Ise, Prototype of Japanese Architecture

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Bruno Taut ranks the Ise Shrine with the Parthenon in architectural importance. John Burchard, in his preface, characterizes Ise as "one of the great architectural achievements of history. . . . I suppose," he comments, "Ise has many lessons for contemporary architects once they get over being embarrassed by it." Robin Boyd, in his book, 'Kenzo Tange', observes that it was only after the Second World War that the West realized that many qualities of modern architecture were quite old. "These qualities had existed for centuries in Japanese buildings. . . . It [Japanese tradition] relied on the use of ingenious construction and untreated natural material to build a sort of refined extension of nature: a concentration of nature's own kind of beauty. Thus Japan was rediscovered." The Ise Shrine, situated some 270 miles west of Tokyo, is both old and new. The shrine dates from at least A.D. 685, but every twenty years it is completely rebuilt. Each rebuilding--there have been 59 so far--is scrupulously undertaken to guarantee an exact and identical reproduction of the preceding shrine. In 1953, after the most recent renewal, but prior to the transfer of religious objects, not only were the authors allowed to inspect the prohibited area--it is ringed by four fences and contains the most important buildings--but they were granted unprecedented permission to photograph it. This book represents the first opportunity for most Westerners to view and study one of the architectural wonders of the world. 'ISE : Prototype of Japanese Architecture begins with a preface by John Burchard and a foreword by the internationally recognized architect, Kenzo Tange. Tange also has written one of the two main essays in the book; the other is by Noboru Kawazoe, in which Ise is examined primarily in terms of Japanese mythology and history. Tange discusses Ise in an architectural perspective; he writes, "In the subsequent history of Japanese architecture, extending over more than a thousand years, it has proved impossible to advance beyond the form of Ise. . . . Along with the Parthenon Ise represents the peak in the history of world architecture. 'ISE : Prototype of Japanese Architecture belongs' in every fine arts collection and in every architectural library. The photographs, reproduced with exquisite care, make this book an invaluable architectural study, a work of genuine scholarship, and a visual delight. The text, especially prepared for a Western audience, invites the attention of all those interested in Japanese culture. Scholars of comparative religion and cultural anthropology will also find the book of value." -- Publisher's description

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