Byodo-in was built by Fujiwara no Yorimichi as a Buddhist Pure Land garden at his family’s Villa in Uji, east of Kyoto. The only building of the palace that survives today is the Phoenix Hall 鳳凰堂. Completed in 1053, it was later converted a Buddhist temple. The Phoenix Hall sits on an island facing east where the statue of Amida Nyorai, carved by Jocho, greets the rising sun as he looks across the Pure Land Lake. At nearly a thousand years old, Phoenix Hall is one of the few surviving examples of Heian period architecture.
The building is also known as ‘Hōō-do‘ or ‘Amida Hall’. Its right angles and light appearance giving the feeling of a Phoenix taking flight. A museum near the temple contains relics and treasures from the temple’s history. Its roof is adorned with figures of its namesake Phoenix - the mythical bird that arises from its own ashes. I could not help but be struck by the resemblance of the rooftop figures to the cormorants used by fishermen on nearby Uji River for a thousand years! Hmm…