Monday, November 9, 2020

A temple for protection and well-being of the nation

In the early 8th century, Japan was going through many difficulties including a long drought, rampant thievery, political turmoil, and above all, the smallpox epidemic brought in from the continent, which reduced more than one third of population.  The 45th Emperor Shomu, a devout Buddhist, decided to unite the nation through Buddhist faith. Todai-ji (UNESCO World Heritage) was founded as the Central State Temple in 752, together with a state temple and a state nunnery in every one of the 66 provinces.

People were so sparse on June 17th, 2020.

The structure above is Nandai-mon Gate, or Great South Gate, National Treasure, rebuilt in 1203.  The 8th century original was destroyed by a typhoon in 962. It is the largest wooden temple gate suitable in scale to the existing largest wooden structure in the world, Todai-ji Buddha Hall (National Treasure) where Vairocana Buddha is enshrined.  The construction is based on timber-frame joinery, composed of several different pieces of timber. Each piece is dovetailed. It reflects Chinese Sung style architecture, a double roofed, one-story structure with no ceilings. 

Great South Gate, Inner Gate, Buddha Hall, and Lecture Hall (now ruins) stand straight on a central line of the precincts from south to north.

Buddha Hall seen through the Inner Gate

The current Buddha Hall was rebuilt in 1709.  Due to a shortage of funds and materials, the size was reduced to two-thirds of the original width, and an arch-style gable was added.


Back of the Buddha Hall is relics of Lecture Hall, where only foundation stones remain.

Lichen on the foundation stones, October 31st, 2020

Chinese Tallow leaves at the relics of Lecture Hall, October 31st

At one time, there were more than 100 buildings in the precincts of Todai-ji.  During the civil wars of the 12th and 16th centuries, almost all the buildings were destroyed by fire. After a fire in 1567, the Great Buddha sat in the open air for 140 years.  Only Sangatsu-do Hall, Shoso-in Repository, and Tegai-mon Gate have long survived since 8th Century. Over the years, Nigatsu-do Hall, Great Buddha Hall, Nandai-mon Gate, Belfry, etc, were reconstructed.

Since its foundation time, Todai-ji was not only a center for rituals of the nation but also a center for scholar monks to learn Buddhism beyond different schools. After Meiji Restoration, temples had to choose. Todai-ji chose Kegon.

The Kegon text says that the songs of birds, the colors of flowers, the flowing of water and the forms of clouds, are all the Vairocana Buddha's teachings, serving as divine inspiration to all living beings. 

According to one of the monks, "ke" of "ke-gon" means "flower".  "Each of us has a seed within us. Buddha is the one who has grown the seed to flower beautifully. What we are supposed to do is only to do our best to grow a seed into a flower. " 

Todai-ji Buddha Hall seen from Kasugano Park, Aprio, 2019

Kagami-ike Pond in front of Middle Gate, August, 2016

Japanese maples changing colors over the wall of Kaizan-do Hall (Founder's Hall), November, 2017

Entrance to the spacious precincts of Todai-ji is free of charge except entrance to the Great Buddha Hall.  It has its own beauty in each season. You can go any time even at midnight if only you can brave the pitch dark.  Under the circumstances, many people would have difficulty to come. When it gets possible, have a good time. 

Linked to Mosaic Monday


  1. Beautiful and peaceful.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  2. Beautiful photos of the temple, such a lovely piece of history!

  3. What a gorgeous place to visit !!!!
    The pictures, beautiful and the information, clear.
    Thanks for sharing !
    Have a lovely week !

  4. I enjoyed reading. Thank you for sharing.
    Happy MosaicMonday

  5. It would be an amazing place to visit and I hope some day soon we'll all be able to travel. Enjoy your week!

  6. What a great place! Amazingly beautiful old buildings!

  7. The building is a work of art and symmetry from every angle and in every season. History reminds us that difficult times and suffering are not exclusive to current times and that figures of inspiration can help to see us through. The Buddha offers much wisdom and comfort.

  8. Yoko - around the world, we have many different beliefs. But what is perfectly clear? There is no substitute for strong and ethical leadership when countries are in trouble. I will probably never visit your fine country, so I am deeply grateful that you share its beauty, history and traditions with everyone at Mosaic Monday. Spectacular photos!

  9. What an exquisitely beautiful building together with the compelling history that you relate. Imagine one third of the population actually loosing their lives during the small pox epidemic. This reminds me that a vaccine for small pox was first discovered by Dr. Edward Jenner, who lived just a few miles away from where I live now.
    I love the fine detail seen on the canopy above the Inner Gate.

  10. Hello,

    What a beautiful place to visit. It looks peaceful, the Autumn colors look beautiful. Take care, stay safe! Have a happy day!

  11. Such beautiful buildings, and made of wood. I have enjoyed reading about these buildings and the history that is attached to them. I know very little about Japanese history so I am very interested in your stories. Stay safe....

  12. Η ανάρτηση είναι τέλεια! Και το υλικό και η παρουσίαση είναι αξεπέραστες!

  13. Great beauty and sense of peace, and thank you for sharing some of the history.

  14. Dear Yoko,
    The story of "ke" and seeds is really inspiring. I think, taking care of our inner flower is not always easy, especially this year, but we have to cultivate it despite all circumstances. The architecture of the temple impresses with elegant lines. I remember visiting it that day, though we did not go inside, if I’m not mistaken. Most of all I love the picture with the caption: Chinese Tallow leaves at the relics of Lecture Hall, October 31st. Bewitching colours! It was raining heavily on that day in our town, and on the next we had the first heavy snowfall. Keep safe, Yoko.
    With warm feelings,

  15. Hi good afternoon. I am Brazilian and I want to present my Travel and Tourism Blogger. Friends are welcome. I would like to invite you to follow my Blogger. The following part is on the right side, after translator with flags.

  16. Thank you for sharing all of these photographs and also the history.

    All the best Jan


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