The Everlasting Ephemeral Structure of Shikinen Sengu: The Japanese Temple Rebuilt Each 20 Years
The conception of structure, understood since modernity, emphasizes permanence. The sturdiness of tectonic development will be manifested in varied methods. Nonetheless, what does it imply to affiliate structure with ephemerality? And what occurs when the thought of permanence is linked to transience? The Shikinen Sengu ceremony in Japan might assist present solutions to those questions.
Throughout the realm of hegemonic architectural thought, the monument stands because the foremost instance of permanence inside a metropolis. It represents one thing deserving of remembrance and isn’t the only image embodying this intent for perpetuity. Authorities headquarters, courts, and temples current themselves as steadfast constructions to bolster enduring, timeless values. They evoke summary ideas, with structure serving because the vessel or embodiment of those concepts. The Shikinen Sengu ceremony is intriguing because of the disassociation between the bodily solidity of development and the ideas which can be related to it.
The Japanese metropolis of Ise is situated in Mie province and homes the Jingu (temple), whose reconstruction has occurred periodically since 690, throughout Empress Jito’s reign. The ceremony, generally referred to as Sengu, consists of Jingu reconstruction each 20 years. Jingu is a posh of temples, together with Naiku (interior temple) and Geku (outer temple). The previous is devoted to Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess of the solar. The latter honors Toyouke Omikami, the goddess of agriculture, shelter, and trade.
Each are erected within the Yuitsu Shinmei-zukuri type, which brings collectively some formal traits of the temples however is impressed by warehouses that saved rice harvests in historic Japan. Jingu has a cypress wooden construction, a raised ground, and a thatched roof. For the reason that temple is constructed of wooden, publicity to the weather and speak to of the pillars with the soil wears down the buildings through the years. This makes it crucial to construct new buildings frequently. The reconstruction is accompanied by celebrations and occasions that contain the whole neighborhood of the area and are additionally a manner of protecting traditions, development strategies, and carpentry methods alive.
The 20 years between ceremonies are crammed with reconstruction levels: from amassing and making ready lumber to manufacturing the temple elements. The preparation course of for Jingu’s lumber takes 8 years. The lumber is partially from a forest in Jingu itself – which has a reforestation land with a 200-year plan to attain self-sufficiency in uncooked supplies for Sengu – and partially from different cities. The logs are transported alongside the river, and the curing is finished by submerging the items in water for 2 years and drying them for an additional yr.
The preparation requires not solely the “sluggish” time crucial for the fabric to be at its highest efficiency but additionally specialised labor in its manufacture and meeting. Thus, the methods are handed down by way of generations of the concerned neighborhood, protecting an ancestral development approach alive, whose vitality would have been misplaced if not for the necessity for the development of the brand new temple.
In the course of the lumber preparation ceremony, river stones are collected, cleaned, and stacked to line the brand new Jingu’s terrain. The transport of temple parts to the terrain is accompanied by processions, mobilizing Ise and neighboring cities, and configuring a ritual with music and interactions between the fabric carriers and the general public. A conceptual inversion is introduced within the normal description of Sengu: reminiscence and custom change into everlasting by way of the destroy and demolition of the previous temple and the development of the brand new temple.
A vacant land bordering Naiku and Geku has been designed to obtain new development. After they’re erected, the belongings of the previous temples are transferred to the brand new ones, in a ritual that culminates within the switch of Amaterasu’s mirror, which consecrates the brand new Naiku. The previous temple is dismantled, and the usable elements are used within the torii (entry porches of Jingu). They’re transported to different temples within the complicated or different prefectures for upkeep.
This fixed work, within the view of these concerned, is what makes Jingu endure over the centuries, making it everlasting. This method has two stunning features. The primary is that permanence is just not linked to structure as a singular work, however to structure as an thought. What issues is just not this or that particular constructing, however the temple mannequin, Yuitsu Shinmei-zukuri. Structure is how music, customs, and methods survive.
The second is that the degradation of Jingu’s supplies evokes the cycle of life and loss of life of all the things alive (and inanimate too, why not?) on Earth. Along with the reabsorption of supplies after disassembly or demolition – since it’s natural matter – conceptually, it’s understood that all the things on the earth is transitory and can ultimately stop to exist. The transitory is certainly transient, but it surely doesn’t exclude the idea of cycles, that are everlasting, in spite of everything, a relentless repetition of the order of time. Jingu’s degradation and reconstruction mirror the countless cycle of time, seasons of the yr, days, life, and loss of life.
Seeing ruins can confuse the observer. On the one hand, it transmits the last word melancholy of the transitory, of what has gone and won’t return. However, ruins encourage admiration and are sometimes thought-about aesthetically pleasing. Sengu takes on the grandeur of Western destroy with out denying it. The previous Jingu is just not deserted, it turns into a part of different buildings, and in a manner, it renews itself.
Other than all of the fascinating cultural trivialities of the Shikinen Sengu, what’s intriguing is the thought of a “perishable” structure, which good points worth (and eternity) exactly due to this side. One of many recurring modern points considerations returning to dwelling and dying extra comfortably and respectfully in present occasions. Indigenous knowledge teaches us about Earth’s cycles, eternity and communion between people and non-humans. The Shikinen Sengu joins the checklist of examples with a lot to show us.