Once again, I have put off talking about certain topics long enough that they have piled up… so, it’s time for another Quick Links post.
(1) The pagoda of Yakushi-ji, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan, has never been open to the public in the 1300 years since it was built. That is, until yesterday. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of pagodas are not meant to be entered. Having evolved out of the Indian stupa tradition – large mounds erected over the grave, or simply some relics, of a major figure – pagodas serve chiefly as reliquaries and symbols, and not as prayer halls or some other type of building designed for human occupation and use.
The pagoda at Yakushiji is about to undergo an eight-year renovation, during which not even the exterior will be visible. So, perhaps to make up for that, and to help maintain/attract interest in and attention to the site, and to the marvels of Asuka period architecture and design (all of these reasons are just speculation on my part and not mentioned in the article), they are allowing visitors, up until March 21, to take a peek inside.
I wish I were in Japan right now to take advantage of this opportunity…
(2) Speaking of renovations to ancient monuments, WIRED has a new article on the reconstruction of the Great Buddas of Bamiyan.
We’ve been hearing about reconstruction efforts for years, ever since the Buddhas – surely some of the largest Buddha statues in the world, carved right out of the mountainside in the 6th century – were dynamited and destroyed by the bigoted, religiously intolerant, and anti-culture Taliban in 2001. Now, a researcher from Germany claims to have an actual plan for the reconstruction, which he is expected to present at an upcoming UNESCO meeting in Paris.
UNESCO, as I understand it, is generally against the dramatic alteration of World Heritage Sites, and especially against reconstructions being counted as World Heritage Sites. (This is why the rebuilt Shuri Castle in Okinawa does not count as a World Heritage Site, but rather the site it sits on and the ruins and such below it are the listed/designated UNESCO Site.) … But, should UNESCO really be opposed to the reconstruction of these statues, so inappropriately destroyed? I suppose if they are not restored, the empty caverns could continue to stand for centuries, or millennia, as a monument to intolerance and religious hatred, reminding us all what an asshole thing it is to allow your own beliefs to supercede appreciation of other cultures, and of the past.
(3) A figurine excavated from the Chihara Ohaka tomb in the town of Sakurai, in Nara prefecture, is the oldest humanoid haniwa figure to ever be discovered. The 4th century figure is 67 cm (26.4 in) tall, and 50 cm (20 in) wide, predating the previously earliest found haniwa figure by several decades.
More can be found (in Japanese) at the Asahi Shimbun, for as long as they decide to keep that article up.