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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

UNESCO

Things to see

Toshodaiji Temple

A lotus flower in the precincts
A lotus flower in the precincts
Kondo (Main Hall)
Kondo (Main Hall)
Eight Pillars
Eight Pillars
Kodo (Lecture Hall)
Kodo (Lecture Hall)
Toshodaiji Temple is the head temple of the Ritsu sect of Buddhism, one of the six main Buddhism sects found in Heijokyo. In 759AD the sect was founded by the Chinese priest Ganjin but the temple was initially used as a residence for Prince Niitabe. Ganjin obtained use of the building and established an institute in which to learn the precepts of Buddhism. Following Ganjin's death, Kondo (the Main Hall) was erected during the late Nara period and in 810AD the temple's five-storied pagoda was completed.
Overshadowing much of this were the life and times of the founding priest Ganjin. In 742AD he was invited to spread Buddhism in Japan by Fusho and Eiso, former students of Buddhism in China Their desire was for Ganjin to accept such an offer as Japan then had no suitably qualified priests to undertake this task. When Ganjin decided to sail to Japan he failed on five separate occasions and when he eventually reached the Japanese archipelago in 753AD on his sixth attempt, he was already 66-years-old. In Japan, he spent his first five years in Todaiji Temple and the next five at Toshodaiji Temple before passing away in 763AD aged well over 70.
With the decline of the Heian period, so too did hard times hit Toshodaiji Temple and it was not until the Kamakura period, when the priest Kakujo revived the temple, that the temple once again rose to national prominence.
Kondo (Main Hall)
The kondo of Toshodaiji Temple is designated a national treasure as no other Japanese temple retains such a Nara period structure. In 2005 the Nara Prefectural Board of Education announced that hinoki timber cut in 781AD was used in constructing the kondo and using this data as a focal point, the kondo of Toshodaiji Temple is thereby presumed constructed post 781AD.
The front of the hall has a colonnade of eight pillars and its magnificent appearance has fascinated people for centuries as have the three main images of Rushanabutuzazo, Yakushinyoraizo and Senjukannonzo. Statues of Bonten and Taishakuten stand on both side of the main images and statues of Shinennozo are to be found in the four corners of the hall. The kondo is currently under reconstruction and will be completed in 2010.
Kodo (Lecture Hall)
The kodo of the temple is a reconstruction of Higashichoshuden and was moved from Heijo Palace. When moved the roof design was restyled in the current gabled and hipped style. In 1275 the kodo was renovated and is extremely valuable as the only structure retaining the style of a Tenpyo period palace.
Mieido (Miei Hall)
Mieido used to be Ichijoin Temple, a branch of the main Kofukuji Temple and is home to a statue of the priest Ganjin. The statue is only exhibited from June 5th to the 7th to celebrate his memorial day. Mieido was reconstructed in the Shinden style in 1964 and was moved to Toshodaiji Temple where it now stands.
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