Digital Archives of Japanese Cultural Heritages
Nara, Nara Japan
In 765, Empress Shotoku ordered Saidaiji to be founded, and gilt bronze statues of Shitenno (the guardian kings) that stand in 2.3m were enshrined there to pray for the peace and security of the nation.
The temple originally covered a huge area of 48 ha(118 acre), and it was one of the seven state-sponsored temples in Nara. It was the major Buddhist temple in the West Nara as Todaiji temple was in the East.
Saidaiji once fell into decline because of a fire in the Heian period, but in 1235, it was revived by the great priest Shakuson(Eison). It is the head temple of the Shingon-Ritsu sect and has passed down the teachings of Shakuson. Its history can be seen in the religious ceremonies such as tea ceremony; which is famous for using a very big tea bowl, and Komyo-Shingon-E; the traditional Buddhist services lasting the entire day for three days. These ceremonies have been held annually since the 13th century.
The great priest Shakuson and his disciple Ninsho were also known for their social activity that helped poor people. They helped tens of thousands of people including the lowest ranked people and Hansen's disease patients.