Shinden-zukuri, Heian Period Aristocratic Architecture

Shinden-zukuri

During the Heian Period of Japan (784-1185) the leading style of architecture for aristocratic mansions was the style of shindenzukuri. The defining characteristic of the shindenzukuri was a group of symmetrical buildings with an open courtyard in-between them. The main building, called the shinden, was built on the central axis of the property and faced south overlooking the courtyard. Several secondary buildings were built off the central shinden. Primarily, the tainoya were placed directly to the east and west of the shinden, and were connected to the main buildings by corridors called sukiwatadono or watadono. At the half way points of the two corridors connecting the shinden and the tainoya were the chumonro, or central gate corridors, which led south into the courtyard. Extending south from the watadono were narrow corridors which ended in small pavilions called tsuridono which were arranged on either side of the courtyard. More buildings could be built to the north of the shinden and tainoya. Within the shinden was a large, open-spaced room which could be partitioned into smaller spaces using portable screens. This room was called the moya, and surrounding the moya was a roofed veranda called the hisashi. Across the courtyard from the moya was a pond garden which featured bridges, trees, and rocks to resemble the paradise of the Amidah Buddha.

With the layout of the buildings focused on the Buddhist garden at the south of the central courtyard, the Shindenzukuri style of housing is a perfect example of the growing buddhist influence over Japan at the time.

-Joel Yorimoto

Shinden-zukuri, Heian Period Aristocratic Architecture