Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Largest Wooden Building in the World

Bishamonten, one of the Nio, watching over Todai-ji and its precincts
Todai-ji's Daibutsu-den Hall is the largest wooden building in the world.  The Buddhist temple is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the historic monuments of ancient Nara, Japan.

Inside is the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha (see dark Buddha below).  It is one of the largest bronze figures in the world.  It was originally cast in the year 746.

The altar at Daibutsu-den
In 2011, the Todai-ji Cultural Center opening to the public featuring a museum to exhibit other treasures from the many temple halls within the temple complex. There is also a library, research center, a storage facility and an auditorium.

The gardens are beautiful
Some of the structures on the grounds are open to the public.  Over the centuries, the buildings and gardens have evolved into a unique and organic and living temple community.

Here is the great Buddha, the Daibutsu or Todai-ji:

Daibutsu of Todai-ji
Just to give you some idea of scale: The statue is over 49.1 feet high and consists of 437 tons of bronze and 130 kilograms of gold.  The face of the Buddha is 17.5 feet high.  The eyes alone are over 3 feet tall!  He has 960 curls on his head.

The halo which surrounds him is 87 feet in diameter and contains images  over 8 feet tall.

According to Wikipedia, they recently x-rayed the Buddha statue and discovered that a human tooth, along with pearls, mirrors, swords, and jewels were hidden inside of the knee of the figure. These are believed to be relics of Emperor Shomu, the 45th emperor of Japan (701-756).

The Main Hall
There are two 28-foot dancing figures - guardians - at the great south gate protecting the complex.  These are from the 12th century and are called the Nio.  They were extensively restored between 1988 and 1993 by a team of art conservators.  Up until that time, the sculptures had never been moved from the niches where they were originally installed.

Komokuten, one of the pair of guardians in the Daibutsuden
The area is prone to earthquakes, so it is remarkable that these statues and structures have fared as well as they have.

The complex preservation project cost nearly $5 million.  It involved a restoration team of 15 experts from the National Treasure Repairing Institute in Kyoto.

The Main Hall
The Great Buddha Hall, or main hall, has been rebuilt twice after fire.  The current building was finished in 1709.  It is immense (187 feet by 160 feet!), but smaller than the original building which stood on this site.  There has been a temple on this site since the 700s.

The Kyoto area has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than 1600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shinto shrines.

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