The main temple of the Byodoin monastery is the Japanese Phoenix Hall. It can be found in Uji, which is located south of Kyoto. The Phoenix Hall was originally a country house for the Fujiwara clan. Yorimichi Fujiwara converted the hall into a shrine in order to protect the Buddha revered as Amida. The paper goes into detail about the origins and architecture of the Japanese Phoenix Hall.
The Japanese Phoenix Hall was built in the shinden-zukuri style at first. Shinden-zukuri was the architectural theme of all Japanese aristocracy residences at the time. The main apartment of this hall, shinden, faced south to let in sunlight and allow users of this apartment to experience the beauty of the pond. The Phoenix Hall was established in 1053 after the construction of the Byodoin Temple as Amitabha Tathagata or national treasure. The garden on which the hall was constructed was a landscape garden designated for not only a historic site but also a place of picturesque beauty. The Phoenix Hall is surrounded by the Suhama which is a sandy beach, the Hirabashi which is a flat bridge, the Soribashi which is an arched bridge, and the Kojima, a small island.
The Phoenix Hall was initially known as Amida-do. It later became well-known as the Phoenix Hall because of its unique shape. It derived its new name from its resemblance to a phoenix dispersing its wings. According to Kleiner, the Phoenix Hall has a birdlike shape and has two bronze phoenixes at its ridgepole ends. The Phoenix Hall presents unique architecture with the wall and door paintings portraying nine grades of Aminda’s fall. As it was noted before, a small scenic island was designed in front of the Phoenix Hall. The pond is characterized by the beauty from trees and flowers. “The Phoenix Hall houses a gilded and lacquered wood statue of Aminda by the master sculptor Jocho.” The elaborate wing-like form of the building brings out the image of Buddha’s palace. The builders of the Phoenix Hall presented the floating weightlessness of extraterrestrial architecture by using light pillars on the exterior parts of the hall, elevating the wings as well as placing the hall on a reflective pond.
On the surrounding of the Phoenix Hall walls is a collection of small wood-sculpted apsaras playing music instruments while riding on designed clouds. The interior of the walls presents poorly conserved polychrome painting to signify the anticipated raigo scene and the gentle rolling Japan’s topography. The building comprises many wood pieces carved, hollowed, and joined together. The surface of these woods constitutes cloth besides gold leaf. The joined-block construction technique used in constructing this building allowed a feeling of lighter sculpture and evoked the significance of dramatic curving in single-block construction. As it was noted above, the Phoenix Hall was aimed at establishing the Land of Happiness which is believed to be the destination for a person after-life. In tandem with this claim, one can note that images associated with Heian era come out in the land of happiness with not only Aminda in the center of the temple, but also a pond in front. Apart from having power, the Japanese had money that allowed them to build temples relating to their dreams. Thus, the Phoenix Hall is a product of Japanese nobility.
In conclusion, the Phoenix Hall was constructed as a palace for Fujiwara clan. It was changed into a temple by Yorimichi Fujiwara to host Buddha Aminda. It was established in 1053 in a landscape garden with picturesque beauty. It derived the name Phoenix from its birdlike shape. The Phoenix Hall is made of a collection of small wood-sculpted apsaras, and its interior walls present poorly conserved polychrome painting. It was aimed at establishing the Land of Happiness.
“Japanese Art.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2017. https://www.britannica.com/art/Japanese-art/Heian-period (Accessed 20 November, 2017)
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History. New York: Cengage Learning, 2015.
Mariani, Tony. “The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin in Uji.” June 27, 2013. https://en.japantravel.com/kyoto/h%C5%8D-%C5%8D-d%C5%8D-phoenix-hall/5243 (Accessed 20 November 2017)