Architecture of China and Japan flashcards |

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A tapering tower with multiple roof levels, built by Buddhists particularly in China and Japan. Erected over relics symbolic of the Buddha's presence. Inspired by the parasol-like finials atop northern Indian stupas and by multi-storied watchtowers from Chinese military construction. Multi-storied building with layered roofs. Original purpose was to house relics and sacred writings. Later was modified into a marker in the landscape. Uesd for walking meditation and has an axis mundi. Made of masonry or wood. Hollow in the interior. Has a statue of a Buddha. Has eaves to protect the masonry. Mortar joints need to be protected.

Foguang Si Pagoda, 1056 CE

Wooden, Chinese Pagoda.

Great Wild Goose Pagoda, 645 CE

Masonry, Chinese Pagoda.



Used to sight forest fires. Had multiple stories with eaves. Not as tall as the pagoda.

Chinese House

Has an atrium. Compact with a fortified wall. Multiple stories, for future generations. Has eaves to protect the structure.


Half-Timber Construction

Half timber and half other materials. Has a wood post at the corner. One in each corner to hold up the beams and lower beams. Put cross timbers at the diagonal on the sides. The inside spaces were filled with brick, stone, mortar or other materials. Then covered with plaster.



A module used in Chinese wooden architecture, mostly houses, measuring about 12 by 20ft. Basic measure in construction. Unit of space in timber frame architecture.


Bracket Sets

Elaborate interlocking supports in Chinese architecture that produce a roof overhang. The overhang was for protection of the wooden construction from the weather. The bracket sets began with the dou. The bracket sets then support beams and purlins.


Beam and bracket construction

Tongue and groove, and notching, no nails. Masonry is rigid and collapses in earthquakes, however wood is more flexible so survives better in earthquakes. The structure is designed to flex a little. The structure is tied together with rope. Brackets are built up to support smaller length beams.



Wooden blocks that sat atop the columns similar to the capital in Classical architecture. It supports pairs of going brackets.


A secondary beam, usually supporting roof rafters.


Feng shui

The Chinese art of adjusting the building to particular features of the individual site and its microclimate. A Daoist principle that human actions should be in accord with the Cosmos.

Nanchan Temple, Wutaishan, China, 782 CE

Structure of 3 bays, set in south-facing courtyard with flanking structures. The central bay has extra width to emphasize its axial placement. The courtyard provides a viewing place to view the statues. The monks place offerings on the altar.



A building module defined by the repetition of an element such as a column or a pier. Has 4 points of structure.


The edge of the roof plane that projects over the exterior wall of a building.


Transfer Beams

A heavy beam that transfers loads from the structure above to supports that are not directly aligned below.


Kao Gong Ji (The Artificer's Record)

Chinese treatise on city planning based on Confucianism. A capital city should be oriented to the cardinal directions and have a square plan 4000ft on each side. The wall that surrounds the city should have 3 gates on each side and those roads from those gates should create the cities grid. The palace is walled off from the city.

Horyu-Ji Monastery, Nara Prefecture, Japan, 670 - 714

Earliest surviving Buddhist temple. The temple buildings are set within a courtyard defined by a covered perimeter corridor and made accessible through an inner gateway (chumon). Balanced asymmetry. Has a centrally placed kodo. The complex has a 5 story pagoda and the kondo (Golden Hall). Has a wall and an entry gate. Has beam and bracket construction and swooping roof. The Kondo sits on a square plinth. Has a stair case on the center, one on each of the four sides. Wood beam construction and has an interior for sitting meditation. Pagoda for walking meditation. Towered to mark the axis mundi. Can be entered to see the Buddha statue. Kondos and pagodas both hold relics.



Assembly or lecture hall.


Golden Hall, the repository for religious images, main hall of a Japanese Buddhist temple.

Phoenix Hall (Hoodo) of the Byodoin, Uji (near Kyoto), Japan 1053

Constructed by the Fujiwara family to transform a villa into a family temple. Plan and massing was inspired by a Phoenix. The plan is symmetrical with a central hall with open L-shaped wings stretching from either side and a covered corridor attached to the rear like a tail. The wooden structure is painted red with gold accents.

Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture, Japan, 690 CE - present

Consists of 2 Shinto shrines 4 miles apart. The outer shrine (Geku) dedicated to Toyouke, goddess of agriculture and the earth and the Inner Shtine (Naiku) dedicated to Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. Layout for each shrine is similar, 4 concentric sets of fences surround the shrine, each entered through a gateway (torii), and the buildings are symmetrically disposed to each side of a central axis. At the center is the main sanctuary, flanked by east and west treasure houses. White stones cover the courtyard. Materials at the shrine are reassembled and rebuilt with materials every 20 years. Means, birth, death and birth again. Platform made with wood. Four columns, one in each corner. Ridge pole, one on each side. Purlins are supported with the top beam and the side beam on each side. Thatch is then attached to the purlin. They shaved the top of the thatch to create a perfect right angle at the corners and tapered it. Wall panels - grass mats. Japanese appreciate materials and want each one to shine.


Ridge Pole

Large tree trunk carved as a pole.


Japanese Tea Ceremony

Performed in small structures and constructed to have harmony, reverence, purity, and silence. Tea houses are isolated and are approached by a path that enables the visitor to view the pavilion only at the last possible moment. Tea houses are not symmetrical or regular. Entrance is a low door and shoes are left outside. Windows are at eye level when one is seated. Tokonoma - alcove with a raised floor that displays treasures.

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