1. Religion & Spirituality

Historic Buddhist Temples of Japan

The Austere Beauty of Impermanence


Buddhist philosophy permeates Japanese aesthetics, resulting in temples and temple gardens of unequaled beauty. Traditional art and architecture of Japan reflect the Buddhist teaching that all things are impermanent and constantly changing. The arts encourage appreciation of the present moment, in all its imperfection.

Japanese aesthetics are defined by the term wabi-sabi. "Wabi" refers to simple, austere and understated beauty. Something imperfect or even inadequate is more prized than something excessive. Moderation is preferred to ostentation; "just enough" is better than "too much."

"Sabi" means "to rust" and expresses an appreciation of something old and worn. A dark patina of age is preferred to glittery newness. Sabi also applies to something that evokes tranquility, quietness and solitude.

On the other hand, Japan is a land of giant Buddhas, ornate temple gates and a pavilion covered with real gold. Sometimes ostentation is beautiful, too.

Images 1-10 of 10
Hieizan Enryakuji temple at Mount Hiei, Kyoto, ca. 1900-10Historic Temples of Japan: Enryakuji, Mount HieiGreat Buddha at Nara is cleanedHistoric Temples of Japan: Todaji Jodo Shu monks at Choinin Temple, KyotoHistoric Temples of Japan: Chionin Toji PagodaHistoric Temples of Japan: Toji
Golden Pavilion Temple, Kinkakuji, covered with snowHistoric Temples of Japan: KinkakujiSanja Festival at Tokyo's Sensoji TempleHistoric Temples of Japan: SensojiZenkojiHistoric Temples of Japan: ZenkojiShingon monks of the Mount Koya MonasteryHistoric Temples of Japan: Mount Koya
Ryoanji Rock GardenHistoric Temples of Japan: Ryoanji EiheijiHistoric Temples of Japan: Eiheiji
  1. About.com
  2. Religion & Spirituality
  3. Buddhism
  4. Buddhist History
  5. Through Asia and Beyond
  6. Historic Temples of Japan -- Images of Buddhist temples in Japan

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.