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The Tōdai-ji in Nara
The Daibutsu in Tōdai-ji
Wild game on the Nandaimon
The Tegai-mon gate after which the Tegai swordsmith school was named.

The Tōdai-ji ( Japanese 東大寺 , lit. "East Great Temple", better: "Great Temple of the East") is a Buddhist temple in the Japanese city ​​of Nara .

With a width of 57.01 meters, a depth of 50.48 meters and a height of 48.74 meters, the main hall is the largest building made entirely of wood in the world. It houses the largest Buddhist bronze statue.

The statue of the Great Buddha ( daibutsu ) represents Buddha Vairocana (Japanese Birushana , or Dainichi ). It is located in the largest hall of the Tōdai-ji, Daibutsuden ( 大 仏 殿 ), which was rebuilt in 1708, but originally around one Third should have been larger. The bronze figure alone is 15 m high, weighs 452 t and is approx. 18 m high with the base. In the temple complex there is also a shrine of the Shinto deity Hachiman , who was declared the patron god of the Great Buddha in the Nara period (710-794). Also noteworthy is the entrance gate ( Nandaimon ) from 1199 with the two 8.5 m high guardian statues (Niô). The system of Tōdai-ji is one of the UNESCO - World Heritage Site .


The temple was built in 745 in the Nara period by order of Emperor Shōmu, directly east of the capital Heijō-kyō (today's Nara) - the Buddha figure was completed in 751. Emperor Shōmu wanted to rule a kingdom that was governed according to the principle of harmony and Buddhist law.

A devastating smallpox epidemic from 735 to 737, which wiped out a third of the population of Japan, caused Shōmu to establish state monasteries and convents with large Buddha images in each province. In 741, the emperor issued a decree providing for the establishment of a nationwide network of provincial monasteries , with the Tōdai-ji being the main temple of this Kokubun-ji . He and the other monasteries were supposed to bring prosperity to the state and the population and, above all, protection from disasters such as earthquakes, conflagrations and bad harvests.


The establishment of the giant Buddha, the central figure of the temple, was almost beyond the power of the country. The meditating Vairocana (Cosmic Buddha) is over 15 meters tall and consists of 450 tons of copper; 50,000 carpenters and 37,000 metal smiths were needed to build it. Hills had to be leveled for the site and the wooden building that was erected around it dominated the landscape for miles. Such a display of Buddhist power was entirely the emperor's intention. After several unsuccessful attempts to create the statue in one piece, the Korean blacksmith Kuninaka Kimimaro († 775) finally succeeded in building the figure from separately cast pieces. In addition to the technical difficulties, the lack of material was also noticeable.

There were also difficulties of a religious and political nature. An adjustment of the relationship between Shinto and Buddhism became urgent. According to a legend from the 14th century in Genkō Sakusho , the priest Gyōgi (668-749) is said to have brought a relic to the Daijingu in Ise at the behest of the emperor , where after seven days he is said to have received the oracle that Vairocana (Japanese Dainichi = big sun) and the sun goddess Amaterasu are of the same nature. So whoever serves the Buddha also serves the Japanese root goddess, a projection of the Kami-Buddhist syncretism ( Shinbutsu-Shūgō ) into the past that was popular at the time the legend was created .

Gold was discovered in Japan in 749 AD. “When we heard about it,” said Shōmu, “we were amazed and delighted.” He interpreted the find as a favorable omen. Now he could have the monument gilded with local metal. The statue was completed in 749. The opening ceremony of the eyes in 752 was led by the first abbot of the Rōben temple , and over 10,000 guests, many of them from abroad, are said to have participated.

In addition to the Kegon, four other Buddhist schools were asked to use the Tōdaiji as a seat as well. These five became the first of Nara's six schools. The last of the schools, Ritsu , was also a smart Shōmus move. He invited the monk Ganjin from China, who brought the vinaya (Japanese: Ritsu). This group, assigned to the Hinayana, deals with the monk rules. All official ordinations were handed over to the Ritsu, also in Tōdaiji. Shōmu was also ordained a second time; the legitimacy of ordination has always been a top concern for Buddhists. The rise in power that the Buddhist establishment achieved through all these political measures led to the fact that after 760 the monk Dōkyō , as the lover of the Empress Shōtoku , appointed by her as Dharma ruler (hō-ō), gained excessive political influence. The subsequent return of the imperial family to itself led to the end of the Nara period. The Nara schools were not granted access to the new capital Heian-kyō . The temple is still the main temple of the Kegon sect today.

Fires destroyed the huge hall in Heijō-kyō twice, once in 1180 during the turmoil at the end of the Heian period and then in 1567 during the turmoil of the Sengoku period . Several corrections were made to the figure. In 1692 - the Daibutsu had no roof over their heads for over a hundred years - the foundation stone for today's hall was laid, which was completed at the beginning of the 18th century, adapted to the style of the Edo period. Today's hall is significantly smaller than the previous building, but a little higher.

Today the temple grounds are also used for cultural events. On May 20, 1994, the international music event The Great Music Experience took place here, at which the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra , X Japan , INXS , Bon Jovi , Bob Dylan , Tomoyasu Hotei , Roger Taylor , classical Japanese drummers and a 100- choir of Buddhist monks performed. The concert was shown on television in 55 countries.

Statue of Arhat Pindola

Statue of Pindola in front of the Tōdai-ji

To the right of the entrance to the main hall is a weathered wooden statue of Arhat Pindola-Bhāradvāja from the 18th century. Pindola was one of the 16 arhats, is said to have dealt with sorcery and therefore has to stay outside the temple. If you touch a part of the body of the statue and then rub the corresponding part of your own body, diseases in this part of the body are supposed to be cured.

Other buildings in the temple complex

  • Hokke-do (法 華堂)
  • Nigatsu-dō (二月 堂) From 1. – 14. March the ceremony Shunie ( 修 二 会 ) or Omizutori ( お 水 取 り , " drawing water") performed.
  • Sangatsu-do (三月 堂)


  • In April the yae-zakura , a double cherry blossom on the trees , explode . They have been classified as a natural treasure by the government .

Web links

Commons : Tōdai-ji  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ JN Hays: Epidemics and Pandemics. Their Impacts on Human History . ABC-CLIO, 2005, ISBN 1-85109-658-2 , 5 Smallpox Epidemic in Japan, 735-737, pp. 31 .
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Nipponica 2001.

Coordinates: 34 ° 41 ′ 21.3 "  N , 135 ° 50 ′ 23.1"  E