Middle Gate

The magnificent Middle Gate marks the entrance to the inner temple area where the Five-storied Pagoda and Main Hall are located. Two fierce guardian deities known as Kongo Rikishi (Nio) flank the gate. These statues were erected to protect the temple and have stood guard for more than a thousand years.

There are actually two entrances to the Western Precinct within the gate. They stand side by side, forming what is known as a “split entrance.” The entrance is said to reflect the positioning of the buildings within the precinct. It is also said that unlike other temples of the time period, in which the buildings stood in a straight line, one behind the other, the Main Hall and the Five-storied Pagoda at Horyuji stand side-by-side, almost as if mirrored by the gate’s split entrance design. There is a pillar in the middle of the gate, which is unusual, but it is thought to be there because an extra pillar was required to support the large size of the structure. Other features of the gate include its large, overhanging eaves and a complex system of brackets designed to support them. These brackets are in the shape of clouds, a feature unique to the architectural style of the Asuka period (593–710).

Covered Corridor

This stately covered corridor links Horyuji Temple’s Bell Tower on the east, the Great Lecture Hall in the center, and the Sutra Repository on the west. Originally, the corridor only surrounded the Five-storied Pagoda and Main Hall. Its current form dates back to 990.

The pillars in the temple complex bulge slightly in the middle, a feature known as entasis. It is possible that this was influenced by the architecture of ancient Greece.

The east side of the corridor is longer than the west. It is commonly thought that this was an attempt to achieve balance with the temple’s innovative design, which moved the Five-storied Pagoda from its traditionally central position to the west and aligned it horizontally with the Main Hall.

Sutra Repository (Kyozo)

This structure was originally built to store sutras (Buddhist scriptures), but now houses a seated statue of Kanroku Sojo, a seventh-century priest who is said to have come to Japan in 602 from Paekche, one of the three ancient kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula. According to the Nihon Shoki [Chronicles of Japan], Kanroku also first introduced astronomy and the lunar calendar to Japan.

The Sutra Repository is believed to have contained one of the temple’s three sets of fukuzō, or underground depositories. The depositories are said to have held enough wealth and treasure to rebuild Horyuji Temple in the event of a disaster.

Bell Tower (Shoro)

The Bell Tower is on the east side of the Great Lecture Hall. The bell is rung to signal the start of services conducted by the temple priests. The original structure was destroyed by fire in 925 along with the Great Lecture Hall. A bronze temple bell cast in the Nara period (710–794) hangs in the tower. Temple priests also ring the bell during major temple events.

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