The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis’ visits Kyoto’s amazing Sanjusangen-Do temple

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 16•13

Main Kannon Bothisativa statue

Main Kannon Bothisativa statue

We here at WoWasis have seen a lot of Buddhist structures, but we weren’t prepared for what we saw at Kyoto’s amazing Sanjusangen-Do temple. Here is a hall, rebuilt in 1266, replete with 1001 statues of the 100-armed Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon. The statues are laid out in a grid consisting of 500 statues flanking the largest of all of them. The hall itself is formidable, 390 feet long by 54 feet wide. Think for a 40 story building laid on its side.

The statues are amazing, no two exactly alike, and each is a magnificent work in its own. Made of Japanese Cypress, 124 were made when the hall was founded in the 12th century, the remainder a century later when Sanjusangen-do was renovated. The hall is relatively dark and the gilded statues seem not to have been dusted in centuries, adding to the mystique of the experience.

The 1000 flanking statues of Kannon

The 1000 flanking statues of Kannon

In addition to the Kannon statues, there are an additional 28 deities lined up in front of them, the wind god and the thunder god flanking them all. They are there to protect the Kannon statues, and bear a different method of construction. Rather than carved out of one piece of wood, they are assembled, head, arms, and torso, covered with lacquer, and covered. The names of the sculptors of each work are documented. The first great sculptor was Kojyo, and he and several family members created the first statues. A fire occurred in 1249 ACE, at which point Kojyo’s grandson Tankei led a team that finished the remaining statues. The detail is amazing, the facial features remarkable.

Sanjusangen is one of the more remarkable places we’ve seen in any country, and we would have liked to have taken a photo. Not only is this banned, but a bunch of roving monks enforce it.  As we are wont to ask, is this the job for which they took their vows?  Japan is the only country we’ve been to where the chief duty of many monks seems to be enforcers of no-photo rules. As is the norm for “no photo” venues, an informative 16 page color book can be bought at the gift shop, the only way you’ll be adequately able to remember the wonders you saw here.

Banner_Asia00Sanjusangen-do Temple
657 Sajusangendomawari-cho
Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Tel: 525-0033
Open 9:00-3:30 (8:30-4:30 in summer)
Located 1 km east of Kyoto station. Take bus 206 or 208, to Sanjusangen-do mae stop

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