Archaeologists claim to discover remains of Japan’s highest pagoda

Japanese archaeologists claim to have unearthed a fragment of a building that might have been the tallest pagoda ever built in Japan. The artefact is a part of a “sorin”, a decorative element that was placed atop the pagoda. Researchers of Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute state that it could have been a tip of pagoda called “Kitayama Daito”, constructed within the grounds of the famed Kinkakuji temple in the city’s Kita Ward at the order of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408), the third shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate. This is the first such fragment to be uncovered, and researchers said it sheds light on what the structure looked like.

Copper part of the sorin (after Asahi Shimbun)
Copper part of the sorin (after The Asahi Shimbun)

Construction of the large pagoda at Kitayama began in 1404. However it was destroyed by fire caused by a lightning strike in 1416, shortly before it was completed. After the Kitayama Daito was destroyed, another effort was made to reconstruct a seven-tiered pagoda at Shokokuji, but in 1470 it too was destroyed by lightning.

Reconstruction of the pagoda (by Asahi Shimbun)
Reconstruction of the pagoda (by The Asahi Shimbun)

Three fragments that appeared to have broken off from a circular object were among the items found. The largest piece measures 24.6 centimetres by 37.4 cm and is 1.5 cm thick. It weighs 8.2 kilograms, being made of copper with gold plating. By using the fragment in reconstruction of the sorin, that was placed on top of the pagoda, the scientists estimated that the sorin had a diameter of 2.4 meters, meaning that it was likely from a huge structure. In comparison, the largest five-tiered Toji pagoda in Kyoto, being the tallest existing wooden pagoda in Japan measuring 56 metres in height is quipped in a sorin measuring 1.6 metres in diameter.

Diagram depicting hight of the pagoda (by Asahi Shimbun)
Diagram depicting hight of the pagoda (by The Asahi Shimbun)

(after The Asahi Shimbun)

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