Todaiji Temple: Largest Wooden Building for 1260 Years

Todaiji Temple located in Nara, Japan is one of the Seven Great Buddhist Temples in the city. The temple is nearly 1300 years old and is one of the national heritages of Japan and the Buddhist world. Moreover, the temple held the title of being the largest wooden building for 1260 years, from its construction to 1998. The ancient temple is also home to the largest bronze Buddha statue and is the headquarters of Kegon Buddhism. Todaiji Temple is one of the ever-lasting icons of the Ancient Nara and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Todaiji Temple

Although the Japanese were followers of Shintoism, Buddhism also became popular in the 6th century. In its aftermath, the country saw an increase in Buddhist temples all over the island. One of these temples was Todaiji Temple whose construction began in 738 under the orders of Emperor Shomu. Shomu was a fan of the temples in China so he wanted to emulate them. Therefore, he told an important Buddhist monk in Nara to build a temple. Another reason why the emperor wanted a Buddhist temple was because during his reign Japan suffered a lot of disasters. Earthquakes, plagues, poor crop output, rebellions, and conflicts were abundant when Shomu had the throne. So, in a way, he believed that the temple would attract Buddha’s blessings on him and the country.

Todaiji Temple and the tourists

Todaiji Temple was the result of one of the biggest collective human efforts in Japan. According to ancient records, more than 2,5 million people helped the construction in some way while 350,000 people directly worked in it.

Todaiji Temple building

Since its construction, the main attraction of the temple has always been the bronze Buddha statue and the Great Hall that contains it. When the workers finished building the statute, Nara celebrated it with a ceremony with 10,000 monks, 4,000 dancers, and the Emperor himself in attendance.

Todaiji Temple buddha

Despite the initial success of the temple, shortly after its construction, Nara lost its position as the center of Japanese Buddhism. As new sects appeared and the constant changes in the capital, Nara and Todaiji Temple became redundant and fell into despair. Although the temple still stands today, very few items are truly from the 8th century. Only some walls, statues, and rooms here and there are the original pieces of the temple while most of the other structures are from renovations in the following centuries.

Todaiji Temple lake
Todaiji Temple deer
Todaiji Temple guardian statue
Todaiji Temple another guardian statue
Todaiji Temple entrance
building exterior
statue at the building
the statue and the deer