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© Cambridge University Library

Million Pagoda Dharani


Cambridge University Library



Between 764 and 770


Empress Shôtoku ordered one million pagodas to be carved, with one million prayers to be printed and placed inside.

What does it look like?

These are miniature wooden pagodas. A pagoda is a tall tower that is often found at a Buddhist temple, and often has multiple storeys. If you take the top off one of these miniature pagodas, there is space for a piece of rolled up paper to be inserted. A Buddhist prayer was printed on the paper in Chinese characters.


Are there links to current religious practices or a modern equivalent?

You can see full-size pagodas at Buddhist temples in Japan, China, Korea, and other countries today.

Why is it significant to the study of religion?

In the eighth century, and for many centuries afterward, Japanese Buddhists thought it was very virtuous to copy religious texts by hand or to ask others to copy them on their behalf. If it was seen as beneficial to copy a few religious texts by hand, then think of the merit of making a million of them by printing! Japanese Buddhists may not focus on copying out texts by hand today, but they still repeat prayers and make gifts to temples.

Where is it from, where is it now?

For details of how to visit the University Library, visit their website.



Cambridge University Digital Library

Hyakumantô darani (including 3D image)


BBC Bitesize

KS3 Religious Studies: Buddhism