To begin with, they designed the exterior of the building and chose to include characteristics of the Quinlong Temple in China. The temple was first built during the Sui Dynasty in 582, but was destroyed and modified and ultimately rebuilt and named as the Quinlong Temple in 711 . During the Tang Dynasty when Buddhism prevailed, Japanese Monks were sent to China to study Buddhism, and advanced their learning of Buddhism sutras and other Buddhist scripts . Thus, this made the Quinlong Temple famous. Though it did not have much of an impact on Chinese Buddhism and did not wield much power in the Tang Capital , the reason they chose aspects of this specific temple to replicate was because the temple played an important role that contributed to the development of Japanese Buddhism.
Upon the first look at the temple, they were intrigued by the structure of the entrance. The columns that elegantly framed the doorway looked sophisticated and pleasing to the eye. For this reason, they chose to incorporate the exterior of this temple in their replication. The configuration of the rooftop was also unique from the other temple constructions that they came across, so they decided to make a roof that curved in at the ends similar to the roof of the temple. They added a pattern on the roof which represented a cultural element at that time. Lastly, they wanted to add a protrusion of the wall above the doorway as such of the Quinlong temple. This protrusion would be decorated with a simple rectangle design. Again, they thought this was a unique feature of the temple and decided it would present a pleasant first look at the exterior front façade.
From previous knowledge, the mason knew that Buddhist temples were often built in the midst of nature as it provided serenity. Due to this, the mason and the architect decided to have a lush garden around the temple and basic greenery surrounding it as well.
After deliberating the characteristics of the entrance way and the overall exterior appearance of their temple, the mason began to consider the interior as well. Upon coming across the Shanhua Temple located inside the Datong City in the Shanxi Province , the mason opted to base the view of the main entrance and the main worship area from this temple. The Shanhua temple, which was also called the Nan or South Temple, was originally founded during the Tang Dynasty ; however, the model of the temple that the mason is basing their sketches on is the version of the temple built during the Jin Dynasty between the years of 1115-1234 . The temple was destroyed by a war at the end of the Liao Dynasty and was later built on a large scale—which is perhaps the reason the present layout is the best conserved temple of both the Liao and Jin Dynasties .
The reason the mason chose to do this temple for the interior view is because of the assembly of the building. There were three main parts to the temple, including the Gate, the hall of the three saints, and the Da Xiong Bao Dian, which was the most prominent section . In the Hall of the Three Saints, stand the three saints of Hauyan—Sakyamuni, Bodhisattva Puxian and Bodhisattva Wenshu . Most importantly though, it was the Da Xiong Bao Dian building in particular that caught the mason’s attention. It was this building that was the site of the worships and rituals as Da means “to include everything”, Xiong means “vanquishing and taming demons”, Bao refers to the Buddha and the Buddhist doctrines, and the monks—which are the three treasures of Buddhism . In the worship area, the mason included the drawings of the original statues from the Jin Dynasty, one of which is the gold-coated statue of Tathagata Buddha . In addition, on either side of the statues, the mason added the paintings of the…