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Horyuji Temple: The World’s Oldest Wooden Structures

Posted By on Feb 24, 2015

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Not far from Nara is a temple complex called Horyuji. If you take the train from Kyoto to Nara, you probably would have noticed it if you were looking out the window, as it comes up out of nowhere.

Located almost in the middle of nowhere, you’d need to plan a special trip to visit this temple, and you should. The temple complex holds some of Japan’s most important national treasures in the form of architecture, sculptures and scriptures.

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Greeting visitors is the five-story pagoda outside of the main hall. Both of these structures were built around 600AD, although they had to be rebuilt in 700AD after they were destroyed in a fire.

The pagoda is one of the highlights of the temple complex. It’s believed that one of Buddha’s bones is enshrined in the base of the pagoda.

All other buildings within the complex were added after the reconstruction, but still before the year 800AD. This makes Horyuji Temple complex undisputedly the oldest set of wooden buildings in the word, with the pagoda being the actual oldest structure in the world.

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The temple used to be one of the Seven Great Temples in Japan, and once served as both a seminary and a monastery in the early days of Buddhism.

It’s pretty incredible to think that some 1,300 years later these structures are still standing. When these structures were being created, Christianity was spreading across Europe and Buddhism was making its way from China to Japan.

The buildings at Horyuji are also considered to be the first Buddhist monuments in Japan and paved the way for all future architecture at temples and shrines around the country.

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While Horyuji might not be as famous with tourists as the surrounding temples in Nara or Kyoto, it should be. It’s a recognized UNESCO Heritage Site and it’s also included on the list of Japanese national treasures.

It’s important to take the time to explore this wonder and important artifact. After all, who wouldn’t want to say they’ve visited the oldest wooden structure in the world?

Address: 1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga, Ikoma District, Nara Prefecture 636-0115, Japan

[post by Beth]

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Beth Williams

Originally from Chicago, Beth got her first true taste of travel when she studied abroad in Japan during her final year of university. She ended up loving Asia so much, she found herself moving right back upon graduating and is currently teaching English full-time in Hong Kong. Armed with her camera and a passion for travel, she is currently on a mission to photograph the world-- proving that you can work the normal “9-5” and still find time to travel on her blog Besudesu Abroad.

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