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  4. Sanjusangendo

Sanjusangendo, Kyoto

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Sanjusangendo, in eastern Kyoto, is a temple affiliated with the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. Sanjusangendo is the popular name, meaning "Hall with 33 Bays." The temple's official name is Rengeo-in.

History

Sanjusangendo was founded in 1164 by order of the retired emperor Goshirakawa. The original temple was destroyed by fire in 1249; the present structure dates from its rebuilding in 1266.

The Kannon statues that fill the temple were carved in the 12th and 13th centuries by Tankei, a famous sculptor of the Kamakura Period. The central Kannon image dates from 1254.

What to See

At 120m (394 feet) in length, Sanjusangendo is Japan's longest wooden building. Simple and austere on the outside, the main attraction of Sanjusangendo is the inside, which is filled with 1,001 statues of Kannon, all beautifully carved from Japanese cypress.

The temple centers on a six-foot-tall statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. She has 11 faces and 1000 arms and has been designated a National Treasure. The central Kannon is flanked by 1,000 more life-sized Kannons, who are covered in gold leaf and stand side-by-side several rows deep. These statues have 40 arms, each of which are said to have the power to save 25 worlds.

Sanjusan means "33," which is the number of spaces between the pillars that support the long, narrow hall. This number was chosen for a reason: Kannon can assume 33 different shapes on her missions of mercy. So, because there are 1,001 statues of Kannon in the hall, 33,033 shapes are possible. People come to Sanjusangendo to look for the likeness of a loved one among the many statues.

In the corridor behind the Kannons are statues of 28 Japanese deities who protect the Buddhist universe. They represent Kannon's disciples and embody various virtues. Finally, there are two traditional Buddhist temple guardians: Raijin, the god of thunder, and Fujin, the god of wind.

Sanjusangendo is also known for the Toshiya (archery contest) that takes place behind the temple each January. Traditionally, the contest is a ritual exercise intended to show young participants that an adult's life requires patience and self-control.

Quick Facts on Sanjusangendo

Site Information
Names:Sanjusangendo; Sanjusangendo, Kyoto
City:Kyoto
State:Kansai
Country:Japan
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Kyoto, Japan
Coordinates:34.987997° N, 135.772081° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Sanjusangendo

Below is a location map and aerial view of Sanjusangendo. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Fodor's Japan, 17th ed.
  2. Frommer's Japan, 8th ed.

More Information

Article Info

Title:Sanjusangendo, Kyoto
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:10/05/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/japan/kyoto-sanjusangendo
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/japan/kyoto-sanjusangendo">Sanjusangendo, Kyoto</a>