Knowing The World’s Oldest Wooden Structure—Horyuji Temple

法隆寺 中門

Japan is known to have numerous old temples, unique to their own culture and architecture. Among all these temples is Horyuji Temple, the oldest temple in the country. It is also considered as the oldest building in Japan in any category and the oldest wooden building in the world. In 1993, Horyuji Temple was registered as Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.

法隆寺 西院伽藍

Located in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Horyuji Temple contains wood that dates back to 597 CE, with original construction said to have been completed in 607 CE. The building has survived a lot of disasters throughout the years, from earthquakes, simple typhoons, and even war. Around 670 CE, the temple was struck by lightning and was burned, needing almost a total reconstruction. During World War II, some parts of the building were removed and hidden to avoid destruction. Because Japan is an earthquake-prone country, the temple’s architecture was designed to withhold such events. The temple’s wide eaves and shockproof pillars have kept the building standing over the centuries.


Unlike other temples in Nara or Kyoto, Horyuji Temple is not very known as a tourist attraction because it does not have a beautiful mountain view or picturesque cherry blossom trees, but it is definitely the most significant temple in the country. Aside from being the first site in Japan to be recognized by UNESCO, the temple also holds over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and items and houses around 180 items of Japan’s National Treasures. It is not just a simple temple but a library and a gallery that holds the history of Buddhism in Japan.

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