After 18 months of repair and restoration work, the Phoenix Hall in the Byodoin Temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture is once again open to the public beginning April 3. Tagged as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1994, it houses several national treasures including the famous Amida sculpture, the oldest living work by the Japanese sculptor Jōchō which he finished during the Heian period around 1052.
Before it reopened, a special service to celebrate the completed restoration was held in the temple last April 2. They also held a ceremony to return the “spirit” to the seated statue of Amitabha Tathagata, which is the main object of worship in the temple, and to mark the 940th death anniversary of Fujiwara no Michinaga, who founded Byodoin. Wearing traditional Heian period attire, eight temple priests performed the ceremonial return of the spirit from the marble ball it was moved to during reconstruction work. Head priest Monsho Kamii likened the history of Byodoin to “a history of repairs.” He said, “However, repairs are not the objective, but are only the means to continue to protect the environment of Byodoin centered on Phoenix Hall.” He added that this day is the start of their mission to continue protecting the temple.
The restoration work was completed to make the Byodoin appear how it was in 1053 when it was first built. Using iron oxide and ocher, the columns were painted a reddish-brown color. The roof was also replaced and roof ornaments gold-plated including the phoenix statues. While work will continue at the back part of the central chamber, new exhibits were added to the collection as it reopened to the public. A new display portrays Amitabha Tathagata and bodhisattvas meeting with dead spirits based on the original door painting by Ryoichi Kawamo in the 1960s. A new technology of 4k resolution video broadcasts other Byodoin sites and photos from the Phoenix Hall in a separate exhibition room. The Phoenix Hall is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. and may accommodate up to 50 persons inside at 20-minute intervals.
[via The Asahi Shimbun]