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Ancient temples of Nara Japan

Discover the ancient wonders of Nara, Japan's former capital, home to the world's oldest wooden temple structures filled with early Buddhist art. Explore Horyuji, founded in the 7th century, and Todaiji, housing a colossal cosmic Buddha. Marvel at the blend of peaceful and warlike figures in the stunning Buddhist altars. Created by Asian Art Museum.

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Video transcript

[Music] each year millions of tourists and pilgrims visit Nara the ancient capital of Japan they come to see the oldest surviving wooden temple structures in the world containing a treasure trove of early Buddhist art the temple known as Horry oh gee near Nara was founded in the seventh century by Prince Shotoku an early champion of Buddhism in Japan fires destroyed these buildings in 670 and the entire complex was reconstructed in 710 the oldest surviving buildings here include a five-story pagoda an image hall an inner corridor and gate the Japanese sought to match the cosmopolitan style and grandeur of the official and religious architecture of China and Korea the incorporated imported features such as the use of tiled roofs and bracketing to support wide overhanging eaves inside the image Hall is a famous Buddhist triad according to an inscription on the back of the halo it was commissioned as an offering for Prince Shotoku who became ill and died just before it was completed todaiji or the Great Eastern temple was commissioned by the Emperor sho mu several decades later it was built at great expense to house an enormous bronze statue of the cosmic Buddha associated with the Sun visitors approach the temple through a deer park a reference to the Deer Park in sarnath India where the Buddha preached his first sermon passing through the first gate one is confronted by massive guardian figures the temple was inaugurated in a huge ceremony in 752 witnessed by dignitaries from many parts of the Buddhist world the temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries a bronze Lantern survives from the original site but the main hall dates from 1709 and is only two-thirds the size of the original even so it is still the largest wooden structure in the world under one roof [Music] the Great Buddha inside has also been restored many times several bronze petals surviving from the original Lotus throne can be seen below the present statue Bodhisattvas and guardian figures are positioned on each side within the grounds of todaiji is a smaller sub temple that preserves an intact version of a Buddhist altar from the middle of the eighth century known as sangat pseudo or Hokkaido it contains a stunning image of a multi-armed bodhisattva called ken known in japan flanked by several other deities and guardian figures the mixture of peaceful and warlike figures makes an unforgettable tableau two figures seen here at the Asian Art Museum were once part of a similar altar arrangement in another temple in Nara known as Banton anti-shock Outen they were made using the same dry lacquer technique used to make the statue of Kannan and probably accompanied a similar figure they are among the rare examples of Nara period sculpture outside of Japan [Music] you you