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World Heritage / Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area

Criteria: (i) (ii) (iv) (vi) | Date of Inscription: 1993 | Location: Nara Prefecture | Justification for Inscription

UNESCO

Things to see

Horyu-ji Temple

Kondo (Main Hall)
The Kondo is a two-tiered Buddhist hall in a gable-and-hip roof style. Built in the form popular during the Asuka era, it contains the principal image of Horyu-ji Temple. In addition, Buddhist statues designated as national treasures, such as the Shakasanzon-zo, Yakushinyoraiza-zo and a number of other treasures are to be found within. The paintings on the walls were restored in 1967 following the fire of 1949.
Chumon (Center Gate)
The Chumon is the main entrance to the temple's western precinct and is the area the Kondo and Goju-no-to buildings are located. Since Japan's oldest "Kongorikishi-zo" (Gate Guardians) are to be found either side of the gate it is also called "Nio-mon gate" (The Guardians' Gate).
In Japanese temples, the numbers of pillar spans are more often than not odd in number. However, the Chumon has four spans with five pillars each, each with a slight convex swelling shape in similar form to the entasis-style pillars at the Parthenon in Greece. Exposed to the elements for centuries and repeatedly restored, the gate is no longer used as an entrance.
Goju-no-to (Five-Storied Pagoda)
The five storied Goju-no-to is approximately 31.5m high and is well known for its resistance to earthquake damage as well as the 'balanced' image it provides.
Four sickles can be observed sticking to the ring above the tower with the purpose of these sickles believed to be one of "the seven mysteries of Horyu-ji Temple." Some people say they are talismans set in place to drive evil spirits away while others say they are to prevent lightning strikes. It is also said the sickles can indicate crop yields; if they appear to point up a good harvest is expected and if they appear to point down the harvest will be less than fruitful.
Daikodo (Great Lecture Hall)
Built in the 8th to 12th century Heian era, the Daikodo is used for lectures on Buddhism and Buddhist services and has Yakushisanzon-zo and Shitenno-zo as its main religious images.
Kairo (Corridor)
The Kairo (corridor) begins either side of the Chumon and links the gate to the Shoro (Bell Tower), the Kyozo (Sutra Repository) and the Daikodo (Great Lecture Hall). The Kondo (Main Hall) and Goju-no-to (Five-storied Pagoda) are therefore surrounded by this corridor.
The westernmost side of the corridor is actually longer than the eastern side and it is believed that this difference was intended to better present the Kondo and the Goju-no-to as to make them appear in better proportion to each other.
Yumedono (Dream Hall)
This octagon shaped building is located in the center of the eastern precincts and was formerly one of the residences of Prince Shotoku. After it was burnt down in 643AD the current building was erected during the 8th century Tenpyo era. The name "Dream Hall" originates in the legend that Prince Shotoku once met the Buddha in a dream.
The Yumedono today contains Guzekannon-zo, said to be a life sized replica of Prince Shotoku. Treated with extreme care as it is a treasured Buddhist statue, it is only exhibited in spring and autumn, thereby missing the extremes temperature so common in summer and winter.
Denpodo (Lecture Hall)
The Denpodo is located in the eastern precincts of the temple where it was once used as the residence of Empress Shomu until, in 739AD it was reconstructed for use as a temple. Known as Japan's oldest building to contain a wooden floor, the temple is now home to three Amidasanzon-zo and many other Buddhist statues.
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