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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Todai-ji Temple In Nara

First erected in 752 AD, Todai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple) in Nara-shi, is one of Japan's old capitals, and was once one of the Seven Great Buddhist temples.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Todai-ji has a main area known as Kondo that houses a separate building known as Daibutsuden (大仏殿 Great Buddha Hall) that contains the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, that is more commonly known as Daibutsu (大仏).

The Buddha image of Vairocana is the founder of the Kegon-sect of Buddhism, and he is believed to deliver all things in the universe, while beaming with brilliance of the sun.

Creating this bit of Buddha paradise on Earth was the idea of Japanese Emperor Shomu, with the joint cooperation of some then-famous Japanese priests such as: Ryoben, Gyogi and Baramon.

The temple was initially begun after Emperor Shomu issued a law indicating to the people that the capital city should have its own new Buddha temples - and asked the provinces to help donate - figuring it would inspire Buddha to better protect the country from all the bad mojo that was going on - such as small pox, coups, poor harvests and even a rebellion.

Some 2.6 million people helped build the temple and in particular the Great Buddha, donating wood, metal, cloth, rice and labor, with Todai-ji records indicating some 350,000 people working directly on the Daibutsu statue.

Over the centuries, fire has twice destroyed the building housing Daibutsu, but the Buddha survived - needing a few repairs here and there. The original building housing the Buddha statue is actually 40% smaller than what was originally built, but it is still supposed to be the largest wooden building built in Japan.

If you are like me, you might be wondering just how big this statue of a Buddha is...

Well... if you look (click to enlarge) at the image below, it gives some numbers (from 1958 - part of the English souvenir stuff they gave out at the temple):

But... they aren't as accurate as what Todai-ji says now (2015):

The temple gives the following dimensions for the statue:
  • Height: 14.98m (49.1 ft)
  • Weight: 453,592 kilograms (500 tons)
  • Face: 5.33m (17.5 ft)
  • Eyes: 1.02m (3.3 ft)
  • Nose: 0.5m (1.6 ft)
  • Ears: 2.54m (8.3 ft)
  • Shoulders (across) 28 m (91.86 ft)
  • Hair Curls: 960;
  • Halo Diameter: 26.52m (87 ft), complete with 16 images each 2.44m (8 ft) high.
Some recent X-Rays of the statue show that inside the knee of the Buddha, there are some interesting objects - relics, if you will, of the Emperor Shomu - including a human tooth, pearls, mirrors, swords and jewels.

A human tooth? Cloning, anyone?

Here, by the way, is an Entrance ticket from 1958 - part of a neat souvenir collection my friend Vince bought and sent to me.

Yes... I do accept gifts.

Andrew Joseph
PS: All images here are from that same souvenir book given to me by Vince. The images of the Buddha and the temple are souvenir photographs - not postcards - purchased at the temple.

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