Nara Temple Complex
Time for some history on buildings built out of wood centuries ago. Wood is a very reliable building material and has been utilized for thousands of years. Last month we learned about the Stave Churches in Norway, click here to read more about them.
Today we’re headed across the map to Asia, specifically to Japan. There is a temple in Nara that was once one of the Seven Great Temples and was finished in 752BC. The temple is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as one of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.” The Great Buddha Hall houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha Vairocana, or Daibutsu in Japanese. The temple is the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism.
The commencement of construction was in 728BC, and the ordination of the building was conducted in 754BC with 10,000 monks and 4,000 dancers to celebrate the completion. It was used as the main location of ordination of Japanese Buddisht monks for decades until the Vinaya lineage of monks died out. The building’s initial construction was funded by monks collecting donations from around the country, with 2,600,000 people helping with the construction contributing rice, wood, metal, cloth or labor. It is estimated that over 350,000 people worked directly on the statue’s construction alone.
The Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden) has been rebuilt twice after fire. The current building was finished in 1709, and although immense—57 metres (187 ft) long, 50 metres (160 ft) wide and 49 metres (161 ft) high—it is actually 30% smaller than its predecessor. Until 1998, it was the world’s largest wooden building. It has been surpassed by modern structures, such as the Japanese baseball stadium Odate Jukai Dome’, amongst others. The Great Buddha statue has been recast several times for various reasons, including earthquake damage. The current hands of the statue were made in the Momoyama Period (1568–1615), and the head was made in the Edo period (1615–1867).
For stunning photography of this temple complex, visit the Time Travel Turtle below.