May 03, 2011

Once Upon a Time, My Town Nara

Once upon a time  the majestic capital of Japan had been in Nara for about 70 years. In 710, the capital, called  "Heijo-kyo",  was established modeling on Changan, Tang Capital of China. At that time, Japan had periodically sent the diplomatic ships for envoys to Tang China and also had close contact with Korea. Japan learned a lot of things from China and Korea such as highly advanced culture, technology and knowledge. This  learning became the foundation of Japanese culture. That's why Nara is said to be home to Japanese culture. As Silk Road connected China and Europe, it is no wonder that  Nara has been called " The Terminal of Silk Road".

Here is  the center of the capital-Heijo Palace Site where the Imperial Palace, the Imperial government hall, other official buildings  used to stand majestically in the 8th century. But when the capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto, all major buildings were dismantled,  transferred to and reassembled in the new capital, Kyoto.  As traditional Japanese buildings are constructed of wood by using the technique of dovetailing, they are easily dismantled. Gradually  this site was abandoned and forgotten. Until the site was recognized as the old palace site in 19th century, it had slept under rice paddies. Now the site is under excavation.
 But, why they moved the capital from Nara to Kyoto? It is said that the new Emperor Kanmu wanted to start the new government in the new capital as too much bloodshed took place because of power struggles in the old capital. The other reason is that the temples in Nara became so powerful that they started to interfere in political matters. Leaving the temples in Nara, the capital was moved to Kyoto. 

Many of the buildings in Nara capital had roofs covered with bluish roof tiles, massive red columns and white walls. Many people  from Asia , Middle East and even Europe(maybe) came to Nara. In the 8th century, Nara was a lively international city.  The short poem of the time described its beauty and glory.

あおによし 奈良の都は 咲く花の
にほふがごとく 今盛りなり

The capital of Nara,
is beautifully flourishing now
like fragrant flowers in full bloom

A small red dot is a flying kite.

Noble people in the 8th century were dressed in Chinese-style clothes.

This is Imperial Audience Hall  which was the center of the Heijo Palace Site.
The hall was the center of the centers.  Here the emperors reigned over Japan. The hall  was rebuilt in 2010.

This is the replica of the chair which the emperors sat down in ceremonial occasions.

This Sujaku-mon Gate was  the main entrance gate to the Imperial Palace Site.
 The gate was guarded by brave soldiers all day long. This gate was  rebuilt in 1988.

It seems that nothing valuable from the 8th century is left in the palace site. Only newly built structures are there. Why was this site designated as World Heritage Site? The answer is that the archaeological treasures lie down underground, such as roof tiles, earthenware, wooden tablets and more which vividly tell us the people's life of the time. This site is nicknamed the underground "Shoso-in" which is the Imperial treasure house in the 8th century.

The festival has been held in the palace site from April 29 to May 5 to collect donations for Tohoku, the badly affected areas.

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  1. Great post, beautiful photos and very interesting history.

  2. Thanks for the great description and photos. I'm glad I took the time to visit your blog. It was worth it.

  3. Beautiful city and the architecture of the structures is amazing.

  4. What a marvelous post for the day!! Your photos are superb and the history is fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing this part of your world with us! Awesome! Enjoy your week!


  5. Very interesting history for me and such beautiful photos too.

  6. Wow - so much ancient history. And your shots just take my breath away.

  7. The remarkable piece of work can be always seen, and thanks are dedicated to snowwihgt. I am a Japanese man.English is not understood well due to study shortage. I am sorry.Because Japanese is also dangerous. I want to write "Comment" within the understanding range.
    The remarkable piece of work can be always seen, and thanks are dedicated to snowwhite.

  8. Very interesting history and lovely snaps

  9. Great post, snowwhite!!
    Your photos are fascinating. I have never seen those masks before. They intrigued me a lot.
    I'm very glad that "Daigokuden" and some other buildings have been beautifully reconstructed. Last year, I went to see the exhibition, "Todaiji-Temple and Great Buddha/ Shomu Emperor and Komyo Empress" at Tokyo National Museum. The exhition was gorgeous but I wanted to go to Nara very much and to see the Heijyo-kyo site in person then.

  10. hi snow white! love your name, reminded me of my fave disney character. ^0^

    i wish i could visit Heijo Palace when I have the chance.
    It would be interesting to see its structure and what's more, it's a deep history.
    I tried reading some of the lines in the poem, a nice one really. ^0^
    and the photos are just amazing,
    the sky's really dramatic.

    ps: tnx for dropping by, ^0^

  11. really informative! I love your photos and Nara is really beautiful from your photos. Have a good week!

  12. It's wonderful that so much is known about the past that it can be replicated. This was such an interesting post.

  13. The costumes look splendid and colourful.....there's so much detail in your photos. It's very interesting to hear about the history of your city and ancient Japan.

    Beautiful images!

  14. Thanks for taking us there. What an incredible place.

  15. A nice post, a beautiful city.
    The photos are wonderful, thank you

  16. Wonderful city, The photos are just amazing makes me want to visit the place right now!

  17. I just love the colour tones in the first shot.

  18. 今、古都と言えば京都のようですが、奈良はよりいろいろな文化が融合されているようで、私にはとても神秘的で追随を許さない独自の個性を持っている街に思えます。snowwhiteさんが奈良をとても愛されているおられる事をいつも感じられます。

  19. your photos are breathtaking. I especially like the last, of the festival. those masks are beautiful. but all of the photos are extraordinary, so too the history you've given. I knew little of this history, so thanks for sharing your world. your new header image is a knock-out.

  20. Hello,Snowwhite.

    平城京はまだ行ったことありません。車でそばを通って見ていますが、the chair used by the emperor の部屋の天井の12支の絵はUemura Atsushiが描かかれたものですので、いつか本物を見たいと思っています。



  21. Love this post filled with gorgeous photos and such interesting history about Nara! I remember they had an anniversary last year. Hope I can go someday soon to see all its beauty :D

  22. redrose,


  23. It takes time to scroll down to this "leave your comment" column. Stunning photography as always! Especially a new header is, as someone put it,"knock-out".
    How can you take such a tasteful and aesthetic picture ?

  24. I was particularly struck by the fourth picture, it seems like branches dancing in the wind ...
    I find it very beautiful name that of Nara

  25. I like all the photographs in this post, but my favourite is the first. YOu can't be absolutely certain if the building is raised upon a bridge, or set upon the solid shore.

  26. Jenny Woolf,
    In the palace site, there are a few ponds, smallest one looks like a big puddle. The building stands in the flat area more than 200meters far from these ponds. But still we can see reflections in the ponds because there is almost nothing in the site except rebuilt hall and gate, museums and the reproduction of a typical Japanese garden in the 8th century. The 5th photo will tell you what place the hall stands on. I should have written it more precisely. Thank you.

  27. The costumes are so precious... I just love the picture with the group of women laughing : they looks so natural, and so ancient, with their antique clothing... A very nice post, there again.

    I'd love to visit Japan and see bymyself all this beauty... At least, I can enjoy your pictures : thank you so very much for sharing so vividly your culture.

  28. I like the colorful Japanise traditional clothes!


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