Siege of Nara

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Siege of Nara
Part of the Genpei War
Todaiji18s3200.jpg
The Tōdai-ji, which claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world, was even larger before it was destroyed in this battle and later rebuilt.
Date 1180
Location Nara, Japan
Result Taira victory; much of city destroyed
Belligerents
Taira clan warrior monks of various Nara temples
Commanders and leaders
Taira no Shigehira, Taira no Tomomori Various
Casualties and losses
Unknown 3,500+ civilian and clergy casualties

Following the 1180 Battle of the Uji, in which Minamoto no Yorimasa fought a small Taira army with the help of monks from the Mii-dera and other temples, the victorious Taira, angry at being opposed, decided to assault and burn the Miidera, before moving on to Nara. The Taira were opposed by warrior monks from nearly every major monastery and temple in Nara. Taira no Shigehira and Tomomori, both sons of Kiyomori, head of the clan, commanded the siege.

The monks dug ditches in the roads, and build many forms of improvised defenses. They fought primarily with bow & arrow, and naginata, while the Taira were on horseback, giving them a great advantage. Despite the monks' superior numbers, and their strategic defenses, their enemy succeeded in destroying nearly every temple in the city, including the Kōfuku-ji and Tōdai-ji.

The 'Heike Monogatari' laments the destruction the Tōdai-ji's Daibutsu (Great Buddha statue):

The colossal statue of Vairocana Buddha of copper and gold, whose domed head towered up into the :clouds, from which gleamed the sacred jewel of his lofty forehead, fused with the heat, so that its :full moon features fell to the pavement below, while its body melted into a shapeless mass.

In all, 3,500 people died in the burning of Nara.

References[edit]

  • Turnbull, Stephen (1998). 'The Samurai Sourcebook'. London: Cassell & Co.
  • Turnbull, Stephen (2003). 'Japanese Warrior Monks AD 949-1603'. Oxford: Osprey Publishing.

Coordinates: 34°41′00″N 135°48′00″E / 34.683333°N 135.8°E / 34.683333; 135.8