Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Introduction of Chinese existing oldest Wood temple

By Li Haoyang

When I was six years old, my parents took me to the Shanxi (a province in the north China region) for a vacation. Mount Wutai is a famous attraction of Shanxi province. There are lots of temples in Mount Wutai, and these temples are dedicated to the Buddhist deity. Temples make the Mount Wutai became a very famous Buddhist Mountain. When passing by, one must visit these temples.
My parents bring me to a temple named Foguangsi (Foguang Temple). For a six-year-old child, only interesting things can help him focus. But the history of temple has brought a deepest shock to me. Every old wood pillar has the scars of history, and those scars, for young me, were just like a painting. The scars had a lot of history. I can remember the big sculptures as I walked into the temple. It was colorless but grand. Whether one believes in Buddhism, one will have the urge to worship. The temple is boring to a boy, but it is important to an architect, especially a Chinese one.

Foguang Temple is the biggest existing, and second oldest wooden building in China. With the 1000 years after it had been built, some dynasty has repaired it once or twice, it still in existence and in relatively in good condition. ( Rain and insects easily destroy the wood, but one earthquake can destroy the temple completely, making the structure of this building important. As an architect, I wonder what made the temple last 1000 years.
Foguang Temple has an epic historic meaning to China. It broke a Japanese scholar’s assertion: There is no Tang (618-907) and earlier wooden structure building existing in China. (Itō, C., & Chen, Q. 1998) China has a long history of using wood to build buildings, and there have also been lots of wars within this history. And I think our Chinese have a “bad” habit; when they conquer a city, they like to ruin the important and valuable buildings and then build them themselves. Honestly, it’s a good way to start and maintain their rule. Because they ruined the old valuable buildings, they can destroy the faith of the former adherents and establish their own symbol of power. With being destroyed year after year, Foguang Temple is evidence of this old country’s wisdom, strength and cruelty.
There are some Buddhist sculptures and murals still in the temple. Mount Wutai is treated as the number one Buddhist Mountain in China. (Common sense) The sculpture and murals are the art part of the Buddhist history and culture. And they also reflect the culture of the Tang Dynasty. Researching these will help us know the background of this temple. The sculptures and murals have high value.
When we talk about the wooden building, we cannot ignore the beauty of its main structural elements—Dougong. The Chinese start using Dougong around 700 BC. (Fu, Glahn, Thorp & Juliano, 1984) After time goes on, Dougong also changes a lot with the style and the looks. During the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), there was a book written named Ying Zao Fa Shi, 1100, which includes almost all the instructions on how to make a building and how to make Dougong. Ying Zao Fa Shi plays a very important role in China’s old building development history. Every dynasty after Song just changed a little or added some of their own things into it. The Chinese used it until the last dynasty of China, Qing (1644-1912). (Fu et al., 1984) Foguang Temple is built during the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty was a dynasty before the Song Dynasty. So the structure of Foguang Temple is the example of Ying Zao Fa Shi. The Chinese have this book now, but Foguang Temple is the only one large and old enough that lead to the later wooden buildings.
With researching it further; we can see more culture and more custom of ancient China. We can see how the building developed during the dynasty change. We can also learn from the history, and it is important to preserve the old building. Foguang Temple is the pearl of ancient Chinese buildings.


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