Monday, September 23, 2013

From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion
Another post from the book relating to the architecture of shrines. As some readers may know, the vast majority of existing shrine buildings (as distinct from the founding of the shrine and what may or may not have been its original structure) were built between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most have been repaired or totally rebuilt but have managed to keep something close to the original style. The pitched roof is standard for all such buildings and very early on—perhaps as early as the seventh or eighth centuries—pent roofs were often added. While this is not yet a chidorihafu it is easy to see the evolution of the false dormer from the pitched roof - pent roof combination. The obviously separate pent roof—as in the Kasuga-zukuri style—evolved differently from what might be called the continuous-flowing combination of gable and pent roof known as a hip and gable (irimoya-zukuri) roof, which is more common. This combination was also prominent in both the shoin and shinden architectural styles. However it was probably not until the extensive building of castles got underway that the chidorihafu became a standard of any building attempting to express nobility or strength. While this sentiment may seem unrelated to shrines at first glance, it is important to remember that shrines were always built by the nobility. Therefore the aesthetic is closely connected and the chidorihafu became a standard of Shinto shrines and castles alike. Along with this, the slightly more decorative karahafu was used at an early date and can also be seen on castles from the sixteenth century. Though said to be from China (Jp. kara), this is not confirmed. It is often considered the more "noble" of the two and used more sparingly, for example, just over the main entrance. These two features do not apply to some specific shrine types, particularly as it concerns the honden. But even in these cases, the haiden (which may possibly have been constructed at a later date) is likely to contain chidorihafu and karahafu. As to chigi and katsuogi, many have been added after the Meiji period in an attempt to fall into line with the idea that Ise Jingu and its shinmei zukuri style, represented the "true" or most "elite" Shinto style. Here then is an excerpt from the book on a few of the common building characteristics of Shinto shrines.

Building Characteristics

Measurements: The traditional Japanese measurement system (shakkan-ho) came to Japan from China. The metric system was adopted in 1924 but the old system is still used in traditional building. Shrines are usually measured in bays (ken), with a bay being the distance between two columns. The actual measurement of one bay varies according to age, location, and custom. Excavations of Heian-period Kyoto show a bay having a span of 9.8 feet (from center to center of the pillar), whereas in the Edo period a bay measured about six feet-where it has remained to this day. The extremely large bays of Izumo Taisha measure about eighteen feet, but they are exceptional for shrines. The size of the bay may also vary within the same structure. The traditional Japanese length of measure is the shaku, which is 30.3 centimeters or about one foot. It is further divided in ten parts, called sun. Generally the standard is six shaku to a bay.

Wood construction: Japan is noted for its Hinoki Cypress(Chamaecyparis obtusa), which have provided most of the wood for both shrine and temple construction over the centuries. The structures all use post-and-lintel construction with cut and fitted joints. The use of nails or glue is limited. Some shrine types have the main pillars planted directly in the ground. Most shrines since the eighth century have pillars resting on stone bases, as do Buddhist temples. Infill walls may be wooden board or clay and plaster over bamboo lath.

Periodic rebuilding: Shikinen sengu means a periodic rebuilding of the shrine. The period is often fixed at twenty or twenty-one years, but it varies by shrine. The reasons for the rebuilding are ritual renewal to maintain purity; the natural deterioration of wood construction (especially where pillars are planted directly in the ground); and the need to train new carpenters in the ancient building techniques before the older carpenters die off (however, temples did not follow the custom, which seems to lend weight to reasons of ritual purity). The most famous such rebuilding is that of Ise Jingu, the preeminent shrine of Japan. Though many shrines that once underwent this renewal process are currently designated Important Cultural Properties and are only repaired, not rebuilt., Ise Jingu still observes a twenty-year rebuilding cycle. It has been carried out since the seventh century, uninterrupted except for a hundred-year interval between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Some of the 125 structures at Ise are rebuilt at twenty-year intervals, while others are rebuilt every forty years or as need be.

Painted or unpainted: It is widely thought that shrines are made in unfinished wood and temples are painted, but this is incorrect. Both can be found in unfinished or polychromed wood. Where paint is used, a vermillion or cinnabar red generally predominates. Toshogu shrines tend to have the most ornate polychroming. Certain types of shrine building are never painted (and probably never were). Shinmei- and taisha-zukuri are two such styles. Others, such as Toshogu, Sumiyoshi, and Kasuga, are always painted (please see the descriptions of these styles below).

Roof types: There are several roof types, surfaced in one of a number of materials: straw; kaya (miscanthus); cypress bark; cedar or other wood shingle; copper shingle; copper tile; and at a later date ceramic tile. (Tile is used primarily in temple construction.) Roofs are always gabled, and one of the most common types is the irimoya-zukuri (hip-and-gable style). The other common style is called nagare-zukuri and is essentially an asymmetrical gable, with one side extended to cover the stairway on the entrance (front) side. The other primary type is the yatsumune roof found on buildings that combine the honden and haiden in one (see below).
Chidorihafu and karahafu
Key features: False A-shaped dormers called chidorihafu are a common feature on shrines, especially on the haiden from the sixteenth century onward. They are generally featured on the front side, in the center of the roof. Below them is often found a curved-bargeboard roof feature called a karahafu. It is usually on the edge of the roof directly over the entrance, or on an extended roof canopy overhanging the stairs (kohai). It is also a key feature of elaborate gates and the extensive use of both types give Japanese castles their distinctive appearance. Other key features include pent roofs, verandas, and bracket sets supporting the roof eaves and veranda.
Chigi and katsuogi

Chigi and katsuogi: These are the most distinctive markings of Shinto shrines, though they only appear on some building types. Chigi are forked finials supporting the ridge board and extending past the ridge to form a V shape above the roofline, or sitting on the ridge to form an X shape. They are thought to be the remnants of the roof brace poles that were lashed together with rope in ancient construction styles. Today they are usually symbolic additions that sit on top of the roof ridge at each end. The direction of the cut at the end of the chigi may indicate the presence of a male or female kami-a vertical cut indicating a male, and a horizontal cut indicating a female. Katsuogi are log-like forms that sit on top of the roof ridge, perpendicular to it; they usually number five or six, but there may be as few as two or as many as twelve. The katsuogi (so named because they resemble dried katsuo bonito) once served to help weigh down the ridge and hold the straw roof in place. But at least by the fifth century, they also became decorative elements adorning the emperor's palace, according to an entry in the Kojiki relating to Emperor Yuryaku (r. 456-79). As early as the sixth century, the right to erect chigi and katsuogi was extended to include the homes of powerful families. Today both katsuogi and chigi are used to adorn certain types of shrine buildings, especially those in the shinmei, taisha, Sumiyoshi, and Kasuga styles.

Emblems: Most shrines sport a crest that is a representation of either the enshrined kami, the clan that founded the shrine, or the shrine's status. They are generally round marks with some type of pattern within, such as the hollyhock of the Kamo shrines, the yatagarasu three-legged crow of the Kumano shrines, or the chrysanthemum of shrines associated with the imperial court. An emblem common to many shrines is the mitsu tomoe representing the division of heaven, earth and man.

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