History of Art and Architecture

Elizabeth Morrissey and Elizabeth Self Colloquium


Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

"The Nirvana Services of Ishiyama-dera and Kofukuji: Architectural Space and Ritual in A Heian Court Dance Ceremony"

Elizabeth Morrissey, PhD Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh

The completed temple complex of Ishiyama-dera is first illustrated in the handscroll The Illustrated Legends of Ishiyama-dera in a scene showing the performance of the nehan-e (Nirvana Service) inside the main hall and in the adjacent courtyard.  In this scene, the first nehan-e of Ishiyama-dera held in 804 was recorded from the perspective of the 14th century compilers of the scroll, however despite the numerous changes that the nehan-e has undergone over the centuries it is the Heian-period format featuring court dance and music (bugaku) that is illustrated in the handscroll.  The nehan-e was well documented at other temples, particularly Kofukuji, a temple site with a very different layout but which also performed this ritual in the same basic format, including bugaku court dances performed on an outdoor stage in front of the temple’s main hall.  In the Ishiyama-dera engi-e illustration, the scene is depicted in such a way that Ishiyama-dera’s layout appears much closer to that of temples like Kofukuji which featured a large enclosed courtyard directly in front of the main hall.  In actuality, Ishiyama-dera is built on the steep side of a mountain and the central courtyard lies parallel to the main hall, rather than in front of it. Using the example of Ishiyama-dera’s first nehan-e this paper will investigate the relationship between temple architecture and the requirements of the rituals performed therein, considering what influence architecture had on the type of rituals performed at a temple and how rituals were adapted to different sites. Through analysis of both ritual and its spacial context, this paper relates to the agency and environment constellations.

"From Mausoleum to Buddha Hall: Form and Function at Kenchōji’s Buddha Hall"

Elizabeth Self, PhD Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh

Constellation: environment

In 1647, Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651) decided to rebuild his mother’s magnificent mausoleum, located at the Tokugawa clan temple of Zōjōji in Edo. However, rather than simply tearing down the original mausoleum, built in 1626, he decided to bestow the building on the Zen temple of Kenchōji, in Kamakura. Kenchōji, one of the most important and earliest Zen temples in Japan, was a strange choice: the mausoleum, covered in elaborate polychrome decoration, seemed a poor match for traditional Zen architectural styles. Furthermore, Kenchōji was nearly thirty miles from Zōjōji; transporting an entire building that far would have been an arduous task in the 17th century. Nonetheless, the gift was eagerly accepted, and the former mausoleum of Sūgenin became Kenchōji’s Buddha Hall (butsuden), where it has remained until the present day. How did this change in environment affect the form of the original Sūgenin Mausoleum? Following the example of scholars who examine the entire life of buildings, I will demonstrate how and why a Pure Land mausoleum became a Zen Buddha Hall.