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Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple) is a Buddhist temple complex, that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples, located in the city of Nara. Its Great Buddha Hall, houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu. The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism. The temple is a listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", together with seven other sites including temples, shrines and places in the city of Nara. Deer, regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, roam the grounds freely.
The beginning of the building the Tōdai-ji temple where it sits today can be dated to 728, when Emperor Shōmu established Kinshōsen-ji as an appeasement for Prince Motoi, his first son with his Fujiwara clan consort Kōmyōshi. Prince Motoi died a year after his birth.
During the Tenpyō era, Japan suffered from a series of disasters and epidemics. It was after experiencing these problems that Emperor Shōmu issued an edict in 741 to promote the construction of provincial temples throughout the nation. Tōdai-ji (still Kinshōsen-ji at the time) was appointed as the Provincial temple of Yamato Province and the head of all the provincial temples. With the alleged coup d'état by Nagaya in 729, an outbreak of smallpox occurred around 735–737, worsened by consecutive years of poor crops, then followed by a rebellion led by Fujiwara no Hirotsugu in 740, the country was in a chaotic position. Emperor Shōmu had been forced to move the capital four times, indicating the level of instability during this period.