Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The hue of autumn at Gango-ji Temple

September is going to end. Gradual cooling, cool and crisp air, sound of wind, blooms of autumn flowers, turning colors of grasses and leaves make me realize autumn is come.  At Gango-ji Temple in Nara City, The flower of Japanese bush clover is a sign of autumn together with the blooms of Chinese bellflowers and Japanese cluster-amaryllis.

Japanese bush clover, “, Hagi" meaning literally “grass on top of 秋, autumn", would be the first autumn flower because they start flowering when summer heat still lingers.  Tiny reddish purple or pink flowers and dainty leaves sway in breeze on arching stems. They were the most loved autumn flowers since the ancient times.  In the Manyoshu Anthology compiled in the 8th century, hagi flower is the most written flower, 142 out of 4500 poems.

There is also a white-flowered variety.

They play around some of the rocks with another autumn flowers, bluish purple bellflowers. 

This another stone was a foundation stone to the Lecture Hall.

In the precinct, there are about 2500 pagodas and statues made of stone or engraved on stone. They were donated by the people to wish for peaceful death to go to the Pure Land of Buddha in the medieval period.

Higanbana, or Japanese cluster amaryllis, starts blooming around the autumn equinox.

Asuka Temple built in Asuka in 596 is Japan's oldest Buddhist Temple. When the capital was transferred to Nara, the temple was moved to the current site (Nara City) and renamed Gango-ji in 718. Traits from the ancient times you can see from outside is the beautiful roof tiles and the design of roofing.

West roof of the Main Hall
Japan's oldest tile roofing called "Gyoki-buki" is constructed by partially overwrapping roof tiles of folding-fan shape.  "Gyoki-buki" is seen on the west roof of the Main Hall (Gokuraku-bo or Paradise Hall) and 16 rows of the roof of Zen Meditation Hall back to the Main Hall.  The roofing design is unique to Tempyo period (710-784).  Can you see color difference of the tiles on the roof of long rectangular building in the photo below? 

Main Hall and Zen Meditation Hall, both are national treasures.

Left side was roofed in Kamakura period (1192-1333); right side is "Gyoki-buki" in Nara period (710-794).

A few of the remaining tiles, which are brownish color, are from the Asuka period (593-670).  They were made by Korean craftsman and are the very first tiles produced in Japan.  In the ancient times, building materials were often collected from dismantled buildings, then carried to new sites and reused to make new buildings. 

Ancient tiles made in the 6th century have gone through more than 1400 times of seasonal change from summer to autumn at this temple. 

Seasonal flower is often arranged at the tsukubai basin at this temple.
Gango-ji Temple is registered as World Heritage Site as part of Historic Monuments of the Ancient Nara together with Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple, Kasuga Shrine, Yakushi-ji Temple, Toshoda-ji Temple, Kasuga Primitive Forest, and Heyjyo Palace Site.
This post is linked to Our World.


  1. just a gorgeous place! lovely blooms, but even the ancient tiles are amazing!

  2. I am fascinated by the stonework that reminds me a little of the Inukshuk stones originally created as messages by the First People known to inhabit my part of the world. The clusters of red flowers amid the gray monuments nicely soften the rigidity of the stone.

  3. The tiles are really beautiful as is the whole garden. Really wonderful to see those gorgeous blooms.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  4. Beautiful details of a gorgeous place !!!! Thanks for sharing ! Fall is indeed a beautiful season...
    Have a perfect day !

  5. 我が家の庭の萩も満開です。昨年植えたのですが、近くのお宅の萩や散歩の際に見かける萩はもうすでに見頃のころ、家の萩は頑として咲く気配がなかったので、咲かないのかなと気をもんでいるとやっと期待にこたえてくれました。やはり「待つこと」の大切さを教えてくれたようです。散策していると稲穂は実り、柿は色づき、栗ははじけ、木の葉に鮮やかな色がまじり・・・確かに秋は始まっていました。

  6. 萩と言う花は知りませんでした。可愛い花ですね。アメリカでは今日が9月の最後の日、朝夕涼しくなって、木々の葉っぱが色を変えています、、、なんだかしんみりです。 写真がとてもきれいです。私ももっと勉強しようという気になってきました。 携帯で写真を撮る方が便利で、努力をしなくなった気がします。

  7. Thank you so much Yoko-san! Your world is beautiful and your soul is too. Your are so gracious with sharing, I do appreciate this. Have more lovely autumn days! :-)

  8. Gango-ji temple must have a very powerful atmosphere with all the small Buddhas. I really like it when old buildings are used to make new ones. How remarkable that the tiles have survived over a thousand years in such good condition. Do you think that at some time, people made new ones in the old style?

    1. I’m not well versed like a professional on that matter, but I don’t think so. The brownish tiles are from the original structure in Asuka (6th century). The tiles reused from the original, and the tiles made in Nara period (710-784), which were the same shape but different color, were roofed together harmoniously on the roof of Main Hall built at this place. As you see in the photo, the tiles from Kamakura period (1192-1333) are different style from Asuka and Nara period. I've heard the oldest tiles are too heavy for the structure to endure, so I don't think people made new ones in the old style.

    2. It's quite natural for you to have such a question about the unbelievably beautiful roof tiles despite the very long history. Both Main Hall and Zen Meditation Hall are National Treasures. If some damaged tiles were replaced by the new ones (which were made in the old style), the architectures would not have been registered as National Treasures. I think some damaged or broken ones were carefully repaired taking lots of time.

  9. What beautiful flowers! Thanks for sharing your part of the world. I like the temple, pagodas and Buddhas.
    Take care.

  10. What a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors you captured to show us the arrival of autumn. I can see how nature can lend so much peace and serenity and add to the charm of a place as old as Gango-ji temple. I wish, Indians had the same love and respect towards maintaining the harmony of nature in places. Also, the reuse of old materials in building the new is a great idea of recycle. My favorite among all is the first shot followed by the first picture of Buddha in stone. You certainly have a way with the camera - I still regret not having taken any photography tips from all of you while I was there!

    Take care, dear Yoko - I hope the lil one does not trouble his grandmother a lot :) and please don't worry about the comments... the connection we all share is of the soul, right?

  11. Beautiful photography! I hope some day I'll visit Japan!

  12. Tack för den fina rundvandringen i templet. Ni har så många fina växter hos er jag njuter av dom. kanske jag får se dom någon gång.
    Ha en fin vecka
    Kram Meta

  13. 萩は、稲とおなじで、頭を垂れる様子がきれいですね。元興寺にこんなにきれいな萩やききょうが咲くのですね。屋根の瓦の色も明るくて、すこし大陸の香りが漂いますね。花々に季節の移ろいを教えられます。
    Have a nice day!

  14. Delightful excursion, thank you, Yoko!
    It was nice to recognize bellflowers which are common in our country. Do you think they would speak the same language if they met? ))) Only in my place they bloom in June.
    Have an enjoyable week end!

  15. 萩野の花は、可愛らしいのに、なんと控え目な色と花びらなのだろうと、この住宅地のお庭で咲きみだれるのを、眺めて歩いています。元興寺の屋根瓦はとても好きです。新しい瓦も古い瓦も物も自然に、美しく調和していますよね。歴史の重みの中になぜか現代的な感覚を感じるのです。

  16. Autumn is a beautiful poem! Thank you for your magical photos.

  17. お寺の瓦屋根が特徴的な形をしています。 はじめてみました。 色はパッチワークのように様々で・・・。




  18. Wonderful to have so many flowers still blooming.I love to see the red cluster amaryllis, especially near rice fields. The roof construction is very beautiful....a work of art! Thanks for sharing this Yoko.

    Happy weekend!

  19. こんばんは。旅行に行っていました。 萩や桔梗の花の美しさに心が休まります。 元興寺の事は初めて知りました。素晴らしいお寺ですね。 仙台では、萩の枝を筆の軸として使う事が有るそうです。

  20. Wonderful colors and delicacy of these flowers! Beautiful photos!

  21. Those tiles are really special; it is amazing that craftsmen could make them like this in the olden days, in spite of having only hand tools and few machines. It is also amazing that they still survive, after so many hundreds of years in all weathers.

    As always, beautiful photos.

  22. Hi Yoko, once again, this time with a real (= more powerful) computer!
    Thanks a lot for the opportunity to take a look back into Japanese history and mastership of architecture and garden culture / landscaping. Fortunately I had two times the luck / opportunity to see a small part of the old Japanese culture at Kamakura and Tokyo. But it's always a pleasure to 'travel' together with you again into Japanese history.

  23. When I look at your photos of flora, words such as lacy, fragile, transparent, light, sweet, rich, colorful come to mind. When I look at your photos of stone pagodas and statues I think of rocks. :) They are beautiful in their own way, also! Your photography is a work of grace as it blesses these virtual pages and thus provides a respite for weary hearts!

    Thank you for your comment on L & L Photography! I've been thinking about you because of the terrible typhoon which was in our news. I hope that you are safe and sound.

    Not much new to report here as yet. We should know more on Oct. 14. I'll keep you updated. But I'm feeling pretty good!

    Best wishes to you and your beautiful family!

  24. You take wonderful photos, specially the Asuku temple with the lovely delicate red flowers. We call them Spider Lillies. here in New Zealand.

  25. When I see your pictures of Japan, I really wish I could visit your lovely country. Perhaps one day? I hope so. I have never seen Higanbana before, beautiful!

  26. Αγαπημένη μου φίλη
    Τι όμορφος και γαλήνιος τόπος!!!
    Είσαι σπουδαία φωτογράφος, καλλιτέχνις!!!!
    Σου στέλνω την αγάπη μου και τα φιλιά μου σε όλα τα παιδιά σου!

  27. such a gorgeous post!
    flowers and stone
    stone and gorgeous temple
    gardens of bliss
    thank you so much for sharing!

  28. Hello Yoko, I have bellflowers growing in my gardens (but, they've now withered from the cold). Your ancient temples have such fine craftsmanship withstanding both the elements and the demands of time. The Buddha garden of stone pagodas and stone statues is so lovely with the blooming amaryllis. I'd love to walk there with you. I hope your family is well, Yoko.

  29. the tiles patterns, the autumn flowers... your images uniting them and informing us with your words... thx for the walk through time and landscape. n♥

  30. Yoko. it is a treat to catch up with you and see your autumn post of Japan. September and October, must be one of the best times of the year for late flowers. I love seeing the types of plants you have in the gardens. I wonder if I can buy some Japanese bush clover in England. I'm always on the look out for different plants for my garden. The bell flowers are common here and they are often called Hare Bells and can grow wild in the English countryside. The temple looks peaceful and a place I would love to visit with the stone forms. It's amazing to think the tiles are antique and have survived for so many years in all weathers!
    Autumn Blessings.

  31. You were very inspired to take the photos of the roof style! I find roofs at temples fascinating! And a special thank you for the explanations! Very interesting indeed!


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