Sanjusangen-do Temple

Kyoto, Japan

Sanjusangen-do was built by Taira no Kiyomori for the retired emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1164. Burned in 1249, the temple was restored in 1266. The exterior of the temple's hondo, or main hall (1266), is shown here. It is renowned for the sculptures of a magnificent thousand-armed Kannon, 1,001 smaller gilt Kannons, and 28 Followers of Kannon displayed inside. Itself a National Treasure, the long (390 feet) hall is divided by interior columns into thirty-three bays, symbolizing the thirty-three incarnations of Kannon. Thus the temple's common name, Sanjusan-gen-do, means "Thirty-three Bay Hall." Its official name, Renge-o-ji, means "Lotus King Temple," and refers to the form of Kannon that is enshrined as the chief statue of the temple.