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Notes on the Geography of Japan: Nara: Todaiji: Photo 4

world pictures Japan: Nara: Todaiji

Here's what lies within: the Daibutsuden, or hall of the Great Buddha. It's reputedly the world's biggest wooden building under a single roof, measuring 188 feet on the front and rear, 166 feet on the sidewalls, and 157 feet top to bottom. Still, it's smaller than it used to be, by four bays or ken. The earlier, bigger versions were dedicated in 722 and 1180; this one, in 1708. The structure, now as in the earlier versions, is based on a massive wooden latticework of pillars (hashira) and horizontal connectors of two types: beams, which join columns along the depth of the building (hari), and purlins, which join pillars across the bays or face of the building (keta). Struts and rafters are laid on the beams and purlins to support the roof, tile in this case. The golden rooftop "horns" are also tile; they're more properly called acroteria (Japanese = shibi) and are a highly stylized fishtail. (For much more on this subject, see Kakichi Suzuki's Early Buddhist Architecture in Japan, 1980, or Mary Parent's The Roof in Japanese Buddhist Architecture, 1983.)

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