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Japanese Architecture - Architectural Character

( Originally Published 1921 )

Japanese architecture was largely derived from China, but has its own special character of minuteness in carving and decoration which gives it a graceful lightness and delicacy of design, contrasting forcibly with that of Egypt and Rome, in which the great idea was vastness of size and grandeur of proportion. This quality of refinement is introduced in their timber constructions with such artistic skill as to render them akin to fine joinery. Japanese architecture is specially notable for sloping and curved roofs, forming a contrast with that of Egypt and India, where flat terrace roofs predominate. The projecting roofs, ornamented with dragons and other fabulous monsters, are supported on a succession of small brackets and are most striking features (p. 823). Japanese temple architecture, though it started under Chinese influence, did not depend for impressiveness on the monotonous repetition of the same feature, but owes much of its character to the well-balanced symmetry of the various parts, and this is produced by restrained variety rather than by mere formality of treatment ; while interiors depend on their world-famous decorative art, which covered wall and roof with a lavish use of gold and brilliant colouring, well suited to the subdued light of Buddhist temples. Gateways, belfries, quaint gardens, summer houses, rustic arbours, and fish ponds form a delightful setting to the main structure.

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