
4 .32-4 .33). Du bbed th e Egret's Castle, it s hared a number is framed in to two massive staves th at extend fro m base-
o f d efensive features wi th m edieval masonry castl es in ment to the roof six floors above. An in ternal courtyard
Europe: a strategic loca ti o n o n a promon to ry, m assive p rovides light and ai r to roo m s th at wou ld otherwise be

100 TH, i P. /, G 1 0 N A l /, R C H f f C T IJ R [ O r C H I N /.. /, ll D ) /I PI, 1·1

dismal, for openings to the outside are minimal. The
openings become larger in the upper stories, and there is a
residential aspect to the fortress interior that is somewhat
unexpected in a stmcture designed to resist siege. The
castle's exterior presents an impressive aspect, with stacked
roofs, multiple dormers, and superimposed gables. Like its
European counterparts, the Egret's Castle was meant to
dominate the surrounding countryside for which it served
as the administrative center.


Zen Buddhism, which developed in China and spread to
Japan in the twelfth century, gave its name to a style of
Japanese architecture that was based on examples from
Song-Dynasty China. The essence of Zen is enlightenment
through meditation, achieved by discarding conventional
modes of thought through methods that can approach the
irrational. In medieval Japan, Zen grew in popularity to 4.34 Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto, ca. 1616-60.
become the form of Buddhism most practiced by the Built as a retreat for contemplation rather than as a
upper classes, and as such it came to influence all aspects permanent residence, this villa presents a series of spaces
that can change as partitions are opened or closed, often
of cultured life, including architecture. The Jizodo of blurring the distinction between inside and outside.
Shofukuji (1404) is the oldest dated Zen temple in Japan,
and may be used to illustrate architectural features typical
of the style. As with the Great Buddha style, the wooden weathered to a dark chestnut to gray color, depending on
columns are pierced by horizontal tie beams, but the roof exposure to light and weather. The rather somber architec-
constmction differs considerably in that it uses a double ture of the villa itself is complemented by the artistic
or "hidden" stmcture that presents one pitch and profile layout of extensive gardens around a meandering lake.
on the interior and eave overhang, and a different, steeper Sliding partitions and doors permit rooms to change
one on the exterior where outer-roof supports are con- dimensions and open up to the natural world in varying
cealed. The gentler pitch of the eaves contributes a sense of ways (Fig. 4.36) . Exterior decks become extensions of the
horizontality to the building. This form of roof constmc- interior and frame views of the landscape; one serves as a
tion is distinctively Japanese, having no parallel in China. platform for viewing the moon over the lake.
The layout of Zen monasteries also came to have distinc- Nestled in the grounds are five tea houses, separate
tive characteristics: their bilateral symmetry and pre- pavilions for practicing the Japanese art of the tea cere-
dictable placement of structures for different functions mony. Tea as a beverage originated in China, but a succes-
reflected in physical form the mental discipline expected sion of Japanese tea masters, including Sen-no-Rikyu
of the monks. ( 1521-91 ), transformed informal tea-taking into a spiri-
For many later Buddhist structures, little distinction tual ritual symbolizing detached perfection in the Zen tra-
was made between sacred and secular architecture. The dition. The ceremony involved with the making and
Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto provides a splendid drinking of tea, at once complex and simple, was per-
example of a country retreat built in the Shain style that formed in small structures that are seldom symmetrical or
was based on elements from older mansions of the nobil- even regular but that were constructed expressly to incor-
ity and that also embodies concepts from the Zen tradi- porate the qualities of harmony, reverence, purity, and
tion (Fig. 4.34) . Built in stages from about 1616 to 1660 silence that are the very essence of the ritual. Tea houses
by three generations of the princely Hachijonomiya are usually set, as at Katsura, in isolation from other build-
family, the villa was intended for occasional occupancy as ings, and are approached by a path that enables the visitor
a place for reflection, relaxation, creative works, and con- to view the pavilion only at the last possible moment (Fig.
templation of nature. Katsura's plan is irregular, even 4.37). Rustic elements, such as wooden supports with the
sprawling, but all interior spaces are governed by the bark still attached or a wooden element of irregular shape,
tatami module (Fig. 4.35) . Japanese cedar wood (hinoki) is can be incorporated into the tea house as an extension of
employed for the structural frame, with wooden doors or the natural world, for the tea ceremony aims at fusing the
white paper-covered partitions forming the exterior walls. spiritual and the natural. Terms such as reticent, eloquent,
As at the Ise Shrine, the wood is left unfinished, and it has and restrained have been used to describe these buildings.


Moon viewing

Old Shoin

New palace

o-- -·- -- -- -=--=- 7Sft

l Sm

Villa KPlan of the Katsura Imperial
· yoto, ca. 1616-60.
The ordering of the . .
is governed thro / 1nwhee\-11ke plan
d' ug out by the

;~n;~~~~::;~~::~ Terraces and
view the landsca e opportunities to
spaces with th p . and link interior
e outside world.

4.36 Interior of the Ge

house, Katsura Im . ppa-rOtea
ca. 1616- 60. penal Villa, Kyoto,

Sliding partitions and .

have been opened nee-paper panels
the viii · d to reveal views to
as gar en.

' >. l!,i ·• .: .

. .ii..~ r~ i"'

' 11 /1 I' I I 11 1 11 11 I R /I I) I I I O N A I /I I\ (. 111 T \ ( I ll I\ ( U I lH I N /1 1\NI) JAl'AN

4.37 Sh6kin-tei tea house, Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto,
ca. 1616-60.
The tea house is set in a Zen-inspired landscape visually
isolated from the villa itself. The tea house design
emphasizes natural materials and controlled views within
and without of the structure.

Entrance to the tea house may come through an excep- offers the most extreme example. It was laid out according
tionally low door, deliberately designed so that one must to Confucian principles adopted in the city planning trea-
almost crawl to get in. Shoes are left outside; participants tise called the Kao Gong Ji to have an intense orthogonal
sit on thick tatami and drink from exquisitely shaped geometry and a primary, central, north-south axis along
vessels obviously crafted by hand. Views are carefully cal- which the palace structures are arranged in relentless hier-
culated. Windows are at eye level when one is seated, and archical order, culminating with the imperial audience
artfully selected treasures are displayed in an alcove hall. This organizational formula remained the same for
(tokonoma) with a raised floor. As the tea master serves Beijing's housing outside the Forbidden City, as it was
the guests, there is time to contemplate the subtle juxta- based on a variable but repetitive module and laid out to
positions of texture, material, and surface that comprise have a central axis leading through courtyards to the living
the room's interior, for the designers have imparted their quarters of the family patriarch, which was flanked by the
reverence for materials and spatial harmony, which are subordinate quarters of his sons and their families.
intended to promote reflection that will achieve inward The Chinese building standards for temples were like-
simplicity and tranquility of min'd. The refinements of wise codified in the Yingzao-fashi, which established four-
tea-house architecture encapsulate the essence of Japanese part compositions of platform, columns, bracket sets, and
traditional design, in which architectural principles seen roof, with the composition of the repetitive bracket sets
in the early Shinto shrines are merged with the esthetics specified in detail. And these specifications extended to
and philosophy of Zen Buddhism. formulaic color schemes. Chinese gardens, with their cal-
The grounds of the Katsura Imperial Villa also include culated irregularity, established a foil for the architecture's
a Zen stone garden intended as both religious art and geometrical rigidity.
another setting for contemplation. At the renowned As Buddhism spread from China to Japan, Chinese
Kyoan-ji garden, also in Kyoto and north of Katsura, iso- Buddhist architecture did so as well. However, building
lated, provocatively shaped rocks set in carefully mani- ensembles such as the Horyuji temple complex exhibit a
cured sand represent a serene world of mountains and seas condition of stasis or equilibrium that exchanges Chinese
that evoke the Buddhist universe. hierarchical tension for serenity and calm. The epitome of
this Japanese architectural achievement must be the
Shinto lse Shrine, where peasant buildings have been
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ARC~ITECTURAL transformed to become a literally unreachable precinct fit
IDEAS only for the gods.
When the Japanese planned new towns like Kyoto,
In China, a country dominated for millennia by hierarchi- they employed the repetitive grid and axial thoroughfares
cal social and governmental systems and one where the as did the Chinese, and the traditional Japanese house was
government carried out most of the large-scale construc- likewise modular, based on the rice-straw mat. This resi-
tion, the principles of architectural ordering were codified dential planning reached something of an apogee at
and rigidly applied at every scale from city plans to build- Kyoto's Katsura Imperial Villa, where translucent sliding
ings to building components. At the urban scale, Beijing partitions enable a visitor to perceive buildings together
and its embedded palace complex, or Forbidden City, with gardens in a unified, organic experience.