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Ikaruga Town, Ikoma County, Nara
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2010
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2010
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2010
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2010

Ikaruga, Nara
19 February 2005

  Ikaruga Town, Ikoma-gun, Nara, is located in the northwest part of Nara Prefecture.  Ikaruga is situated at the pivotal area for land and water traffic between Yamato and Kawachi from time immemorial.  The ancient people learned Chinese and Korean cltures and technologies imported through River Yamato.  Ikaruga has been keeping the precious cultural inheritance including Fujinoki Mound (Fujinoki-kofun), River Tatsuta (Tatsuta-gawa, which was praised in numerous ancient tankas, especially with autumnal tints), Hokki-ji Temple and the Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji area (constructed in 601; the first registered Japanese UNESCO World Heritage 1993):

  There are around 48 Buddhist monuments in the Horyu-ji area, in Nara Prefecture.  Several date from the late 7th or early 8th century, making them some of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world.  These masterpieces of wooden architecture are important not only for the history of art, since they illustrate the adaptation of Chinese Buddhist architecture and layout to Japanese culture, but also for the history of religion, since their construction coincided with the introduction of Buddhism to Japan from China by way of the Korean peninsula" (quoted from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre).

  Prince Regent Shotoku (Shotoku-taishi, A.D.574-622), the legendary politician supporting his aunt Empress Suiko (Suiko-tenno), decided to move the capital from Asuka and build the new palace in Ikaruga in 601 (burnt in 643).  Ikaruga is closer to the international port of Naniwa (Osaka), where numerous Korean ships came to trade.  In fact, Prince Shotoku took much importance on the relationship with the three countries of Korean peninsula, "Shiragi" (Sinra or Shilla, 356-935), "Minama" (Paekche or Baegje, 371-660) and "Kokuri" (Kokuryo or Koguryo, 209-668)  Since he was a devout Buddhist, it was said that he made 46 Buddhist temples including Horyu-ji Temple around Ikaruga.  In 595 Prince Shooku and Umako Soga (a powerful politician, ?-626) invited two Korean high priests, "Eji" (Heja) from Kokuryuo and "Eso" (Hechong) from Paekche, came to Japan in 595, became the prince's entourages, staying at the newly-founded Hoko-ji Temple.  However, after the prince's death in 622, their families, already Japanese citizens by naturalization, were reportedly treated with perfect indifference.
  The present Ikaruga Town was formed after theamalgamation of Tatsuta Town, Horyuji Village, and Tomisato Village in 1947.  The present population is about 28,893 (2003).

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Horyu-ji Temple
     The compounds of Horyu-ji Temple (@) consist of the "Saiin" (Western Precinct) centering around the "Kondo" (Main Hall) and "Goju-no-To" (Five-storied Pagoda) and the "Toin" (Eastern Precinct) with "Yumedono" (Hall of Visions) and the "Densho-do" (Hall of Buddhist Teachings) as its central buildings.
  The importance of Horyu-ji Temple from the viewpoint of cultural history lies in its continuity: in addition to the many superb works of art from the Asuka Period (A.D. 552-645), it has innumerable cultural properties of successive periods.  It is a treasure house of Japanese art covering the respective epochs of Japan's history.
  The origin of Horyu-ji Temple is described in the inscription engraved on the back of the halo of the "Yakushi Nyorai Buddha" (Skt. Bhaisajyaguru: a buddha of healing) statue in the Main Hall, which states to the follwoing effect: "Emperor Yomei falling ill in the first year of his reign (A.D. 586), wished to have a statue of "Yakushi Nyorai," made for him, but he passed away prior to the realization of the project.  His sister, Empress Suiko, and his son, Prince Regent Shotoku, fulfilled his will.  The statue was finished in the fifteenth year of the Empress Suiko's reign, and the temple was established for the statue."  This is the beginning of Horyu-ji Temple. (Extracted from the official booklet of Horyu-ji Temple with some amendments)
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(Saturday 19 February) "Nandai-mon" (Great South Gate), the main entrance to the Horyu-ji compounds.  Built in 1439 during the Muromachi Period, it is a well-balanced building of a powerful form.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Chu-mon" (Central Gate), Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  It is the front gate of the central block of the Western Precinct.  It is a two storied gateway, from either side of which extends the "Kairo" (Cloister-Gallery).  With its upper story made conspicuously smaller than the lower, and its unusual plan of four "bays" (intercolumnar spaces, i.e., five pillars) frontage and three "bays" in depth, it is quite different from temple gateways of later periods.
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(Saturday 19 February) The right (east) statue of "Ni-o" (Skt. Vajradhara, two temple-door guardians) installed in the east "bay" of the gateway were carved in 711.   Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) The left (west) statue of "Ni-o" (Skt. Vajradhara, two temple-door guardians) installed in the west "bay" of the gateway were carved in 711.   Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) A northern view of "Kon-do" (Main Hall, left), "Chu-mon" (Central Gate, center) and "Goju-no-To" (Five Storied Pagoda).   Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) A northern view of "Kondo" (Main Hall, left), "Chu-mon" (Central Gate, center) and "Goju-no-To" (Five Storied Pagoda).  Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) "Goji-no-To" (Five Storied Pagoda), Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  It is three "bays" square in plan, and over 105 feet in height.  Like the Main Hall it stands on a double terrace, and its detailed parts show the same architectural style as the Main Hall and the Central Gate.  It tapers conspicuously upward, the ratio of the roof sizes from the bottom to top stories being 10:9:8:7:6.  The deep overhang of the roofs is another characteristic of this pagoda, giving it a dignified, impressive form.
  The ground floor of the pagoda houses four groups of clay statuettes in its four sides illustrating stories concerning the life of the Buddha the Savior, and the "Jodo" (Pure Land of "Miroku" or Skt. Maitreya), the Future Buddha or Buddhist Messiah.  Though including some which were replaced during later times, the statues are fine works of sculpture dating from 711 together with the two statues of the "Ni-o" in the Central Gate.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Kondo" (Main Hall), Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  It is the central building housing the principal image of worship in the temple.  It is a two storied building with a plan of five "bays" by four, the lower story being surrounded by mokoshi (leantos).  The roof is hipped and gabled (irimoya).
  Its architectural characteristics showing Asuka-Period style are similar to those of the Central Gate, Cloister Gallery and Five Storied Pagoda.  The upper story is skirted with railings that, like those of the Central Gate, are ornamented with inset swastika patterns.  The inverted V-shaped posts supporting the railings are also characteristic of the age.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Yakushi Triad" of "Daiko-do" (Great Lecture Hall), Western Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  The triad consists of "Yakushi Nyorai" (Buddha of Healing, center), "Nikko Bosatsu (Skt. Suryaprabha, right) and "Gakko Bosatsu" (Skt. Candraprabha, left), all of which were made in the Heian Period.  Courtesy of Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) Gate to "Toin Garan" (Eastern Precinct) of Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) "Yume-dono" (Hall of Visions), Eastern Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  "Yume-dono" is a magnificent building standing on a double terrace, and is the oldest building of octagonal hall in existence in Japan.  More notable is the surmounting roof ornament consisting of a lotus flower, a sacred vase, a canopy and a sacred gem.  To build a Buddhist sancturary on a double terrace was the mode of the Asuka Period.  Probably this antique system was adopted here because it was built in the site of the Ikaruga Palace.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Yume-dono" (Hall of Visions), Eastern Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  "Yume-dono" is a magnificent building standing on a double terrace, and is the oldest building of octagonal hall in existence in Japan.  More notable is the surmounting roof ornament consisting of a lotus flower, a sacred vase, a canopy and a sacred gem.  To build a Buddhist sanctuary on a double terrace was the mode of the Asuka Period.  Probably this antique system was adopted here because it was built in the site of the Ikaruga Palace.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Yume-dono" (Hall of Visions), Eastern Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  "Yume-dono" is a magnificent building standing on a double terrace, and is the oldest building of octagonal hall in existence in Japan.  More notable is the surmounting roof ornament consisting of a lotus flower, a sacred vase, a canopy and a sacred gem.  To build a Buddhist sanctuary on a double terrace was the mode of the Asuka Period.  Probably this antique system was adopted here because it was built in the site of the Ikaruga Palace.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Shari-den" (Reliquary Hall), Eastern Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple
  
     
Chugu-ji Temple
     Chugu-ji Tmeple ({) is north, adjacent to Easternn Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple.  the history dates back to about 1,300 years ago when it was founded in the ancient province of Ikaruga.  Originally it was situated about a mile west of the present site as a palace of Empress Anahobe no Hashibito, the consort of the Emperor Yomei or widely known as the mother of Prince Regent Shotoku.  After the Empress's death, the palace was immediately changed to a temple by Prince Shotoku and he dedicated the temple in memory of his mother Empress.  At the former some foundation stones of the temple building have been preserved near the Chugu-ji Pond and the whole site is designated as the place of historical importance.
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(Saturday 19 February) Gate to Chugu-ji Temple from the Eastern Precinct of Horyu-ji Temple
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(Saturday 19 February) "Kondo" (Main Hall) of Chugu-ji Temple.  It is also known to have the two national treasures, statue of "Nyorin Kannon Bosatsu" (Skt. Cintamani cakra) and "Tenjukoku Mandala" (embroidery showing a state of Land of Heavenly Longevity), both of which represent the essence of the Asuka Arts when Buddhism was first introduced to Japan in the 7th century.
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(Saturday 19 February) "Kondo" (Main Hall) of Chugu-ji Temple.  It is also known to have the two national treasures, statue of "Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu" (Skt. Avalokitesvara; Ch. Kuan-Yin; the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) and "Tenjukoku Mandala" (embroidery showing a state of Land of Heavenly Longevity), both of which represent the essence of the Asuka Arts when Buddhism was first introduced to Japan in the 7th century (the photos not available).
  I was much impressed with the graceful statue of "Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu": it is the female Bodhisattva seated half-crossing her legs.  The sitting pose is called "Hanka Shiyui" which means "meditation with leg half-crossed."  You can see that her right leg is crossed over her left thigh.  Her middle finger of the right hand is touching the under part of the right jaw near the cheek and the left hand is resting on the left leg.  Her pose and her half-closed eyes indicate that the "Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu" is thinking calmly how the mankind can be saved from sufferings.  This graceful sculpture is well known in Japan.  It is said that this figure curved on camphor wood is one of the finest examples of the sculptures curved in the Asuka Period about 1,300 years ago.  Her smile is the typical example of the "Archaic smile" that art historians often refer to.



        


Copyright (c) 2005 Eishiro Ito.  All rights reserved.