Surveys of East Javanese temple architecture usually begin with Candi Kidal, which lies to the south east of Malang. Built around the mid 13th century, Kidal is the earliest known example of a new stylistic tendency; a move away from the massive structures which characterized the monuments built by the Sailendra dynasty in Central Java some four centuries earlier, towards more slender buildings with tall, tapering spires. True, we see a foreshadowing of this new style in the Central Javanese temple complex of Prambanan, but the almost total absence of archaeological remains from the intervening period makes it difficult to re-construct any coherent development of architectural design between, say, A.D. 930, when the centre of Javanese political power shifted to the east, and about 1250, the approximate date for the building of Candi Kidal.This new style is quite clearly apparent in a number of other monuments of the 13th and 14th centuries, among them Candi Jawi, Candi Sawentar, Candi Sumberjati (Simping), Candi Bangkal, Candi Bajang Ratu, as well as the 'dated' temple at Penataran.
A further development occurred in spatial orientation. In the classical architecture of Central Java, the layout of a temple or temple complex tended to be symmetrical, with the principal building situated in the centre, almost invariably aligned with the cardinal points. The whole was conceived as an earthly reflection of the subtle regions inhabited by the gods, according to the principles of Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. With the temples of East Java, however, there appears to have been a move away from this closed, centrally focussed orientation, to one where the most important and sacred building was placed at the rear of the complex, furthest from the entrance.
We see a clear example of this idea at Candi Penataran, where the site is divided into three separate courtyards, into which a variety of buildings have been placed in a seemingly haphazard fashion. Symmetry has been all but abandoned. The principal building, which faces west, can be found at the far eastern end of the compound. It has frequently been noted, incidently, that Penataran appears to have been a prototype for the modern day Balinese pura, which usually consists of three courtyards, known as jaba, jaba tengah, and jeroan, The temple is essentially a consecrated space enclosed and protected by its surrounding wall.
One temple which is often considered to contain elements of both early and late classical Javanese design is Candi Singosari. In that it has a symmetrical base with four projections aligned with the cardinal points, the temple follows a pattern commonly found in the Shiwaite monuments of Central Java. Yet there are marked differences, the most notable of which is the location of the four main chambers or niches containing statues. In Central Javanese temples these were almost invariably recessed into the main body of the building, which rested on a solid base. At Singosari, however, the niches have been set into the base itself, perhaps with the intention of creating an illusion of greater height. The roof, which has for the most part collapsed, exhibits further unique elements not yet found in other East Javanese temples.
In some cases, notably the principal temple at Penataran, as well as at Candi Jajaghu, there are indications that the roof was not made of stone, but rather of a combination of wood and sugar palm fibre (ijuk). An example of this type of structure can still be seen at the Pura Yeh Gangga at Perean, 60 kilometres north of Denpasar in Bali. The temple, which dates from the Majapahit period (inscriptions at the site display dates equivalent to A.D. 1339 and 1429) shows the typical 'pagoda-like' tiered roof (mew) of Balinese temples, in this case set on a stone base. Reliefs on the walls of Candi Jajaghu, moreover, display similar structures.