This is the northwest corner of the Five-storied Pagoda. It is seen here from the ambulatory, the clositered walk that defines and encloses the compound. (At this point, the north-south ambulatory along the west side of the compound turns east for a short distance, before turning back north. This slight "dog leg" in the cloister walk occurs just south of the sutra repository, which is built into the cloister wall just south of the Kodo. The Kodo is the Lecture Hall, the south-facing building that defines the northern side of the compound. The Belfry, the Sutra Respository, and the Kodo were originally outside of the cloister wall, the original north side of which crossed the compound, east to west, next to the north of the Kondo and the Pagoda. It is worth noting here that the north-south axis of Buddhist temples and compounds is almost inviolable and is based, originally, in the concerns of geomancy, Chinese in origin.)
Horyuji Gate (AD 607), Nara, survivor of many earthquakes. -- This very old structure is persuasive evidence of the durability of wooden buildings during earthquakes. In its nearly 1,400 year history, it has survived countless earthquakes, emerging relatively unscathed because of the flex inherent in wooden structures.
The Kondo, the Golden Hall, is the worship hall. It contains an altar and a perimeter walk, around which worshippers would walk in clockwise direction (circumabulate) as they worship. The kondo at Horyuji contains a number of sculptural works, including the Tori masterpiece, the Shaka Triad, cast in 623, as a memorial for Prince Shotoku. -- The kondo at Horyuji was built in the late 7th c., part of the compound built to replace the Wakakusadera compound. -- The kondo reflects very clearly the influences of Korea and China in early Japanese Buddhist art. -- Destroyed by accidental fire in the late 1940's, the kondo was reconstructed exactly with funds raised by popular, nationwide subscription.
Detail of support and bracketing at southwest corner of the kondo at Horyuji, second story roof.
From the nandaimon, the great south gate, one approaches the compound of Horyuji along a very long graveled walk. The compound, proper, is surrounded by a cloister, a walled and roofed walk, which sets the compound apart from the world surrounding it. The entrance to the compound is this great chumon, middle gate, one of the original structures remaining from the late 7th century, when the compound was built. The gate, on the south perimeter of the compound, is two stories high and four bays wide. The outer bays are occupied by sculpted Nio figures, guardian deities of Buddhism. The gate at Horyuji deliberately is not placed perfectly symmetrically, at the center of the south cloister wall. Instead, it is slightly to the west of center, to accommodate the placement of the pagoda and the kondo inside the compound, each equidistant from the north-south walk bisecting the compound.
View looking to the south across the compound at Horyuji, as seen from the front of the Kodo, the Lecture Hall. The Kondo is seen on the left, the Five-storied pagoda on the right, with the Chumon, the Middle Gate, in the middle behind them.
The Five-storied pagoda at Horyuji is an original structure remaining from the late 7th c., when the compound at Horyuji was built. The ground floor of the Horyuji pagoda is surrounded by a narrow corridor with a slight roof covering it. This corridor and its roof, not part of the original structure, hide the proportional relationship of the original ground story and the top story of the pagoda -- the width of the top story is one half that of the ground story; the intermediate stories step in in equal amounts as we move from one to the next. The result of this stepping-in is a visual sense of soaring and lightness as the pagoda rises, creating a sense of elegance and a perception, illusion, of great height. -- The famous tableau of the death of the Buddha and the tableau of the Yuima-Monju debate, sculpted in clay in the early 8th c., are in the ground story of the Five-storied Pagoda. [c. 711, early Nara period (Tenpyo)]
The north side of the Kondo at Horyuji, as seen from the northern side of the compound, in front of the Kodo, looking southward. Built as what appears to be two stories (the second story is a false story), on a stone platform, it has a strong upward thrust, which is based on continental models, and is an interesting contrast to later Japanese Buddhist structures (see, e.g., the Kondo at Muroji and that Hoodo at Byodoin). Compare this image with view 03, noting that the Kondo, while having four entrances corresponding to the four directions, is not symmetrical, with the east-west axis being two bays wider that the north-south axis.
The Five-storied Pagoda at Horyuji is placed to the west of the north-south walk, with its soaring height visually balancing the greater ground area occupied by the kondo to the east of the walk. Earlier layouts for compounds, based on Chinese-Korean models, placed the middle gate, the pagoda, and the kondo, along a north-south axis, forcing the worshipper to encounter each directly, straight ahead, as the worshipper moved into the compound. In this ground plan at Horyuji, from the chumon, the worshipper moves laterally to the right (east) or to the left (west) to approach the kondo or the pagoda. This departure from the continental ground plans for the layout of a compound is important and represents an example of Japanese assimilation and adaptation of continental influences.
A detailed view of the lower stories of the Five-storied Pagoda (and west face of the Kondo) at Horyuji, as seen from the slight turn in the cloister walk, as noted in view 07. Note, as in mentioned in view 9, that the first story of the original design has been covered with an added-on corridor surrounding the original first story. This added corridor and its slight roof partially obscure the proportions of the overall structure of the pagoda.
View from inside the middle gate, the entrance to the Horyuji compound. The walk runs south to north across the compound, with the kodo, the lecture hall, seen on the north side of the compound. To the right (east) of the walk is the Kondo, the Golden Hall, and to the left (west) is the Five-storied pagoda.