Friday, May 28, 2010

Breathtaking Sanjusangendo

Upon entering Sanjusangendo one is confronted with an intensive sense of awe. With over 1000 human-sized golden statues lined up in perfect rows, one gets a sense that they are among an army of angels. Each statue is an individual production of a 3 dimensional image of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy or compassion (more popularly know as Guan Yin in China and the west). There is a large statue of Kannon 10X the size of the others surrounded by an altar in the middle of the temple. 500 human-sized structures exist on either side of this center piece.

The statues are carved of Japanese cypress. The arms and heads of the Kannon were carved seperately and then joined together with the bodies. They were coated with a lacquer and then were covered with gold leaf. 124 were made in 1164 when the temple was founded. The remaining 876 were made in 1266 during a significant temple renovation. Photography is not permitted inside the temple so below is a photo which I found online.

The architecture which surrounds the statues is also outstanding. The inner temple has a roof pitched for cosmetic purposes and in place of a flat ceiling, a white false ceiling has been built at the same angle as the roof. Sanjusangendo is also record breaking in that it is Japan's longest wooden structure at 120 meters in length.

The front exterior is comprised of large sliding plank doors and paper windows utilized for lighting and beauty. The rear exterior is a wall of horizontal planks and a wood frame windows decorated with thin vertical wooden strips. The roof is gorgeous. The gable ends are reinforced with pure dynamic triangular structures known as inokosasu (roof decorations). The gable ends are decorated with plates cut into floral patterns known as inonegegyo. They are quite the finishing touch to such a fascinating temple. Sanjusangendo is breath-taking inside and out!

To find out more information on Sanjusangendo visit

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