The Muromachi Period (1333-1567) was a time when the military
aristocracy tried to emulate the courtier lifestyles which preceded them,
at least in the sense of aesthetic value. The deterioration of the
old court nobility led to freer, more casual relations between the upper
and lower classes of society and between the members of the military elite.
The advent of new cultural pursuits such as the tea ceremony, renga creating
gatherings, and the desire to display Chinese art and artifacts resulted
in new forms of architecture to adjust with these changing patterns in
lifestyles. Shoin architecture is often defined by contrasting it
with the palace-style architecture of the Heian and Kamakura periods making
evident its evolutionary alliance to earlier modes of building. Elements
retained from the older palace style, despite lack of functional utility,
in Muromachi residential architecture reveal the efforts of the military
aristocracy to imitate the lifestyle of the court nobility. Originally,
shoin referred to a single room used for study and daily living. Since
the ruling class had changed, we find its effects evident in the evolution
of architectural styles. However, through this evolution the residential
function was retained, and two more functions that go hand-in-hand evolved.
Display and Entertainment
played a key role in the daily life a the samurai class. Shoin Architecture
began with the increase of the samurai class and was developed through
aesthetics and beauty. It was an age when the display of Chinese
"objets d’art" was popular, consequently, spaces were created solely for
the exhibition of precious art objects or acquired collections.