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torih (鳥居)

Japanese. Literally ‘bird's dwelling’. Term for a gate used to mark the entrance to a sacred space, a Shinto concept akin to the Akha spirit gate (fig.) and reminiscent of the Chinese paifang (fig.). There are several varieties, yet in general they are often red with black in colour and they usually consist of two vertical pillars called hashira (柱), topped by a horizontal lintel known as kasagi (笠木), and kept together by a tie-beam referred to as a nuki (貫). The vertical hashira pillars may have a slight inward inclination, though the pillars themselves are are always straight. The horizontal kasagi beam at the top, may be reinforced underneath by a second horizontal lintel called shimaki or shimagi (島木), and both may be curved upwards. The upper horizontal beam or kasagi is typically slightly larger than the lower tie-beam or nuki, with the length of the former stretching past the area of the pillars, while that of the nuki tie-beam may or may not protrude from the pillars. Either lintel is either cut at a square angle or may have a downwards slant, and some types of Shinto gate have a supporting strut centered between the top and bottom lintels, which is known as gakuzuka (額束). The top of the pillars may have a decorative ring called daiwa (台輪), whilst at the foot the hashira rest on a circular stone called kamebara (亀腹), literally turtle belly’, reminiscent of the supporting role of the turtle (fig.) during the churning of the Ocean of Milk (fig.) and as Bi Xi or turtle stele, i.e. a pedestal supporting steles in Chinese (fig.) and Vietnamese (fig.) architecture and iconography, yet in some Shinto gates this feature is replaced by an elongated decorative black support called nemaki (根巻), which translates as ‘root sleeve’, while one model, called ryobu torih (両部鳥居 - fig.), i.e. ‘both parts bird's dwelling/torih’, has smaller pillars supporting the main pillars on both sides. Another version, referred to as a the triple torih, has two smaller gates on each side of the main gate, similar to the Chinese paifang, while in some places torih are placed in rows, one after another, thus creating a tunnel-like effect. Also transliterated torii. See also TRAVEL PICTURES (1), (2) and (3).