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Muromachi Period

Updated on January 25, 2013


This was not an era of great architectural development; the most important innovations were the adoption of additional storeys in Japanese buildings and the full development of the shoin style of domestic architecture. The powerful Shogun aristocrats built elegant residences and temples such as those at Kyoto: the Kinkaku (Golden Pavilion-late fourteenth century) and the Togudo (1486), both set in serene gardens and beside lakes.

Zen monasteries became cultural and educational centers and many of the period's greatest painters were monks like Sesshu (1420-1506), who produced highly individual and imaginative ink paintings, mastering the prevailing Chinese style. A truly Japanese style of ink painting was born in the work of Kano Masunobu (1434-1530) and his school who treated the themes of Zen in a spare but expressive manner.

The rejection by Zen of images in worship caused a severe decline in the production of sculpture, although traditional Buddhist representation continued without any great show of originality until the early nineteenth century. Perhaps the Noh theater masks, which attained a mastery of form and subtlety of expression unsurpassed in the history of theater art, are the best sculptural achievements of the Muromachi period.


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