Azuchi Castle: Architectural Innovation and Political Legitimacy in Sixteenth-Century Japan

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Azuchi Castle: Architectural Innovation and Political Legitimacy in Sixteenth-Century Japan

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Title: Azuchi Castle: Architectural Innovation and Political Legitimacy in Sixteenth-Century Japan
Author: Erdmann, Mark Karl ORCID  0000-0002-7525-975X
Citation: Erdmann, Mark Karl. 2016. Azuchi Castle: Architectural Innovation and Political Legitimacy in Sixteenth-Century Japan. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This study seeks to clarify the limits of knowledge regarding Azuchi Castle (Azuchi-jō) and, in turn, offers a multifaceted interpretation of its crowning glory―the six-story, lavishly decorated, timber-framed tower known as a tenshu (donjon). Azuchi Castle was located on a small mountain on the eastern shores of Lake Biwa. Completed in 1579, it was conceived and constructed to be a capital for the first of the so-called “three-unifiers” of Japan, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Due to its landmark importance in Japanese history, Azuchi has not suffered from a lack of attention. However, owing to its short, three-year life and the tantalizingly vague and often contradictory records that remain of it, Azuchi has often been the subject of unfettered and under-qualified speculation. The first part of this dissertation is thus dedicated to surveying and simplifying the issues that have inspired the contentious and confusing image of Azuchi that exists in scholarly discourse. To this end, the disparate written primary sources on Azuchi, the waves of archeological digs, and the numerous reconstructive models of the tenshu are explored and the known perimeters of the “object” at the center of this study is as best as possible, defined. The second part of this dissertation is focused on the Azuchi tenshu. The case will be made that the tenshu represents a unique product of class, technology, and ideology. I contend that the tenshu as an evolved form of yagura (unembellished towers used in sieges) represents an unique expression of provincial warrior identity. This expression was elevated to a level of elite status by means of a new breed of master carpenter versed in the newly capable technology of architectural drawing. Finally, I argue that the architectural and painting programs of the Azuchi tenshu’s keep framed Nobunaga as both heir to his predecessors in the Ashikaga shogunate and through evocation of the Chinese imperial building known as a Mingtang (“Bright Hall”), the unimpeachable recipient of a “Mandate of Heaven” to govern.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33493525
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