Development in the design of early Japanese state temples
This thesis primarily aims to trace the development of the major Japanese state temples built during the period from the end of the sixth century to the middle of the eighth century. After Buddhism was officially introduced to the Japanese Court in 538 it was adopted and developed as the national religion in order to bolster the Imperial system, which also developed and established itself during the period of the present study. Early state Buddhist temples seem to have been used as national monuments to demonstrate the prestige of the emperor and the Imperial system, but in order to understand their nature and function we began our investigation with a study of the spiritual as well as the political climate of Japan to which Buddhism was transplanted. We have discussed the major architectural concepts of the Japanese pre-Buddhist period, concentrating on the Ise Shrine, and we have observed that some of the typical features suggest what the basic preferences of the early Japanese temple architecture were. The first full-scale Japanese Buddhist temple was erected in 588 and was called Asuka-dera. We discovered that this temple had contained several pre-Buddhist Shinto symbolism in spite of the fact that its form had closely modelled a Korean temple. Asuka-dera was followed by Shitenno-ji style temples, most of which were built at the beginning of the seventh century. We have argued that these were the first Japanese temples to demonstrate explicitly the notion of national defence, and have discussed what architectural devices were employed to express this particular concept. We then went on to provide an analysis and assessment of the Second Horyu-ji. This was the most sophisticated kind of temple built during the first stage of Japanese temple development, i.e., when temples were built primarily to serve as symbolic monuments to be looked at from a distance. It was the building of the Kawahara-dera that seems to have marked the beginning of the second stage of the development. During this stage temples were built to provide accommodation for elaborate imperial ceremonies. Such temples as Yakushi-ji, Daian-ji and Todai-ji, all built in Nara during the period from the end of the seventh century to the middle of the eighth century, were designed for this purpose.