Konpon Daitō – The Great Pagoda That Is Now A Symbol Of Kōyasan, Japan

Konpon Daitō (Thre Great Stupa) is a 48.5 metre-tall tower painted in vermillion lacquer. It was a fundamental part of Kōbō Daishi’s layout of Danjo Garan Complex and is now a symbol of Kōyasan.

After Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) was granted the use of the land at Kōyasan for a monastic complex dedicated to the teaching of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, he planned to construct two large, two-storied pagodas diagonally behind the Kondō in the eastern and western directions.

Construction began soon after 816, but the padoga was not completed before Kōbō Daishi entered eternal meditation. The work of building the Daitō was taken up and completed by Shinzen, Kukai’s disciple and successor at Kōyasan, around 887.

The building was destroyed by fire, mostly due to lightening strikes, five times in its history and rebuilt each time. The current structure dates from 1937, after a great fire destroyed many of the Garan buildings in 1843 and burned the pagoda down to its foundation stones. Because of its long history of being damaged by fire, it was decided that Konpon Daitō would be rebuilt in ferroconcrete with wooden overlays.

The structure is the tallest building at Kōyasan, standing at almost 50 metres tall and 30 metres wide on each side. Architecturally it is an earlier form of the two-storied pagoda. It looks exactly as it was when it was first constructed, according to the dimensions designed by Kōbō Daishi, based on his Shingon teachings.

The body of the pagoda is circular, with a square lower storey and attached pent roof and walls. The pagoda enshrines a three-dimensional mandala, with a large gilt wood statue of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahāvairocana) of the Taizokai (Womb Realm), surrounded by the Four Buddhas of the Kongokai (Diamond Realm) and the sixteen Great Bodhisattvas painted on the surrounding pillars. Images of the eight patriarchs of Shingon Buddism, along with the great Indian and Chinese masters who preceded them, are painted the internal corners of the Daitō.

A mandala is an iconographic or visual representation of the teachings of Shingon Buddhism and the ideal world of the Buddhas. The word mandala in Sanskrit literally means “that which possesses the essence”. Mahāvairocana Buddha is the cosmic Buddha at the centre of the mandalas of Shingon Buddhism and represents the universality and immutability of the wisdom of the Buddhas, as well as their boundless compassion. Shingon Buddhism teaches that all beings inherently possess the same awakening as the Buddhas, meaning that all beings are, in essence, manifestations of Mahāvairocana.

Opening hours 8:30 to 17:00, entrance 200 yen per person.

N.B. Photography inside Konpon Daitō is not allowed.

SOURCES: 

  • Koyasan and Kumano Access Bus
  • UNESCO World Heritage Koyasan Leaflet in English
  • Koyasan Reihokan Museum Leaflet in English
  • Dai Garan Kongobuki Koyasan leaflet
  • Kongobuji Temple Leaflet
  • Guide to Koyasan
  • Kōyasan – the 1200th Anniversary Since The Foundation

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Konpon Daitō – The Great Pagoda That Is Now A Symbol Of Kōyasan, Japan

by Uncover Travel time to read: 2 min
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