Thursday, January 31, 2013

Japanese Gate Typology (24)

This is a series of posts describing the many varieties of Japanese gate, or mon (). If you look at the preceding kanji more closely,  you can think of it as a picture of a pair of swinging doors, reminiscent of saloon doors in a wild west movie. I thought that it would be a nice idea to bring more awareness to a western audience as to the tremendous diversity in forms and types of Japanese gates. This series intends to be a gateway to gates.

Previous posts in this series:
  1. Heijūmon 
  2. Kabukimon 
  3. Kōraimon 
  4. Yakuimon 
  5. Yotsu-ashimon 
  6. Munamon 
  7. Commentary
  8. Uzumimon 
  9. Yaguramon 
  10. Rōmon
  11. Shōrōmon
  12. Taikomon
  13. Nijūmon
  14. Sanmon 
  15. Niōmon 
  16. Nitenmon
  17. Sōmon 
  18. Wakimon 
  19. Chokushimon
  20. Onarimon 
  21. Tansōmon 
  22. Zuijinmon 
  23. Miyukimon 
------------------

 A-ge-tsuchi-mon (上土門)

The gate () of the raised () earth (). This is a gate with an earthen roof. The framing is similar to a munamon

Not very many examples of this type of gate exist. In fact, it is known primarily from one famous example, located at Hōryūji-Seion-in (法隆寺西園院) in Nara:


As you can see, there are two gates in the outer wall - the agetsuchimon is on the left.

A closer look (pic from JAANUS):


The roof under-surface consists of planks, atop which the clay/sand/straw mix, the tsuchi, is added. The narrow ends of the roof are bounded with decoratively-cut boards which attach to the purlins, and these help contain the earthen roof material. These boards are termed eburi-ita (柄振板) and you may have spotted them on other gates and walls seen in this series.

A view from the inside court yard shows the rear support posts:


A front elevation view:


Note the arrow pointing to the foundation of the main postThe foundation for this gate is a bit unusual, employing large rectangular chunks of wood under the main posts - these are termed kara-i-shiki (唐居敷), which means they are thought of as 'Chinese' in origin or style:
 

As it turns out, these foundation points are more usually made of stone, and in fact the word kara-i-shiki is a modification or corruption of kara-ishi-shiki (唐石敷), the middle character, ishi,, meaning 'stone'.

The kara-ishi-shiki is bored out for a door hinge pin in some cases (not in the case of the above gate however, which has post-hung doors):


All the above information about the gate at Hōryūji-Seion-in is interesting enough, however the example above does not actually have an earthen roof any more - it was replaced with bark shingles! The form remains, but not the substance.

I found one more example on the web of this gate, located at a residence in Nagoya city, however this is the best photo I could find:

  
All for today, a short post to balance some of the preceding longer ones, perhaps? The series will continue. Thanks for coming by.  On to post 25

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Japanese Gate Typology (23)

Today marks -  uh, well, a couple of days belatedly in truth - the 4th anniversary of the Carpentry Way!! After 611 posts, and more than 643,000 page views,  this is still going strong. I would like thank my regular readers for their support over the years, and hope you will continue to visit regularly in 2013.

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This is a series of posts describing the many varieties of Japanese gate, or mon (). If you look at the preceding kanji more closely,  you can think of it as a picture of a pair of swinging doors, reminiscent of saloon doors in a wild west movie. I thought that it would be a nice idea to bring more awareness to a western audience as to the tremendous diversity in forms and types of Japanese gates. This series intends to be a gateway to gates.

Previous posts in this series:
  1. Heijūmon 
  2. Kabukimon 
  3. Kōraimon 
  4. Yakuimon 
  5. Yotsu-ashimon 
  6. Munamon 
  7. Commentary
  8. Uzumimon 
  9. Yaguramon 
  10. Rōmon
  11. Shōrōmon
  12. Taikomon
  13. Nijūmon
  14. Sanmon 
  15. Niōmon 
  16. Nitenmon
  17. Sōmon 
  18. Wakimon 
  19. Chokushimon
  20. Onarimon 
  21. Tansōmon 
  22. Zuijinmon 
------------------

 Miyukimon (御幸門)

The first character means honorable (), the middle means good fortune/happiness () and the last character is gate (). Putting the first two characters together, 御幸, means honorable good fortune, literally - - but what it actually means is: visit/attendance by the emperor. One can readily see how the literal meaning associates to the extended one. This is a type of gate originally used only by the emperor, and is generally of the yotsuashimon pattern, with two principal posts and four secondary support posts, hikae-bashira, or of the munamon pattern, with two principal posts and two support posts, the ridge centered over the main posts. While the original function of this gate was a rather narrow one, in time it also came to be used in front of the mansions of princes and other aristocrats, and in front of certain shrines and temples.

As you may imagine, some miyukimon were fairly elaborate in style. If we were to start with an example with the 'volume turned to 11' it would have to be the miyukimon at Nikkō Tōshōgū (日光東照宮), a gate otherwise known as a karamon:


A view from the side with the doors open:


This gate has the cusped gable on all four sides.

Take a gander at the underside of the cusped gable:



The small sculptures along the bottom in the picture depict a Chinese fable called "The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove". The Seven Sages stressed the enjoyment of ale, personal freedom, spontaneity and a celebration of nature  -sounds like a bunch of fellows I'd like to hang with!

If one were to imagine the polar opposite to the gate above, it would be something incredibly rustic, using unpeeled logs even. Well, say hello to the next miyukimon, located at the Katsura Imperial Palace, or Rikyū-den (桂離宮), also home of the most famous example of sukiya architecture in the country. The emperor's gate here is certainly a contrast in style to the one at Nikkō:


Hope that transition wasn't too severe.

This miyukimon was built on the occasion of the visit of the retired Emperor Go-Mizuno-o, the 108th Emperor of Japan, in the mid-17th century. The thatched gable roof in the kirizuma form is supported by bamboo rafters, and the pillars and beams are made of oak with a cork-like bark. Since the cork tree is a variety of oak, this should not come as too much of a surprise.

Building with unpeeled logs is termed kuroki-zukuri. It's not a recommended technique if you are looking for longevity, as these sorts of constructions don't tend to last much past 20 years. Not such an issue when the budget is essentially a blank sheet however.

Here's a look at the spartan framing of this gate:


So you can see that this gate is essentially a thatched munamon type of gate.


A view from the inner courtyard:


The adze-worked faces of the hikae-bashira are worth pointing out.

Another example of a simple looking miyukimon, this one at Shugakuin Rikyū (修学院離宮) on the outskirts of Kyoto, also the site of one of Japan's most famous gardens:


This villa complex was created by the same Emperor mentioned above, Go-Mizuno-o, and dates from 1656. it has an incredible collection of stone lanterns and is not to be missed on any tour of traditional Japanese sites.

This gate is another example of what is otherwise a munamon:


The doors have some pleasing pierced tracery:


All for this round. More to come in this series - thanks for your visit. On to post 24

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Japanese Gate Typology (22)

This is a series of posts describing the many varieties of Japanese gate, or mon (). If you look at the preceding kanji more closely,  you can think of it as a picture of a pair of swinging doors, reminiscent of saloon doors in a wild west movie. I thought that it would be a nice idea to bring more awareness to a western audience as to the tremendous diversity in forms and types of Japanese gates. This series intends to be a gateway to gates.


Previous posts in this series:
  1. Heijūmon 
  2. Kabukimon 
  3. Kōraimon 
  4. Yakuimon 
  5. Yotsu-ashimon 
  6. Munamon 
  7. Commentary
  8. Uzumimon 
  9. Yaguramon 
  10. Rōmon
  11. Shōrōmon
  12. Taikomon
  13. Nijūmon
  14. Sanmon 
  15. Niōmon 
  16. Nitenmon
  17. Sōmon 
  18. Wakimon 
  19. Chokushimon
  20. Onarimon 
  21. Tansōmon
------------------

Zuijinmon (随身門)

The gate () of the Zuijin (). The two kanji of the term 'zuijin' break down as '', originally meant 'collapsing earthen wall', which over time came to mean follow, go with (as in a trail of falling dirt). Jin, also read shin, '', means 'body'. So a zuijin refers to something which follows or accompanies a body, in the sense of having a thing on one's person. It also means a person who follows another 'body' and waits on them - an attendant. Zuijin actually has a more specific historical reference in this particular case, referring at one time to bodyguards for the Emperor of Japan. Later, the term came to mean divine warrior beings, and representations of them.

A zuijinmon is a type of gate featuring statues of these divine warrior beings on each side, very much like the niōmon and nitenmon gates looked at earlier, which are seen at temples The zuijinmon is essentially the same gate, however it is used exclusively for shrines, and the zuijin figures are different in various respects to the figures seen at the other types of gates. This arrangement of flanking figures at a shrine entry gate is also termed kado-mori no kami (門守神), or 'gate with protective divine beings'.

Let's check out an especially grand zuijinmon - this one is at Nikkō, which has a special name otherwise, the Yomeimon (陽明門): 


An extremely elaborate structure, highly ornamented with some 500 sculpted figures - and eight-legged rōmon if looked at purely on the basis of structural type.

Let's have a closer look at one of the corner bracket complexes on this Zen-style building:


 Click on the image for something a bit larger. Not too shabby eh?

We're interested here though in the two figures seen as one enters the gate, shown below in a side-by-side photo:


So, unlike the niō figures, these two are not grimacing or trying to look scary. Unlike the figures we saw in the nitenmon, these figures do not stand upon demons. They are generally to be seen in the sitting position, looking fairly relaxed - but vigilant. The two figures above look very similar to one another in this case, and the sole obvious difference is that one is younger (left) and the other is older (right). The beards give it all away. Both men carry bows and have a quiver of arrows slung on their back.
 
It is helpful to look at these sort of entry gates as being like a car. When you come to the gate, intending to pass into the shrine, it is as if you are standing at the front of a car. And just like with a car, the orientation of which side is left and which is right is determined from the perspective of the car's occupants. In North America the driver operates the vehicle on the left side, while the passenger is on the right. So, when you are facing a zuijinmon, the figure you see on the left is the right side figure, and the figure on the right is the left side figure. Got that?

The elder zuijin sits on the right side when you are looking at the gate, and is therefore the left figure, and is named sadaijin (左大臣). The younger zuijin, which you see on the left when looking at the gate from the outside, is the right side figure, and is called udaijin (右大臣) or sometimes yadaijin (矢大臣).

Let's look at another gate example - here's the zuijinmon at one of my favorite shrine complexes in all of Japan, Dewa Sanzan (出羽三山) at Haguro Mountain (羽黒山) in Yamagata Prefecture:


As a structure, this gate is of the single-story tansōmon form we looked at in the previous post. A most pleasing copper shingled irimoya roof.

The figure on the left side of the gate is the younger right hand man, udaijin (右大臣):


And on the right we have the left hand man, sadaijin, (左大臣), the elder:


With these two figures, if you look closely you will note that udaijin has his mouth closed, while sadaijin has his mouth open. This is the same idea as we saw with the other figures in the gates examined previously, in that the open and closed mouths symbolize the first breath in and the last breath out, the cycle of birth and death. I presume the borrowing here was from the continental Buddhist iconography into the Japanese.

Here's the zuijinmon at Musashi Mitake Jinja (武蔵御嶽神社), atop a mountain not too far from Tokyo:


This view gives us a glimpse of the figure on the right as one enters:


This is the elder figure, or sadaijin, mouth open:


And the younger figure, udaijin, mouth closed:



Now, udaijin had a specific meaning in the Heian Era (794~1195) - it means 'Minister on the Right'. Sadaijin is the 'Minister on the Left' and is the senior of the two ranks, udaijin being his deputy. These were government positions of considerable importance - both of these ministers oversaw all functions of government. The zuijin figures are also dressed in Heian-era clothing and depict other Heian period cultural norms, such as powdered faces and the male courtly ideal of of a faint moustache and thin goatee.

Here's a zuijinmon at the second most important shrine in Japan, after Ise Jingu, the Usa Hachiman Shrine (宇佐八幡宮) in Ōita Prefecture:


In terms of structural form, this gate is a rōmon, and is referred to at the shrine as the south rōmon (南楼門).

Coming closer up, we can espy one of the zuijin:


Here's udaijin:


And Sadaijin:


As you can see in this pairing of figures, udaijin does not carry a bow or quiver full of arrows, while sadaijin does. This explains why the sadaijin also goes by the name of yadaijin (矢大臣), or arrow () big () retainer/subject (), if translated directly.

All for this one - thanks for coming by. more post in this series coming up. On to post 23

Monday, January 28, 2013

Japanese Gate Typology (21)

This is a series of posts describing the many varieties of Japanese gate, or mon (). If you look at the preceding kanji more closely,  you can think of it as a picture of a pair of swinging doors, reminiscent of saloon doors in a wild west movie. I thought that it would be a nice idea to bring more awareness to a western audience as to the tremendous diversity in forms and types of Japanese gates. This series intends to be a gateway to gates.


Previous posts in this series:
  1. Heijūmon 
  2. Kabukimon 
  3. Kōraimon 
  4. Yakuimon 
  5. Yotsu-ashimon 
  6. Munamon 
  7. Commentary
  8. Uzumimon 
  9. Yaguramon 
  10. Rōmon
  11. Shōrōmon
  12. Taikomon
  13. Nijūmon
  14. Sanmon 
  15. Niōmon 
  16. Nitenmon
  17. Sōmon 
  18. Wakimon 
  19. Chokushimon
  20. Onarimon
------------------

Tansōmon (単層門)

The word tansō (単層) refers to such things as geological strata, layers, laminae, and, by extension, social class. A tansōmon is a layer of sorts too: it is an eight-legged gate (hyakkyaku-mon) which lacks a second story altogether - it is but a simple, single layer version of the eight-legged gate. This form of gate associates primarily with shrines, not temples. Ordinary shines are called jinja (神社).

Let's start with an example from Ehara Sengen Jinja (江原浅間神社) in Yamagata Prefecture:



No niō to be found here:


Umi Jinja (宇美神社) in Niigata Prefecture:


Next, in Yamanashi City, Yamanashi Prefecture, there is  Nakamaki Jinja (中牧神社):

 
A peek through the gate to see the honden, or main shrine building:


Time for some color! Kandaten Jinja (菅田天神社) in Kōshō City (甲州市) - also located in Yamanashi Prefecture, and erected in 842:


Nice examples of the tasoya type of shrine lantern, with the more complex type of window lattice involving radiating verticals.

And a view looking through the opening of the gate to the precinct beyond:


Since these gates appear at shrines, it it not uncommon to see them decorated with a large braided straw rope, or shimenawa. Here's the tansōmon at Igata-ke Jinja (伊賀多気神社) in Shimane Prefecture:


A shimenawa also graces the entry of the honden:
 

All for today - I could show many more examples of this gate, however the form is fairly consistent from gate to gate so there seems like little point in simply showing more examples. This series continues - thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. On to post 22

Friday, January 25, 2013

Visit to a Springfield Museum

The English colonist William Pynchon founded the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, naming it after his hometown of Springfield, Essex (England). While there are many Springfields in the US - that's where the long-running Simpsons' cartoon is based (though that's supposed to be Springfield, Oregon)- Springfield MA was the first to be so-named in the New World. It's not a huge city, with only 150,000 residents or so, however greater metropolitan Springfield houses nearly 700,000 inhabitants. I live about an hour's drive north of the city and often pass through on the interstate highway on my way to points further south, like Hartford Connecticut or New York City. About the only time I go to Springfield otherwise has been to visit the Woodcraft store, or, lately, for shoulder surgery.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I decided to check out The Quadrangle, a cluster of 5 museums and the Springfield City Library, as I had heard that one of the museums had a good collection of Asian art. Not expecting a lot, I was in fact quite astounded at how good the collection was at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, which turns out to be the oldest museum in the Quadrangle. George Smith made his fortune as a carriage manufacturer in New York City and retired when he was just 35 years old. He and his Springfield-born wife, Belle Townsley Smith, moved to Springfield in 1871 and devoted their lives to collecting art. Although Smith never visited Asia, by buying from dealers in New York and Europe he became a leading 19th-century collector of Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern art, and also amassed an outstanding selection of 19th-century American paintings. The Smiths bequeathed their notable collection to begin the museum.

It was quite a stunning collection, housed in a lovely building. The Museum was completed in 1895 and has stained glass windows made by the Tiffany Glass Company in New York. I was really surprised that something so good could be found so close to home. It's funny what's in your backyard sometimes!

The museum houses a great collection of samurai armor and weaponry, a good selection of Chinese Cloissonné ware - the largest outside of China in fact, some Chinese hardwood furniture, Japanese inrō and netsuke - a lot of eye candy. I thought I'd share some pics. Sorry for the quality, as most of these were taken through glass under less than ideal lighting conditions.

Let's start with an example of the Chinese cloissonné:


From the museum's description, "Designed as a double vessel and based on the shape of a quiver, this extraordinary piece was probably a trophy. Between the two vessels, a falcon with spread wings subdues a monster, and a dragon on the back of the vessel also unifies the two cylinders".

Here's an intriguing piece of pottery - two figures in a Lion dance costume:


I couldn't resist taking a picture of the earthenware jug featuring the shippō-gumi pattern on it (right):


A Japanese comb with incredible inlay work:


A Chinese huanghuali side table:


Detail:


I am always left scratching my head when I see such refined work in jade as this - how did they do it? What kind of tools did they use? How long did that take?:


A classic Chinese drum-form stool:


A superb example of Japanese metalwork:


The museum houses at least half a dozen sets of Japanese armor, which feature numerous finely-wrought details:


They even have a samurai armor storage cabinet, a type of tansu.

One of the cases showing Japanese helmets:


This small museum houses one of the largest collection of Japanese swords, daggers, and arrowheads I have ever come across. While my knowledge of the art of swords is a bit limited, I can appreciate the jewel-like metalwork that goes into the scabbards (saya) and sword hilts (tsuba). Here's a rooster-form handle on a short knife:


An overview of just one of the cases with Japanese swords:


The end of this scabbard has a delightful shrimp formed in silver:


More Japaense helmets:


And one last picture - the transom over a door in the musuem was quite unusual, so I had to take a picture:


Have you ever seen a transom like that before?

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way.