There is a paradox that exists that poses the question, “If an object has all its component parts replaced, is it still the same object?” This contradiction is played out in a dramatic fashion at the Ise Grand Shrine in Japan. Since 692 C.E. the complex, along with surrounding landscape, is destroyed and rebuilt every twenty years on adjacent sites in exactly the same format as the former complex. Each reformatted shrine is identical in every way to the old and it is considered “re-created” rather than a replica.
The Ise Grand Shrine is held to be the most important Shinto religious site in Japan. Its significance is reflected by its official name “Jingu” which literally means “The Shrine” in Japanese. The site and structures are surrounded by two and a half acres of dense cypress forests that haven’t seen an ax since the construction of the very first shrine incarnation. This religious site is a tourist attraction and the central place of pilgrimage to over seven million worshipers each year. The building structure moves back and forth between adjacent northern and southern lots. Currently it occupies the higher southern site and preparations are already underway for the next rebuilding stage in 2013.
The Shrine itself is built in an ancient and unique architectural style called shimmei-zukuri. This is characterized by extreme simplicity of design. The basic layout is a stylized form of the simple warehouses, granaries, and utility buildings that existed before the introduction of Buddhist architecture in Japan circa 250 C.E.
White cypress is used for every building material present in the structure. The building floor plan is a simple rectangle with verandas surrounding the perimeter. The roof is made of thatched reed with accented woodwork, which projects beyond the roof to form the distinctive forked finials at the front and rear of the structure.
What do you think? “If an object has all its component parts replaced, is it still the same object?”