Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is one of Japan's largest bronze statues and one of the largest bronze statues in the world. The statue represents Vairocana (Universal Light). In the Kegon sect of Buddhism (the Todaiji Temple is Kegon), Vairocana is the cosmic, main Buddha. The original statue was completed in 751 c.e. It was made of cast bronze and then plated with gold using about 437 tons of copper, 8.5 tons of tin , 968 pounds of gold, 2.5 tons of mercury and 7 tons of wax. Japan almost went bankrupt from building this statue. Over the centuries parts of this statue had to be recast due to damage from earthquakes. The current statue dates from the 1600's when new hands and a head for it were made. In the photo above the head of the statute appears to be much newer and quite different from the rest of the older body. The Abhaya mudra (mudra = symbolic or ritualistic gesture) of the right hand being held upright is a gesture of reassurance and safety - to dispel fear and to offer divine protection to the devoted worshiper - a promise of peace. The palm-up left hand signifies the fulfillment of wishes.
Todai-ji is a Buddhist temple originally built in 752 c.e. It was reconstructed in 1692 c.e. but only at 2/3 the size of the original temple - still very large. No nails were used in its construction. At first (752 c.e.) Todai-ji was the head temple for all Japanese Buddhist temples. Currently it is the Japanese headquarters for one sect of Buddhism - Kegon.