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Kansai Region

Kyoto

Sanjusangen-do

Sanjusangen-do

sanjusangendo

Sanjusangen-do is a Buddhist temple in Higashiyama District of Kyoto. Officially known as Hall of the Lotus King, Sanjusangen-do belongs to and is run by the Myoho-in temple, a part of the Tendai school of Buddhism. The temple name literally means Hall with thirty three spaces between columns, describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple.

Taira no Kiyomori completed the temple under order of Emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1164. The temple complex suffered a fire in 1249 and only the main hall was rebuilt in 1266.

The temple has an event known as the Rite of the Willow, where worshippers are touched on the head with a sacred willow branch to cure and prevent headaches. A popular archery tournament known as Toshiya is also held here on the same grounds since the Edo period. The duel between the infamous Miyamoto Musashi and Yoshioka Denshichiro, leader of the Yoshioka-ryu is popularly believed to have been fought just outside Sanjusangen-do in 1604.

The main deity of the temple is Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokitesvara or the Thousand Armed Kannon. The statue of the main deity was created by the Kamakura sculptor Tankei and is a National Treasure of Japan. The temple also contains one thousand life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon which stand on both the right and left sides of the main statue in 10 rows and 50 columns. Of these, 124 statues are from the original temple, rescued from the fire of 1249, while the remaining 876 statues were constructed in the 13th century. The statues are made of Japanese cypress. Around the 1000 Kannon statues stand 28 statues of guardian deities. There are also two famous statues of Fujin and Raijin.