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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Shrine Architecture
Katsuogi, Chigi
Two characteristic features of shrine architecture, katsuogi refer to log-like sections laid horizontally along and perpendicular to, the ridge line of the structure, while chigi refer to poles that appear to extend from the roof's gableboards, intersecting at the ridge and continuing upwards for some distance. In ancient times, katsuogi were used as symbols of status or rank on the houses of members of the court and other powerful families, but they later came to be used only on the major structures of shrines. They are usually found in combination with chigi. The latter are believed to be a vestige of primitive construction practices in which roofs were formed by crossing and binding together ridge-support poles, the extended tops of which were left uncut. In time, independent crossed boards were mounted on the roof as decorative elements rather than as integral to the crossed and extended gableboards; these were called okichigi ("set chigi"). Normally, the ends of the diagonal chigi are cut at mitered angles either perpendicular (sotosogi) or parallel (uchisogi) to the ground, leading to the alternate name katasogi ("miters"). In any event, the original purpose of chigi was as a functional reinforcement to the structure, but today, most serve as symbols emphasizing the sacred nature of the structure. At the Grand Shrines of Ise, shrine buildings dedicated to male kami are traditionally given an odd number of katsuogi and the ends of chigi are cut perpendicular to the ground, while shrines to female kami have an even number of katsuogi, and chigi are cut parallel to the ground. Many other shrines have subsequently copied this design practice.

-Nakayama Kaoru
Chigi at Izumo Taisha

Shimane Prefecture, 2005

©Tsujimura Shinobu

The katsuogi and chigi (roof ornamentation) of the main building of Sumiyoshi Taisha. The chigi is shaped like a cross or a "X", the katsuogi are the long beams perpendicular to the spine of the roof.

Osaka, 2006

©Ōsawa Kōji

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