Main Hall (Buddhist Temple Japan)

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"Grand Buddha Hall" ( Daibutsuden ) of the Tōdai Temple ( Tōdai-ji ) in Nara

In Buddhist temples in Japan, the main hall ( Japanese in Tempel Hondō ) is the building that houses the most important religious objects of worship ( honzon ).

The names vary from school to school. On the one hand, they are linked to the time when the school in question was built; Frequently used designations are Kondō (lit. Golden Hall / Gold Hall), Hondō (lit. Main Hall), Butsuden (lit. Buddha Palace), Butsudō (lit. Buddha Hall ) or compos-chūdō (lit. Fundamental Central Hall ).

In Japanese antiquity, the alignment of the main hall within the temple complex was still subject to the strict symmetry adopted from the Asian mainland, but with the advent of esoteric Buddhism at the latest, topographical conditions were also adapted.

One of the most impressive main halls is the Daibutuden of the Kegon School at the Tōdai Temple ( Tōdai-ji ) in Nara . Although it has been destroyed several times and the current smaller structure dates from 1709, it is still the largest wooden building in the world.

Kondō (Asuka and Nara period)

The Golden Hall ( Kondō ) of the Hōryū Temple ( Hōryū-ji ) in Ikaruga ( Nara Prefecture )

The name of the main hall as Kondō ( 金堂 ), literally "Golden Hall", appeared for the first time during the Asuka and Nara times . The name probably goes back to the gilded decoration of the interior and the design of the objects of worship.

In the early days of Japanese Buddhism, the main hall, like all buildings in a temple, was still strictly oriented towards a north-south axis. In the oldest (still existing) temples such as the Hōryū Temple and Asuka Temple ( Asuka-dera ) we find several main halls, because in their early days these served several schools as temples and centers of learning. After the Asuka Temple was moved from Asuka to the new capital Nara in 718 and it was renamed Gangō-ji , there were even seven main halls and several pagodas ( ) here.

Usually a golden hall consists of a core part ( 母 屋 , Moya ), which housed the most important sanctuaries, as well as an inner gallery called Hisashi ( ) and an outer one called Mokoshi ( 裳 階 ). Because of its limited size, but also partly for dogmatic reasons of the respective school, there was almost no space for lay people during religious ceremonies. At a time when the practice and knowledge of Buddhism was reserved for a learned and privileged section of the population, this may not have had a major impact.

Hondō (Heian period)

Main hall of the Chion-in

The Hondō ( 本 堂 , literally "main hall") called hall is a further development of the Golden Hall ( Kondō ), which began in the ninth century. The term is closely connected with the emergence of Tendai and Shingon Buddhism and also served to distinguish it from the “Six Nara Schools” ( Nanto roku-shū ).

While Buddhism of the Nara period was still largely a matter of the nobility, its following grew in large parts of society during the Heian period . The introduction of new teaching directions and the growing number of believers made new, larger main halls necessary, which were called Hondō . During the Nara period, lay people mostly took part in religious ceremonies outside the Golden Hall. Now part of the interior of the building ( gejin ) was free to them.

Here and there, so in the Ryūshaku Temple ( Ryūshaku-ji , Yamagata Prefecture ) and in the Enryaku Temple ( Enryaku-ji ) on Mount Hiei-zan , the main hall is called compos-chūdō , roughly equivalent to 'Fundamental Middle Hall '. Such alternative designations refer less to structural characteristics, but rather underline the significance of the building for the temple or the respective school.

Butsuden (Kamakura period)

The Butsuden of Myōshin-ji in Kyoto

As Butsuden ( 仏 殿 ) or Butsudō ( 仏 堂 ) is usually the main hall in the temple of Zen schools. This name found its way to Japan during the Kamakura period and can be translated as "Buddha Hall". Schools of Zen are mainly Sōtō or Rinzai .


  • Robert E. Fisher: Buddhist Art and Architecture . Thames and Hudson, 1993, ISBN 0-500-20265-6
  • Kazuo Nishi, Kazuo Hozumi: What is Japanese Architecture . Kodansha International 1985, ISBN 0-87011-711-4
  • Alexander Soper and Alexander Coburn, The Evolution of Buddhist Architecture in Japan . Hacker 1979, ISBN 0-87817-196-7

See also

Web links

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