On the very top of the pagodas, towers and gates are special bronze and ceramic roof ornaments in the typical Tang Dynasty style. These traditional structures were specially designed and commissioned with Masuoka and Ishino from Nara, Japan. These companies specialize in producing and restoring such traditional temple roof structures for the historic temples in Japan.
Tang Ceramic Roof Tiles in BTRTM
These special roof tiles from Ishino, Nara, Japan are one of the defining features of BTRTM. It provides a visual calm and serenity to the busy neighbourhood and constantly provides a visual contrast to the reds of the temple. It provides stability and elegance to the building and frames the beauty of the temple.
About Ceramic Roof Tiles
Roof tiles were first put into use in Qin and Han Dynasty. Tiles were categorized into flat tiles and pan tiles. With pan tiles put on top of flat tiles, rain could be prevented from leaking into buildings. Pan tiles were designed at manufacturers’ will into different styles. In Tang Dynasty most religious buildings used the pattern of lotus. Flat tiles were designed to let rainwater flowed easily and protect wooden buildings from invasion of rain.
Many Japanese monks went to China to learn Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty when Buddhism was flourishing. Besides bringing back the Dharma, they transported the architectural styles of the temples to their homeland and established Tang-styled buildings on the soil of Japan. The techniques of baking and smouldering were also preserved in their entirety.
Development of BTRTM Ceramic Roof Tiles
To complement and accentuate the Tang dynasty design, we had to spend considerable time and effort to find the suitable roof tiles. We tried various Chinese and Japanese roof tiles.
We visited 6 roof tile production facilities in Nagoya, Osaka and Nara, Japan in July 2005 and asked for quotations.
We then shortlisted the 3 companies, whom we interviewed and selected their proposed tiles at Nara in September 2005.
We finally selected Ishino Tiles Production Pte Ltd from Nara. A company with a very long tradition and appointed to conserve the various historical Japanese temples. Ishino had adopted the traditional craftsmanship, with special processing and treatment, to meticulously produce the roof tiles named “Asuka 1”. The Asuka 1 has very strong water-resistance and dislodging-resistance; it is therefore most suitable for Singapore which has abundant rainfall and high humidity.
We met Ishino in October to observe their installation at one of their sites and to discuss our requirements and designs.
We arrange for our construction team to visit Ishino to studying their tile laying methods in October 2005.
In early 2006, a section at the right rear lower roof was tiled by Ishino layers to study the laying methods and the effects of Singapore weather on the tiles.
On 3 March 2006, Ven Shi Fa Zhao led a number of devotees to conduct a roof tiles kiln blessing ceremony at Ishino’s kilns in Nara, Japan. It was a cool and bright spring day that mark the commencement of the production of 200,000 special ceramic roof tiles, especially for BTRTS.
By June, the first shipments of roof tiles arrived. We commenced the laying of the roof tiles from the roof garden in September 2006 and worked downwards to the lower roof levels.
Dragon Head and Om Ridge-end Tiles
These impressive, hand-crafted ridge-end tiles serve to anchor the ridge and roof tiles, as well as to beautify the roof. It also serves to protect the building from menacing spirits. At the 10,000 Buddhas Pagoda, the ridge-ends are installed with Dragon Head ridge-end tiles, featuring fearless dragons. If you look carefully, those facing east are more smiling, whilst those facing west are more menacing.
The Sponsorship of each dragon head was $3,800 with 36 fully adopted.
At all the other ridges of the roof, you will see the ‘Om’ ridge-end tiles, with the Sanskrit word in gold-leaf. The “OM” Roof Ridge-end Tiles sponsorship of each pair was $2,800 with 90 pairs of “OM” Roof Ridge-end Tiles available.
Roof Eaves Tiles
These are specially designed after a number of drafts to incorporate Tang Dynasty and Buddhist motifs. After an extensive of ancient temple tiles in China, Japan and Korea, Ven Shi FaZhao developed our own lotus design tile. In the center, there is a gold leaf lotus with 8 petals around the lotus pod, which will enhance and reflect sunlight, thereby catching one’s eyes onto the roof.
The sponsorship of each Roof Eaves Tile set was $800 with 512 roof Eaves tile sets adopted.
These are heavy duty, traditional ceremic according to roof tiles following the Tang Dynasty tradition. Produced in Nara, Japan by Ishino, following ancient and elaborate processes with very strict quality control, these tiles can be expected to last for a few centuries.
You will also notice some special “water drip” tiles at the places where the rain water will cascade onto the laid roof tiles. These are to prevent the gradual damage by the constant dripping of the rain water so that we don’t have to replace the affected tiles so often.
When installed, these Ishino tiles add warmth and character to the entire building. The grey colour takes a different hue and intensity under different weather conditions, in bright sunshine, under cloudy sky and in the rain.
The Sponsorship of each roof tile was $50 with 200,000 roof tiles available for adoption and with the donor’s name written on the reverse of the tile.
Hirotaro Ota, Japanese Architecture and Gardens, Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, 1966, pages 32, 38 – 40, 42, 44, 47 - 48