Great Buddha of Nara has only half its reported number of hair curls

posted on December 7, 2015

The Great Buddha of Nara, a 15-meter-high statue listed among Japan's national treasures, has only 492 spiraling curls of hair on its bronze head, not the 966 locks described in ancient documents, new research indicates.

The discovery was made via a 3-D analysis of the statue's head using a laser scanning method, conducted by Takeshi Oishi, associate professor at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science, the temple in Nara where the statue is housed said Thursday on its website.

Todaiji temple asked Oishi to undertake the research because it kept receiving inquiries about the number of curls, known as "rahotsu," on the Buddha's head, with some visitors saying it seems the statue has many fewer curls than the number described in scrolls dating back nearly 1,000 years.

A question composed by the Mathematics Certification Institute of Japan further motivated the temple in the ancient Japanese capital to shed light on the issue, which "has remained a mystery to this day," the temple said on its website.

When 966 hair locks are placed inside a circle, the question asks, what is the area of the smallest possible circle?

One hair curl is about 22 centimeters in diameter, 21 cm in height and weighs 1.2 kilograms.

The research required a laser beam because it is physically impossible to get behind the Buddha to count the number of locks there. A huge golden decoration representing a halo is located immediately behind the Buddha's head, blocking access.

source by japantimes
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