Daibutsu-yo (Great Buddha Style) (大仏様)

Daubutsu-yo is one of the traditional temple architectural styles in Japan. It is different from the 'wa-yo' (Japanese style) and 'zenshu-yo' (Zen Sect style).

For the Buddha statue known as 'Daibutsu-sama', please refer to 'Daibutsu'.


The Chinese architectural style brought to Japan between the 6th and 8th century during the Asuka and Nara periods by Japanese envoys to Sui and Tang Dynasty China became Japanized during the Heian period, and calm spaces with slim columns and low ceilings came into favor. This developed into a uniquely Japanese style following the Heian period to become what is known as the 'Wa-yo' architectural style.

During the latter part of the Heian period, trade with China (Song) flourished due to policies such as TAIRA no Kiyomori's opening of Kobe Port to foreign countries, and Japan was once again exposed to China's architectural style. The first to enter was the style used during the restoration of Todai-ji Temple, which was known as 'tenjiku-yo', but the alternative term 'daibutsu-yo' was proposed by Hakutaro OTA in the postwar period.

The Tenpyo era statue of Rushana at Todai-ji Temple was destroyed by fire during the Genpei War at the end of the Heian period. Shunjobo Chogen overcame numerous difficulties to cast a Great Buddha statue, for which the consecration ceremony was held in 1185. The Great Buddha statue hall was rebuilt in 1195. The offering was made in 1203 (please refer to 'Todai-ji Temple Rushana statue').

The architectural style in which Chogen restored buildings including the Great Buddha hall was highly unique and is said to have been similar to the contemporary style of China's (Song) Fujian Province.

The architectural style is practical in structure and bold in design, which was ideally suited for housing the Great Buddha statue, but there were aspects that conflicted with the Japanese fondness of gentle spaces, and the daibutsu-yo style went into decline following Chogen's death. The craftsmen involved in the restoration of the Great Buddha hall spread throughout the country and a form of daibutsu-yo-influenced wa-yo, known as 'setchu-yo', was born.

Following this, the Chinese temple architectural style made its way to Japan due to the great movement of Zen monks between China and Japan. This style, often used in Buddha statue halls of Zen Sect temples, had been called 'kara-yo' since the Edo period, but the term 'zenshu-yo' was proposed following the end of the Second World War.

Characteristics of Daibutsu-yo

Has some elements in common with zenshu-yo (kara-yo).

Architecturally it utilizes horizontal wooden beams known as penetrating tie beams which are combined with pillars to reinforce the structure
The ends of penetrating tie beams are decorated with moldings known as 'kurigata'. Use of a unique bracket complex known as 'sashihijiki' (bracket arms inserted into the shaft of a pillar).
Both wa-yo and zenshu-yo incorporate complexes placed on top of pillars but achieve this using bracket complexes inserted partway up the pillar,



Carpenters had traditionally classified temple architectural styles as wa-yo (Japanese style), tenjiku-yo (Indian style) and kara-yo (Chinese style), and these classifications continued to be used in architectural histories after the Meiji period with no concept of daibutsu-yo.

After the Second World War, Japanese architectural historian Hakutaro OTA (formerly a Professor at the University of Tokyo) criticized the term tenjiku-yo by stating that 'The fact that "Tenjiku" means "India", and leads the misunderstanding that "tenjiku-yo" refers to an Indian architectural style. It was utilized when rebuilding Great Buddha Halls and should therefore be referred to as "daibutsu-yo".
Kara-yo was used in the construction of Zen temples and should therefore be referred to as "zenshu-yo".'
The term 'tenjiku-yo' gradually gave way to 'daibutsu-yo', and current architectural histories generally use the terms 'wa-yo', 'daibutsu-yo' and 'zenshu-yo'. Although history textbooks also use the terms 'tenjiku-yo' and 'kara-yo'.

However, there are further sources of confusion as the term 'daibutsu-yo' is also mistaken for the Great Buddha hall style created by Emperor Shomu during the Nara period, and it is also not rare for the 'zenshu-yo' style to be used in temples of Buddhist sects other than Zen (particularly since modern times), including the Shingon and Nichiren Sects.

Representative Buildings

Todai-ji Temple: Nandai-mon gate (great south gate), Kaisan-do hall (founder's hall), Rai-do (meditation hall) of the Hokke-do hall (Lotus hall), remains from the time of Shunjobo Chogen. Jodo-ji Temple (Ono City): Jodo-do (National Treasure, Ono City, Hyogo Prefecture), constructed in 1197, remains from the time of Chogen. Scripture house of Daigo-ji Temple: Constructed in 1195 by Shunjubo Chogen. Destroyed by fire in 1939.

Todai-ji Temple Great Buddha hall: Constructed during the Edo period but maintains a daibutsu-yo look. Shurei-mon gate at Shuri-jo Castle: Destroyed by fire in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa. Rebuilt in 1958. Also well-known for its use of daibutsu-yo bracket complexes.

[Original Japanese]