Nara temple may be world’s oldest wooden structure

A Zen Buddhist hall in Nara is the oldest wooden structure still in use and a century older than famed Horyuji temple previously thought to hold the crown, according to an expert in tree-ring dating.

Research by Takumi Mitsutani, a visiting professor of dendrochronology at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, reveals that Japanese cypress wood in the roof of the Zenshitsu (zen room) building of Gangoji temple was logged around 586.

Mitsutani argues that his findings indicate that the structure of the hall was made 100 years before Horyuji temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, hitherto thought the world’s oldest, which was built between the late seventh and eighth centuries.

Gangoji, formerly Asukadera temple in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, is thought to have been relocated to Nara after the city became Japan’s capital in 710. It had previously been thought that it was newly built in the new location from about 718, but Mitsutani says his research indicates the structure of the Zenshitsu was brought from the Asuka site.

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