Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Do Deer, Buddha, and a Wooden Temple have in Common?

All three are located in the historic city of Nara, Japan and all three are tourist destinations.  Yes, even the deer.  The deer are considered sacred messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion so are found nearly everywhere in this sacred city, many waiting for a handout from willing tourists. 

The Sika deer roam the huge park which contains temples and museums aplenty as well as the largest wooden structure in the world, the Todaiji Temple.  The Temple first built in the early 700s was actually more grand then the existing Temple of 1709.  (The current building was finished in 1709, and although immense—57 m long and 50 m wide—it is actually 30% smaller than its predecessor. Nevertheless, the Daibutsuden is considered the largest building in the world made primarily of wood.)

As if the deer and the largest wooden structure in the world aren't enough, there's more.  The Todaiji Temple houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana!  This 52 foot high statue was completed in 751 AD after three years of casting work.  Documentation states that over 2,6000,000 people worked on the immense temple and Buddha, and that the project nearly bankrupted Japan's economy, consuming most of the available bronze of the time.

And those sacred Sika deer of Nara?
"On our way to the shrine, many deer appeared in the morning darkness. This is a sign from the gods and a good omen. People say that when one encounters deer, he or she should get out of the carriage and bow to them."
— From Gyokuyo by Kujo Kanezane of the 12th century

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