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A History of This Building

This holr bLrilding .' Rengco-in. ' poplrlari), crllcd "Srnjusangcn-da." iras litrnclccl iu ll64 A.D. nl tirc derrand
ofthc Enrpc|or'(ioshiIlrkaua. \\ho \\,as ]lot on11, a pious dc\otee to Kanr]on Bodhisatl\a. bLrl also ar earnest
sovcrcign in hi\ attcnrft to bring about pcacc by sprcading Buddhistic failh thloughout thc countl).
The colrrnror rurre 'Sanjlisangcn-cl5" nrcans'A Hall ofthirty thrcc ba)s." Thc uuubcr "ll'ts dcrived ft-om
the lreliet thal Krnnon Boclhisattva savcs all nrankind by clisguising hirusclf as 33 cliflcrcnl llgurcs. So lhc architectLrral plan ol this hall is L.rased on arrangini:1.001 l(annon statucs on thc vxst altrr u ith 33 bays (onc bc
t\reen pillars). I he hrll itselfconsists of35 bays orr thc cast siclc and 5 bays on thc north sir1c.
Ho*erer. th.. hall uas burnt clo\\,n in l2rl9. ancl thcn Ernpcnx Gosa-ga issllcd rn ordct 1o lcconslrllct anothcr
ln the verv sanre str le as thc oliginal building iincl tlrc arrrr'rgcr1'rcut of l.(X)l Kannons. I hc neu, buildirrg rnci 1.012
statues as seen io(la) \\crc corlrplctcd in l2(16 A.D.
The bLriltling is it)0 1i. long and 54 li. iviclc. Thc gradually cu['ed tilcd roofpcculiar toJaparese tenrples is
grand inclccd. At thc south boundary of thc prcnriscs is thc grand galc and thc Tail(o carthen wall. They wele
built in about 1590 A.D. ancl rrc ol'thc Muuroyanra s1ylc.
In addition to thcnr. rnothcr plustcrcd rvall aucl somc rcd gatcs wcrc coustrllctccl lcccntlv ou thc cast sicic. and
arc of I(amakura sty1c. Thc n holc i:r'oLurcls including thc holy hall in thc ccntcr arc in goocl orclcr'.



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Keshou-yaneu ra" Construction

-'Kesliou-r a neuLa is a construction slyle includilg the bcams. raftcrs and undet-spacc of temple
roofs. The cciling is not flat. b angled and is supported by a special structule of exposed, whitepainted wooden beams. This gives the space
under the rool the appearance of an attic (Yaneura) when viewed from thc floor. "Keshouyaneula" is a traditional constrLrction style
which has been prevalently uscd since the
Nara Pcriod (710-794), and nowlrcrc is it more
exquisitely represcnted than at Sanjusangerl

The Richly Colored Hall


At the time of consfluction. the interior of

this hall was beautifully decorated with a sea
of colors. When the hall was dismantled dur.
ing the early part ofthe Showa Pe od (i.e., the

early 20th cerrturll. richll colored pairtting:

of clouds and flower petals were discovered
under the wooden disks attached to thc lower
cnds ol the beams. Thc rafters ald pillars also
revealed similar Buddhist paltems. (One por-

tion of these was restored sonre years ago by

Coloration left under the wooden disks

the Agency for Cultulal Affair s.)

The principal lmage of Kannon Bodhisattva (National Treasure)

ln the centcr of thc hall sits solemnly the pr-incipal irrage, ".lu-ichinen-Senju-Kannon (Ekadasanukhasahasrabhuja-Ar alokite-svala), or Kannon with elcven taces and one thousand arms. He
has ll srrall faccs or his hcad and 20 pairs ofarms. This sl,mbolizes 1.000 arms because each saves
25 u,ollds. The height ofthe irrage is 131 inchcs. This most gracefirl and refined in.rage was carved
by Tankei. one ofthe l'r'lost distinguished sculptors in the Kamakura periocl u,hen he was at the adr anced agc ofE2.
In fornring thc staruc. a tcchniqLrc callcd "Yosegi-zukuri" *as applied. The method is as follor.r,s: first. a prc-constllrctcd body is composed of rrany partly hollolu blocks of wood, carved only
rough11,: second. thc surfacc ofthe body is carved, third; the statue is colored orjapanned (a type of
laqucr). and linalll plated * ith gold leaves.
On both sidcs of the central image stand in regular order olte thousand irrages of Kannol Bodhisatt\ a. The) are \ooclen and also fashioned in the yoscgi-zukuri nrlnncr. The1, ale smaller (Height:
65inches- 66inches) and simpler in appearancc than that ofthe principal inragc in the center. Thesc
1.000 iruages are joint works by 70 or more sculptors under tl're cor'r'ir'rilnd of tllc gleat masters,
Tankei: the construction-period extended over l5 years.
It is believed that KanroD Bodhisattva can transform himself into ll dittirent ligures. Therefore,
one might look uporl the total 1.001 irnages as the appearance of ii.0il Kannons. It is the very beatLty ofthe numerous Kannon inrages that stlikes the toulists as a charactelistic ofthis hall.

The '1,000 Standing lmages

of Kannon (lmportant cultural


The 1,000 Standing lmages of

Thousand-Armed Kannon
The splendor of the Sanjusangen-do
lies in the beauty of this group of one
thousand images. It is recorded in one
of the documents that one hundrcd and
fifty-six of these images were rescued
from the great fire of the first year of
the Kencho period( 1249).

ln the fiISt stage of construction of the

Sanjlsangen-do, the sculptor Kojyo, a
disciplc in the foufih generation of the
line of the famous sculptor Jocho. his
hcir Kocho, Kocho's younger brother
Koke i and his real son Unkei. all
worked on the creation of the Kannon
images. In the second stage. after the
great fire, ovcr seventy sculptors under
the leadership of Unkei's son Tankei,
padicipated ir the project. Among these
we find the names Koen, Ryuen, Shoen,
Eien, Inkei, lnsho, llga and Gyokai.
All the images were:nade by three
schools called Keiha, Inpa and Enpa:chool. ln Showa 32(1057) tlre basic
repairs to the images were finally finished and the restoration was now considered complete. When one considers
both Kannon s ability to change into

thifty-three different fomrs in response

to the individual's needs, and his deep
compassion for all sentient beings, one
can see the embodiment of33.033
manifestations of lhe Bodhirall\a in
rhese l00lsta(ues. Ir is populrr srnce
the end of the Heian period, to worship
great numbers ofimages, to nrake Buddhists come over and over again, and to
create numeroLls images and pagodas.

More than that, the multiple images of

the Sanjiisangen-do causcs one to feel
a deep sense of intimacy with Kamon,
such that there is the common beliefthat
one can find thc face of a loved one
amongst the many images.

Senju-Kannon figure No.40

This wooden figurc rvas nradc by Tankci, the
grcat chicf sculptor. al thc linrc of thc reconstruction ef this hall. Jusl ninc of his works rernain among thc thousand statues hcrc. Each
thcrn is sinrilar in stylc to thc stat[c No.40 .


Senju-Kannon figure No.50

This wooden figurc u,as made by Koen.

sLrcccssol to chiefsculptor Tankci. His signalure

is car\'ed LLnder lhc sfahrc s lool

No.140: made by


No.330 : made by Ryuen

Open-mouthed laughing face

behind his head No 530
Mcaning: To


laughlcr to lcarl

I,.ulrla \\ lru rrt'e trl .utttrd trtitr,l urr.r1

l'ronr doing cr'il things.
One thousand eyes : in his palm

llte S.rt.irr Klrtlttorr lt.rri r'ttl ere

,'f llrcir lnltr lrtrlrrr.. caulr ,,t
irlri;lr.arr 5c( irrL,:5 * llrcr.irr i.relr

li)rc. leprcscnt 1.000 cycs.

No.160 : rnade ln Heian period

Nijuhachi-bushu/The 28 guardian deities of kannon (National Treasure : Kamakura period)

Thcsc arc gods or spir.its of bcauly, rvisdom, prospetity. charitv. stletrgth and so on. Thcy atteld
to Kannon and protect believers fiorr many.obstacles. or sare lhem from all dangers. Each statue
is carved out of u,ood and colored. Thcy ale presunrably regarded as rvorks by the school of Tankei.
In creating tllese figules the sculptors aimed at surpassing the vi\id dyramic reality ofthc human

Daibenkudoku-ten (Sir -devT)

This figure is heavcnly rraid clothed in bluish-purple robc wavirg softly about. You might take
considerable ilterest in thc f'act that thc vcry samc altist \\'ho succecded in cxpressing this mood of
elegance and refinement coulcl also magnificently producc all other sculpttLrcs of wild alrd sturdy appearance. Height:65 inchcs.

Konpira (Kumbhlra)
Originally it rvas a crocodilc in the Ganges River.

Kinnara (Kimnara)
In ancient Indian mythology, this deity was intro-

rvhich was deified in the form of the water god in the

Indian folk beliel Later on. i1 was adoptcd in Buddhism as a gualdian deity of Shaka (Sakya-muni or
Buddha). Height:61 inchcs.

duceci as a half-god and half-bird, which lives on thc

Hirrarala Nlountains and sings in a beautiful voice.
ln Buddhisrl. it is a dcity of rnusic and an attendant

of Taishaku-ten (lndra) or Bisharron-tcn (lhisravana).

Height:64 inches.

Birubakusha Another bravc god rvho plesided ovcr the Paradise in thc West Thc right half of
(Vir[pakta) the brcast-platc on ]ris chest battcred by his outthrusting right ann
llei3ht:63 inL''t...



In ancicnt India it was belicvcd to bc a gigantic bird lvhich was ate cobras and carricd
the Ilindu dejty Vishru on its back. Later on, it rvas adopted in Buddhism as a deity and
was included in the Eight Guardians. This statuc reprcsents a bird-headed ligure with
wings, playirrg the 11ute. Height: 64.5 inches.



Vasu is a hermit. He goes continuously on a pilgrimage through the wilderness, taking with him,9,200 million sinful men and u'omen rvhom he has saved out olHades.
Hc is indeed lonely and unworldly man in appearance owing to his stricl religious
practices in pursuit ofBuddhistic truth and charity. Height: 6linches.

Missha-kongo This figure in the shape of wrestler is made of wood. He was


people who were converted to Buddhisnr. Height: 66 inches.

a patron deity of the



The deity god


great physical strength, defelding be]ievers against evils.

Heighr : oo inches.


Original Site of Ho-juji Palace (Restoration)

This is the original site ofthe Lrperial Palace built by Ex-Emperol Goshirakawa in 1161. He and his wife lived herc lor about 20 years. Sanjusangen-d6 was
in the central part ofthe site. h 1183. the entirc palacc was burnt down during
the rebellion, except Saniusangen-do.

When to Visit
There is no best season for

visiting Sanjrlsangen-do; it's

marvelous at any time ol the
year. However, try visiting
in the morning, soon after
the hall opens, on a day with
clear skies. You can catch
the sight of the sun glinting

off of the burnished gold of

the images of Kannon, the
Buddhist Goddesses of Mercy, and inside the temple it is
a veritable forest of Buddhist

Portrait of Ex-Emperor
The retired En.rpcror Goshirakawa entered the Buddhist priesthood and held
Insei (rule by ex-emperors). He was

pious erough in Kannon to erect the

original temple of Sanjlsangen-do in
I164. He rvas also a cultured man who
compiled an anthology of batlads. His
tomb is to the east



Portrait (lmportant cultural property : Kamakura period)

Honen's Stone Monument

(Kamakura period)

This stone monument was built by

Priest Honen. founder ol the Jodo sect
of Buddhism, to conmemorate the l3th
wa's death.


Ex-Emperor Goshiraka-




Toh-shiya (Japan print: Edo period)

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Il 6-iri;r r

Yakazu-cho (Edo period)

This is the notebook showing

thc records of Toh-shiya held

t'r'oln 1606 to I 842.

Tablet Praising Wasa Daihachiro's Record (Edo period)

Toh-shiya (archery cor'rtest) was hclcl on thc west verancla of the Sadusangen-do. Thc origin of the
contcst dates back to thc l6th century. Thc rnan who shot thc largest nut'nbeL of arron,s ltttttt onc end
to thc other won tlre contest. Wasa Daihachiro shot E.131 out of 13,053 arrows sttcccssfirlly duritlg
onc day in 1686. Today. an exhibition contcst is hcld elery year in January.

Taikou-bei : Earthen wall (lmportant cultural property : l\,4omoyama per od)

l\,4inamidai mon :South gate


A Ei'ia+i{

Notice Board Carrying Toyotomi

Hideyoshi's Command

(lmporiant cultural property : I\,4omoyama period)

Portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

The Warlord Toyotomi Hide)oshi u,as deified aftcl his dcath


159E ard ersluirrcd iu the Tol,okuni Shrine. Duling his

lifetime, he hLnded the Kyoto DaibutsrL (Great Buddha Hall.

which was also called IlokojiTcnplc). buill on the nonh sidc of

Sanjhsangcn-d0 bccame a part of that tcmplc.

Yoji-josuiku (incantation using rvillow stick),
of Sanjhsangcn-do in
the l2th ccntury. Willorv was once belicvcd to
work as a pain-ki11cr'. That is why willow stick
and srcred uater are sprinkled o\er visitor5 al
the ritual, asking Buddha for the expulsion ol
the most impoftant ritual

illness and evils.

Today, it is held every year in January.


"Toh-shiya"" Contest of Japanese Archery

The "Toh-shiya" or "piercing arrow" is an
annual Japancsc archcry contest which draws

roughly 2,000 participants from throughout

the country (and is hcld oI1 thc same day as the
Buddhist ritual of "Yanagi-no-okaji"). Young
wornen prnicipanrs tcelebraring their corningof-age) dressed in gorgeous kimono mahe rhis
evenl a r ibrall New Year's tradiLion.

Archery contest

"Saito-goma" - Buddhist Prayer Stick

Burning Ritual
ln " Saito-gorna", molrntain priests pray for
pcace as tl'rey light a holy fire to burn the prayer

sli(k\ upon whieh worshrppcrs ha\c \\rirlen

their wishcs and desires. It is bclicvcd that the
holy fire rcpresents the clcansing fire of the
Buddha's wisdom to pulify the worshippers'
spirit, bring thcln good fortune, and ward ofl
cvil. This ritual is still performed today and is
hcld t,,vice a ycar in Novcrnber and February.

Story of Munagi (ln Edo period)

This stoly tells that \\,illow tree was usecl as a ridgepole.

thc most iDrportant column in a tcrrple or house. in

Sanjusangen-do to pray to Buddha for tl're Ex-Er'nperor
Goshirakawa's recovery from illness. Thc stor1, uas
performed in Joh-rur-i (recitilg popular ballads) and is


wood-cut prints.


lvlunagi(Japan print)