History of Todaiji
UNESCO World Heritage
Click Play to listen how to pronounce.
Why and When was Todai-ji temple built?
Official English Web Site
In 752, Nara period, Todai-ji temple was founded. Originally a temple called “Kinsho-ji” was founded by the Emperor Shomu to mourn the death of his son, Prince Motoi. It is said that this Kinsho-ji Temple is the predecessor of Todai-ji.
Since the Emperor Shomu’s coronation, he had difficulties such as the death of his baby son, Prince Motoi, crop shortage, epidemic virus, and he missed his way but he used the Buddhism power as a government policy to protect and maintain the nation. In 741 Emperor Shomu set up the system of government owned Kokubunji temple and Kokubunniji Nunnery. Every province build a Kokubunji temple and Kokubunniji Nunnery to maintain the monks and nuns nationwide to pray for the protection of the nation. Kinsho-ji temple was appointed as the Kokubunji temple in Yamato province, became the official government temple to protect nation with Buddhism power and it was called as Kinkomyo-ji temple. Thus Todai-ji official name is “Kinkomyo-Sitenno-Gokokunotera“
Daibutuden hall and The Great Buddha
In 743 Emperor Shomu decreed to build the Great Buddha. After around 10 years, a big ceremony was held to consecrate the Great Buddha by the Indian monk, named Bodaisenna, who was invited by the Emperor Shomu.
Tne Monk “Gyoki 行基” and “Roben 良弁”
Building the Great Buddha and temple buildings were organized and funded by the government office called Zo-Todaiji-shi(Office of Todai-ji Temple construction) but the mass of people organized by the popular monk called Gyoki contributed a lot to succeed. And another monk called Roben did great administrative work.
The Chinese monk, “Ganjin 鑑真”
In 754 a temporary ordination hall was set up in front of Todaiji’s Daibutsu-den(Great Buddha Hall) and Ganjin, a Chinese monk, ordained over 440 monks and nuns including the retired Emperor Shomu. Todai-ji temple become the head temple of all nationwide Kokubunji temples and gained a reputation as the head of government owned temple to protect the nation. * Ganjin in Japanese, was a Chinese monk who helped to propagate Buddhism in Japan.
Since that, Todaiji-temple, the Great Buddha hall got fire caused by war twice, the one was in end of the Heian era and the other was in Civil war era, but each time it was reconstructed. The restoration at Kamakura era after the end of Heian Era, the monk called “Chogen” was appointed to the position of Daikanjin(great fund raiser), he worked so hard to collect contribution for the reconstruction. And the Keiha School of Buddhist sculptors participated in the reconstraction.
The present Great Buddha statue, from right underarm to front stomach and leg parts and part of pedestal were from original Nara era made. The main body parts were rebuilt at Kamakura era, and the head parts were made at Edo era after civil war era. The Great Buddha Statue was restored each time it was damaged, it came back to the people. It has been showing us the magnificence of the Nara era’s Buddhism beliefs to present over 1300 years.