The Thousand Armed Kannon Statues of Sanjūsangen-dō

HomedestinationJapanThe Thousand Armed Kannon Statues of Sanjūsangen-dō

Introduction to The Thousand Armed Kannon Statues of Sanjūsangen-dō

Immerse yourself in the mystical allure of Sanjūsangen-dō, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, renowned for its Thousand Armed Kannon statues. This architectural marvel, whose name translates to “Hall with thirty-three spaces between columns,” is a treasure trove of history, spirituality, and artistry. The temple is home to 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, each one meticulously crafted and unique in its own right.

The History of Sanjūsangen-dō

Established in 1164 by Taira no Kiyomori, a powerful military leader, Sanjūsangen-dō has stood the test of time. It was rebuilt in 1266 after a fire and has remained unchanged since. The temple’s main deity is Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokiteśvara or the Thousand Armed Kannon, a symbol of compassion and mercy in Buddhism.

Exploring the Thousand Armed Kannon Statues

The main attraction of Sanjūsangen-dō is undoubtedly the Thousand Armed Kannon statues. These statues, made from Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf, are arranged in 10 rows and 50 columns. Each Kannon statue has 11 heads to better witness the suffering of humans and a thousand arms to better help them. However, in reality, the statues have only 42 arms each. Subtract the two regular arms and count each hand for a thousand, you get the total of a thousand.

The 28 Guardian Deities

Flanking the Kannon statues are the 28 Guardian Deities, who are believed to protect the Buddhist universe. These statues are made from wood and are considered masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist sculpture. They represent Indian gods who became associated with Buddhism, and each one has a unique appearance and carries different weapons and instruments.

Visiting Sanjūsangen-dō

Visiting Sanjūsangen-dō is a unique experience. The temple is open to visitors throughout the year. It’s particularly popular during the Tohka Ebisu Festival in January, where archery contests are held. The sight of the Thousand Armed Kannon statues, bathed in the soft light filtering through the windows, is a sight to behold and a testament to Japan’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage.


The Thousand Armed Kannon Statues of Sanjūsangen-dō are not just a sight for sore eyes, but also a journey into the heart of Japanese history and spirituality. Whether you’re a history buff, a spiritual seeker, or an art enthusiast, this temple is a must-visit on your trip to Kyoto.

An experienced photographer and passionate traveller, I am a Communication Sciences graduate with experience as a Social Media Manager. I created this blog to share my passion for travel, the discovery of fascinating new places and the exciting stories we encounter along the way.

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