Asahi Shimbun PHOTO: Byodoin temple’s phoenix statues implanted with colorful plumage

Monsho Kamii, the head priest at Byodoin temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, shows a phoenix replica with a five-colored crest. (Noboru Tomura)

Monsho Kamii, the head priest at Byodoin temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, shows a phoenix replica with a five-colored crest. (Noboru Tomura)

The Asahi Shimbun, July 05, 2014

By TAKU KOYAMA/ Staff Writer
UJI, Kyoto Prefecture–Two phoenix statues, replicated from ones that had graced the roof of World Heritage site Byodoin temple, now sport multicolored crests.

The temple, which is home to national treasures and important cultural properties, unveiled the pair July 3.

“It looks as if the plumes are waving in the wind,” said head priest Monsho Kamii. “The phoenix is beautiful and wild.”

The original statues each had 32 holes on the top of the head, showing that they once had tufts of feathers. But in the centuries following Phoenix Hall’s completion in 1053, the plumage gradually wore away.

Small holes, evidence of a comb of feathers, are seen in the head of the original phoenix statue at Byodoin temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture (Provided by Byodoin)

Small holes, evidence of a comb of feathers, are seen in the head of the original phoenix statue at Byodoin temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture (Provided by Byodoin)

The topknots have been reproduced based on descriptions in ancient Chinese documents. Each statue is decorated with 32 strands of 20-centimeter copper wire, with blue, yellow, red, white and black thread wound around them.

At 30 cm tall, the replicas are two-sevenths the height of the original statues, which were made of bronze and gold-plated.

The original phoenix pair is now on display at the Byodoin Museum Hoshokan.

According to temple officials, the public will get a chance to view the replicas in late September at the earliest.

By TAKU KOYAMA/ Staff Writer

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