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World Heritage / Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Criteria: (ii) (iii) (iv) (vi) | Date of Inscription: 1998 | Location: Nara Prefecture | Justification for Inscription


Things to see

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji Temple
Todaiji Temple
The Great Buddha Hall
The Great Buddha Hall
Vairocana Buddha (The Great Buddha)
Vairocana Buddha (The Great Buddha)
Nigatsu-do (February Hall)
Nigatsu-do (February Hall)
Hokke-do (March Hall)
Hokke-do (March Hall)
The headquarters of the Kegon School of Buddhism, Todaiji was first established as Kinshoji Temple, said constructed by Emperor Shomu in 728AD on Mt. Wakakusayama.
The main Buddhist image of the temple is Vairocana Buddha, known throughout Japan and in much of the world as "The Great Buddha of Nara." At 15m in height, it was erected during the reign of the founder, the Emperor Shomu who was promoting the then new religion of Buddhism in order to secure peace and prosperity for his nation. The construction of this Buddha started in 747AD and was completed in 752AD and since the emperor had encouraged the common folk to join this large-scale national project, even priests voluntarily supported the construction by collecting contributions from parishioners and the faithful.
In 1180, however, Todaiji Temple was essentially destroyed by Tairano Shigehira and his rampaging hordes and was devastated again during the war of 1567, a time of great civil strife in Japan. The current Buddha, a 1691 reconstruction is housed in The Great Buddha Hall, itself reconstructed in 1709. The width of the restored hall has been reduced in size from that of its predecessors to two thirds of the original and now stands 57m in width and 47.5m in height, a statistic that shows even the power of the Tokugawa shogunate could not complete the work to the same scale as the Emperor Shomu.
Vairocana Buddha (The Great Buddha)
The official name of the main image of Todaiji Temple is Vairocana Buddha, although it is far more popularly known as "Daibutsu-sama (simply - The Great Buddha)." The largest bronze Buddha in the world, its measurements are amazing: in height it measures 14.98m, each eye is 1.02 m wide, the ears are 2.54 m from top to bottom, the face is 5.33m in length, the nose 0.5 m and the pedestal on which it sits reaches 3.05 m from ground level. The whole image weighs in at approximately 380t and according to ancient records, as many as 2,600,000 people gathered to aid in construction, in the process using 440t of copper and 440 kg of gold.
Nandaimon (Great South Gate) and Kongorikishizo (guardian statues)
Nandaimon is the main gate to Todaiji Temple. Since the original gate was hit by wind and destroyed in the Heian period, the current gate is a reconstruction from the Kamakura period (the 12th century).
Kongorikishizo are placed either side of the gate and are some 8.5 m height. It is said that they were produced by such sculptors as Unkei and Kaikei in just 69 days, a fact verified by records found during a 1988 through 1993 restoration period; records that also helped experts to confirm the date of reconstruction.
Nigatsu-do (February Hall)
This hall is so called primarily because of the "omizutori (Shuni-e Meeting)" held there in February. The building today though is a 1669 reconstruction housing images of worship known as the "large kannon" and the "small kannon"; both eleven-faced kannon statues. These are secret Buddhist images, which, for reasons of theology are not permitted to be exhibited.
Hokke-do (March Hall)
Todaiji Temple's oldest building, believed constructed between 740 and 747AD, is known as "Hokke-do" due to Hokke meetings being held there each March. Also known as the facility where the Hokke sutra was first taught in Japan, the building contains so many images of Buddha that it is regarded as the nation's Tenpyo Art Treasury.
Kaidan-in (Kaidan-in Hall)
Built in 755AD for the invited priest Ganjin to lecture on Buddhism, the current building is a 1733 reconstruction and its statues of Shitenno are admired as the greatest religious works of the Tenpyo era.
Shosoin (Imperial Repository)
The Shosoin was constructed during the Nara period to safely store the treasures of Todaiji Temple. It is built in the era specific "takayuka" and "azekura" styles to prevent treasures from falling foul of damp and mold. Under the control of the Imperial Household Agency today, exhibitions inside the Shosoin are not permitted.
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