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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

Yakushiji Temple

To-to (East Pagoda)
To-to (East Pagoda)
Toindo (East Hall)
Toindo (East Hall)
Yakushiji Temple is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism and is one of the seven main temples of Heijokyo. It is said to have been constructed by the Emperor Tenmu in the Asuka area in 680AD. In 718AD it was moved to Heijokyo from Fujiwarakyo and after moving continued holding religious services until the 10th century. From this fact, the issue as to whether or not To-to (East Pagoda) and its main image Yakushisannnonzo were brought from Asuka or whether they were built in Heijokyo has been debated for centuries. Nowadays, many experts believe the To-to was actually built in Heijokyo while the main image of worship was indeed transported from Asuka.
In a fire in 973AD Yakushiji Temple lost many buildings except for its Kondo, To-to and Sai-to (West Pagoda). In 1528, most of the structures of Yakushiji Temple were destroyed in a war and thus today the only original building remaining is the To-to.
Unfortunately many of these incidents and accidents over the years took their toll and left Yakushiji Temple in a rather dilapidated manner. However, the temple is once again undergoing a period of renovation to restore it to its former glory. In 1971 the restoration of Kondo, Sai-to, and Daikodo buildings was initiated and now, over 30 years later, the layout of many of the structures in the "Yakushiji style" is almost complete.
Yakushisannonzo, the main images of Yakushiji Temple, are placed in Kondo and are regarded as some of the best statues of Buddha to survive from the Nara period. These three statues contain the combined influence of Greek, Persian, Indian and Chinese culture; the "silk road culture," and also display a unique, then emerging style created by a sense of Japanese aesthetics.
To-to (East Pagoda)
The national treasure, To-to, was built in 730AD and is the only original building in the temple constructed during the Nara period. It is 33.6m high and while it actually looks like a six-storied pagoda it is, in reality but a three-storied pagoda. Its elaborate roof design displays a sense of rhythmical beauty causing Fenollosa, the renowned art historian, to describe the tower as "frozen music." Despite the many disasters and wars it has withstood, the temple remains standing and in splendid condition for its 1300 year age.
Toindo (East Hall)
Prince Kibinai erected Toindo for his mother, the Empress Genmei. It is said to have been built between 717AD and 724AD although the current building is a 1285 reconstruction. The Buddhist statue of Shokannonzo is its main image of worship.
Kichijotennyozo (a color painting of a celestial maiden)
Kichijotennyozo is painted on a hemp cloth. It is a most precious Nara period piece of artwork and features a celestial maiden in all her feminine beauty. The picture carefully details the delicate flow of her dress and is exhibited in Yakushiji Temple's treasure house for but a specific term in spring or autumn.
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