The Emperor Shomu, who reigned from 724 to 749, began construction of the magnificent Todaiji, or Great Eastern Monastery, in Nara. Todaiji's main hall is the world's largest wooden building to this day. It houses the Great Buddha of Nara, a massive bronze seated figure that is 15 meters, or about 50 feet, tall.
The Great Buddha -- Daibutsu in Japanese -- is a figure of Vairocana, the supreme Buddha. The Emperor hoped devotion to Vairocana would protect Japan. The figure, dedicated in 752, took several castings to complete.
Over the years parts of the statue were damaged and replaced. Some fragments of the original remain, but most of the statue today was created in a restoration in 1692.