This photo of the Phoenix Hall at Byodoin shows the front of the hall, seen from across the pond in front of the hall. A gray day in early December with a light drizzle falling, the photo may not reveal much of the architectural detail on the hall, but it does capture a sense of the feeling of time and place in late autumn. On the right side on the photo is a bridge painted with brilliant vermillion, in stark constrast to the weathered paint of the Hoodo, proper. The bridge was, at the time of the photograph (December, 2000), a very recent construction, having been completed sometime during the fall, 2000, part of an attempt to reconstruct all elements of the compound with historical accuracy.. The Hoodo was completed in 1053, during the Heian period. It was built by Fujiwara Yorimichi, a major figure in the powerful Fujiwara clan.
The so-called Phoenix Hall at the temple, Byodoin, in Uji. Built in 1053 by Fujiwara Yorimichi, the Phoenix Hall contains the Amida sculpture carved by Jocho, and the compound attempts to represent on earth the western paradise of Pure Land Buddhism. This image shows the Amida Hall as seen from directly across the pond directly in front of the hall. Because of the placement of the pond, the hall cannot be approached directly from the front, perhaps a physical assertion of the Heian aesthetic preference for indirection.
Again, the Amida figure in the Hoodo, Byodoin, as seen at eye level. This image shows some of the apsara figures, high relief wood carvings, that are on the walls above and around the Amida figure. Also, in the lower left, the altar in front ot the Amida, with its symbolic offerings to the Buddha.
The Amida figure in the Hoodo, the so-called Phoenix Hall, at Byodoin was created by the master sculptor, Jocho. Expressive of the spirit ofthe Pure Land sect and the spirit of its time, it is quiet, meditative, approachable sculpture, just as the Hoodo, itself, is approachable because it was built on a human scale. -- The sculpture is carved wood with gold leaf. It was carved from several blocks of wood joined together, a revolutionary and very important technique developed by Jocho and his studio. -- Behind the figure of the contemplative Amida is a large, flowing aureole, flame-like, with apsaras floating on clouds. Overhead is an elaborate canopy of carved lattice work. -- The dimensions of the hall containing the figure are relatively small, which brings the viewer into close proximity with the Amida sculpture, engendering a sense of an intimate environment, rather than a sense of the deity figure being far removed from us and our aspirations. -- Note that this image of the Byodoin Amida (and view 2, as well) were photographed at eye level, as one experiences them in the Phoenix Hall. Many art history texts present an image from an excellent but different point of view, that of being several feet above the floor on a ladder or platform, which is not how the Amida would be seen by a worshipper.
A detail photograph of the roof of the Phoenix Hall, the Hoodo, at Byodoin, Uji. It shows one of the phoenix figures, but is, mainly, a dramatic photograph...