A temple associated with the Chinese high priest, Jianzhen
Toshodai-ji is the head temple for Risshu, one of the six sects of Buddhism brought to Japan. In 759, Jianzhen began a place of Buddhist meditation that was for students to learn the mores and principles that needed to be protected in the religion. At the time, there had been no high priest to instruct these precepts in Japan, and there was a huge problem with a decrease in the quality of monks. It is at that point that Emperor Shoumu invited Jianzen from China to establish the correct Buddhist precepts. After 5 failed attempts to cross over to Japan, he finally reached the country after losing his sight in both eyes. This great achievement is known widely in both Japan and China.
The buildings of the Nara Era still thrive today
Despite the many temples that were burned down during times of war, Toshodai-ji still remains as a remnant from the Tempyo Era. Inside, the Golden Hall has retained its appearance since its establishment in the late 8th century. In the center is the principal image of Rushanabutsu, on the right is the statue of Yakushi Nyorai and on the left is the statue of Senju Kannon. All of them are statues from around the 8th and 9th centuries and have been designated as National Treasures. In addition, you cannot miss the Kodo Lecture Hall with its open space. Originally, this was the Higashi Choushuuden Hall moved from Heijo Palace and then restored. Since no buildings remain of the Heijo Palace, the hall is an extremely valuable building at this time.
Impressed by the spitting image of Jianzhen
To prevent the decay of Buddhism in Japan, Jianzhen took more than 12 years to reach his goal of getting to Japan. His statue at Goei-do Hall can only be viewed annually for just three days in June, from the 5th to the 7th. Measuring 80.1cm in height, it is Japan’s oldest portrait sculpture and is a work that is representative of the Tempyo Era. The appearance of him with his eyes closed is exceptional as an example of a portrait sculpture. The realistic representation is remarkable up to the faithful re-creation of Jianzhen’s indomitable spirit.