Heian Palace - Greater Palace (Daidairi)

Greater Palace (Daidairi)

The Greater Palace (大内裏, daidairi?) was a walled rectangular area extending approximately 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) from north to south between the first and second major east-west avenues (Ichijō ōji (一条大路?) and Nijō ōji (二条大路?) and 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi) from west to east between the Nishi Ōmiya ōji (西大宮大路?) and Ōmiya ōji (大宮大路?) north-south avenues. The three main structures within the Greater Palace were the Official Compound Chōdō-in (朝堂院?), the Reception Compound Buraku-in (豊楽院?) and the Inner Palace (内裏, dairi?).

Chōdō-in was a rectangular walled enclosure situated directly to the north of the Suzakumon gate in the centre of the southern wall of the Greater Palace. It was based on Chinese models and followed Chinese architectural styles, and archaeological evidence from earlier capitals shows that this building complex was present in earlier palaces and had a remarkably stable design from the 7th century onwards.

The main building within the Chōdō-in was the Daigokuden (大極殿?) or the Great Audience Hall, facing south at the northern end of the compound. This was a large (approximately 52 m (170 ft) east to west and 20 m (65 ft) north to south) Chinese-style building with white walls, vermilion pillars and green tiled roofs, intended to host the most important state ceremonies and functions. The southern part of the Chōdō-in was occupied by the Twelve Halls where the bureaucracy was seated for ceremonies according to strict order of precedence. The Heian Jingū shrine in Kyoto includes an apparently faithful reconstruction of the Daigokuden in somewhat reduced scale.

It was in the Chōdō-in that Accession Audiences were held, the emperor was supposed to preside over early morning deliberations on major state affairs by the bureaucracy, receive monthly reports from officials, hold New Year Congratulations and receive foreign ambassadors. However, the practice of the morning deliberations ceased to be followed by 810 as did the monthly reports. Foreign ambassadors were no longer received for most of the Heian period, and the New Year celebrations were abbreviated and moved into the Dairi by the end of the 10th century, leaving the Accession Audiences and certain Buddhist ceremonials as the only ones held in the Chōdō-in.

The Buraku-in was another large rectangular Chinese-style compound, situated to the west of the Chōdō-in. It was built for official celebrations and banquets and used also for other types of entertainment such as archery contests. Like the Chōdō-in, also the Buraku-in had a hall at the central northern end of the enclosure overseeing the court. This hall, the Burakuden (豊楽殿?), was used by the emperor and courtiers presiding over activities in the Buraku-in. However, like the Chōdō-in, the Buraku-in also fell gradually into disuse as many functions were moved to the Dairi. Its site is one of the few within the palace area that has been excavated.

Apart from the Inner Palace, the remaining area of the Greater Palace was occupied by ministries, lesser offices, workshops, storage buildings and the large open space of the Banqueting Pine Grove or En no Matsubara (宴の松原?) to the east of the Dairi. The buildings of the Council of State or Daijōkan (太政官?) were situated in a walled enclosure immediately to the east of the Chōdō-in, laid out in the typical symmetrical plan of buildings opening to a courtyard in the south. The palace also housed the Shingon-in (真言院?), apart from Tō-ji and Sai-ji, the only Buddhist establishment permitted within the capital. Its placement right next to the Inner Palace shows the influence of the Shingon sect during the early Heian Period.

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