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Sanjusangendo is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Kannon appears in many forms—as a beautiful woman, as a man, as someone with a horse’s head. In Japan, perhaps her most popular representation has her sporting 11 heads and 1,000 arms. Sanjusangendo has 1,001 examples of that incarnation (and while they do have 11 faces, each version only has 42 arms visible). Each hand holds a gem, a vajra, a wheel of law or another symbol. The overall design is stylized but no two statues are alike, and seeing them under one roof, glittering gold in a line longer than a football field, is pretty astounding.

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