Izumi Kuroishi
Liberal Arts Department, Aoyama Gakuin Women's Junior College
4-4-25, Shibuya -- Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN

N2004-KuroishiHistorically in Japan, carpentry had been recognized as a mystical profession. In a book entitled Hidasho-monogatari, the master carpenter was so skilled that he could make his house float in the air. Such legends arose from the fact that carpenters kept their knowledge secret and transmitted their technology through apprenticeships. In constructing traditional Japanese buildings, carpenters retain their traditional ways of construction; once clients and a master carepnter decide the size and Kiwari of the project, almost all other design and structural systems are automatically fixed.

When the Western notion of architecture was introduced into Japan at the end of the nineteenth century, tis idea of the mathematics as a fundamental knowledge of an architect became dominant, and the historical design and technology of the Japanese carpenter became to be regarded as too primitive. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, master carpenter and mathematician Heinouchi Masaomi wrote theories of Kikujutu (Architectural Stereotomy), and used his knowledge of Japanese historical mathematics, Wasan, to analyze the technology of carpentry. However, there were criticisms agains Heinouchi's theories that they simplified the forms of historical architectures. Also, the nature of Wasan is very different from Western mathematics, and the relationship between Wasan and Japanese historical architecture has not been clarified yet. Thus, for the above cultural characteristics in both of the Japanese architectural production and the mathematics, I argue that the relationship between mathematics and the historical technology of Japanese carpentry must be re-examined in a different way. Such varieties and subtleties in the creation of architectural forms before the theorization by Heinouchi represent the cultural identity in the relationship between Wasan and Japanese architecture.

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The correct citation for this paper is:
Izumi Kuroishi, "Mathematics of Carpentry in Historic Japanese Architecture", pp. 117-129 in Nexus V: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams and Francisco Delgado Cepeda, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2004.