In the news: Newly excavated ruins of 8th century Shin-Yakushiiji as large as largest existing wooden structure today

Nara temple’s ancient ruins unearthed

The Yomiuri Shimbun

NARA–The ruins of a large building believed to be the Kondo main hall of the eighth-century Shin-Yakushiji temple in Nara have been excavated here from the campus of Nara University of Education, the university said Thursday.

Based on the ruins, the university said, the ancient building–which was destroyed for a second and final time in 962–was as big as the largest wooden structure still standing in the world today, the Great Buddha Hall in Todaiji temple in Nara, which dates to the Edo period (1603-1867).

The foundations of the ancient building are estimated to have stretched 54 meters from east to west and 27 meters from north to south.

Because there are few known remains of the Shin-Yakushiji complex, the discovery is of major importance in understanding the famous temple’s original structure.

According to records of Todaiji temple, Shin-Yakushiji temple was built in 747 by Empress Komyo, who prayed for the recovery of her ill husband, Emperor Shomu (701-756), and is believed to have had several buildings on its spacious grounds, including the Kondo main hall, two towers and a lecture hall.

The original temple complex was destroyed by fire started by lightning in 780. The complex was rebuilt, but the Kondo hall was again destroyed, along with other buildings, by strong winds in 962.

The Kondo hall of Shin-Yakushiji was never again reconstructed.

In the recent excavation, stones with a diameter of about 50 centimeters–believed to have formed the foundations on which pillars stood–have been unearthed from four locations.

(Daily Yomiuri Oct 24, 2008)

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