19 November 2008

Rooted firmly to the ground, yet dedicated to the spirit

Visitors to the Japan Pavilion of Epcot are met by the good luck of the torii, but the imposing 83-foot-tall pagoda is just as stirring. The goju-no-to or five-story pagoda uses Horyuji temple, an eighth century pagoda found in Nara, as its muse.

The levels of the pagoda follow with traditional Buddhist beliefs of the five elements that are used to create all things. In fact, the use of the five elements in architecture is the most common use of the elements in modern society. In relation to the goju-not-to, each element is assigned to a level. These levels/elements are, in ascending order: chi (earth), sui (water), ka (fire), fu (wind), ku (sky/void).

Atop the pagoda is a sorin. No, not a hang glider simulation attraction, a sorin. This roof ornamentation is composed of nine rings, each with a host of wind chimes, to represent Buddhist deities and a water flame to protect the pagoda from fire. While the sorin is usually the sole enhancement to a temple to protect it from fire and to be used as a lightning rod, the goju-no-to in Epcot includes the addition of a more modern lightning rod at the peak of the sorin.

Though pagodas started in China, the Japanese took the Chinese designs and modified them to be more in tune with their own ideals. The Japanese pagodas are simpler, with less embellishment, less curvature of the roof, and less color. They are more concerned with purity of the form with unpretentious lines. Though simple, the goju-no-to strikes an imposing figure, both in World Showcase and the world beyond.