Tōdaiji is a Buddhist temple located in Nara, Japan, and was founded in 728, when Emperor Shōmu established a predecessor temple on the spot to honor his son, Prince Motoi, who died while still a baby.
Today, the temple is best known (at least outside of Japan) as the location of an enormous bronze statute of the Buddha Vairocana (in Japanese, Daibutsu).
While not the largest bronze Buddha in the world (or even in Japan), Tōdaiji’s Daibutsu is one of the best known and most frequently visited. Rising almost 15 meters (49′) in height, the statue weighs 550 tons (500 metric tonnes), and is housed in a hall called–not surprisingly–the Kon-dō or Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall):
The Nandaimon, or Great Southern Gate, stands some distance south of the Kon-dō, and is the first sight visitors encounter on their way to the temple precinct. The current Nandaimon dates to the 12th century, and was rebuilt after storms destroyed the original.
Two guardian statues stand inside the Nandaimon.
One has an open mouth while the other’s mouth is closed, forming a traditional A-un pair (something frequently seen in lion-dog guardians at other Buddhist sites).
Beyond the Nandaimon, a tree-lined path stretches toward the temple:
At the end of the path, visitors turn right and enter the temple grounds through a smaller doorway in the cloisters:
Upon emerging from the other side, visitors receive their first good look at the Kon-dō:
(The structure is actually visible through slats in the gate, for visitors who choose not to pay the admission price – though like most Japanese shrines and temples, admission is only a couple of US dollars.)
The Kon-dō, or Great Buddha Hall, measures 187 feet (57 meters) in length and 160 feet (50 meters) in width – and is still about 30% smaller than the largest previous version, which was destroyed by fire.
Inside the Great Buddha Hall, visitors come face to face with not only the Giant Buddha:
flanked by a pair of golden Bodhisattvas:
but with another pair of giant, impressive temple guardians:
This one is called Tamonten.
Visitors will also find a number of historical displays inside the Daibutsuden, including a life-sized (or, in this case, possibly larger-than-life-sized) replica of the Buddha’s hand:
and models of the original Tōdaiji (which featured a pair of stupas that measured 300 feet–100 meters–high):
and a model of the larger, older version of the Daibutsuden:
Visitors can also attempt to pass through a life-sized model of the Buddha’s nostril, which is cut into the base of a pillar. There’s a reason people want to try…but for that, you’ll have to wait for Thursday’s post.
Have you ever visited Tōdaiji? Would you like to see it, if you’re ever in Japan?